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Developer:
SoftMax
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: PS2
Release Date: November 8, 2005

by Josh Ferguson




Magna Carta: Tears of Blood was created by Korean developer, Softmax, and is being brought to the west by Atlus. The game was Softmax's first attempt with the PlayStation 2 console, but after playing the game I can honestly say that I hope it won't be their last!


The story in Magna Carta revolves around a young man named Calintz, who as a child witnessed the destruction of his home by the Yason, a human-like race but physically much stronger. Now the leader of a mercenary group known as the Tears of Blood, Calintz and the other members are now seeking out revenge on the Yason who destroyed the ones that they love.


In Magna Carta, as you travel on the world map, there are a few different modes which you can use. First of all, there is Dash Mode, in which your character can travel very quickly across the field, but has the disadvantage of having a shortened range of view, making it difficult to detect treasure chests or your enemies, thus giving your enemies a much greater chance of a surprise attack. However, in order to take away these advantages, you may use Detect Mode. In Detect Mode, your character moves at a much slower rate, but has a larger range of view, allowing you to see enemies before they see you and sometimes pulling off a surprise attack on them. In order to pull off a surprise attack, you must first sneak up behind the enemy and press the X button, swinging your sword and leading to that surprise attack. The third and final mode is known as Rest Mode. During Rest Mode, Calintz will get down to his knees and the HP of your party will regenerate. However, while doing this you have a very small view and you are susceptible to surprise attacks, but if you defeat all the enemies visible in detect mode, there really isn't much of a worry that you will be attacked during Rest Mode.


While you travel throughout the world of Magna Carta you will enocounter eight different forms of elemental magic known as Chi. These forms include ice, fire, celestial, wind, water, mountain, earth and lightning. Throughout the game there are certain areas that will have a higher amount of a some types of chi than others. For example, if your party is traveling through a cave, chances are there will be a high amount of earth and mountain chi, while there might be a shortage of ice chi. There are also different lanterns throughout the game that increase a certain amount of chi located in an area. By using different talismans found throughout the game, you are able to change the type of chi given off by these lanterns, increase the amount of chi given off, weaken a certain chi used by your enemies, increase your parties attack with that chi, or blow up the lantern.


Unlike many RPGs these days, Magna Carta does not feature random battles. While you will encounter many battles through the game, the enemies are located on your map, allowing you to know when there is the possibility of having a battle. This is a nice change from many RPGs these days because if you're tired of getting into battles, you can have the option of just avoiding many battles by just walking away from the enemy.


Speaking of battles, all of your characters' attacks and magic spells use up a certain amount of chi. If the area the battle is occuring at is low on a certain kind of chi, after using it a couple of times that chi will normally become unavailable for a short time during the battle. While there are items that can replenish a certain amount of chi in an area, it is recommended to use those skills that are dependent on the most common form of chi found in that area.


In order to even attempt an attack, use your magic, or even use an item, your characters must have a high enough level on their leadership bar. The leadership bar is a yellow bar featured in the top right hand corner of the screen. Located on the leadership bar are small little triangles. These triangles are key points where that character can attack or use a magic spell. Depending on the attack or skill used, the leadership bar will decrease a certain amount, but if your character stays in one place, the leadership bar will replenish. One way to affect the leadership bar is to increase the amount of trust among your party. When you come across a save point, you are given the option to "talk" to your party members. Depending on the outcome you choose, you can either gain trust or lose trust with your party members. You are also able to raise the trust among your party by giving party members "gifts", which consist of different items in your inventory. However, if a character has no use or doesn't want the item you give them, it is possible to lose some trust with that character. Also, if a character approves of one of the gifts the first time, this doesn't mean that they will want it more often. After a short while that character may be tired of that item and no longer have any use for any more of them.


These days it seems that most RPGs feature the same tedious turn-based combat systems. During most of these battles the player doesn't even really have to pay much attention, but just click on the attack button every so often. Well, Magna Carta is quite a bit different. Not only is the game in real-time, but for the most part, the player will nearly always be involved in the combat. In fact, unless the player correctly performs actions on the trinity circle, the player won't even be able to get an attack off. If familiar with the Shadow Hearts series, than you will already know about the Judgement Ring. Well, the trinity circle is very similar to that. In order to have a successful attack, you must press the appropriate X or O buttons given without even missing one. If done correctly, the words "Great" will appear, while the word "Good" will appear when your button pressing isn't done as well. Of course, the more accurate your button pressing is, the more damage will be dealt. However, if even one of these buttons is missed, the entire attack will be a failure.


In order for characters to obtain new skills, they must first acquire fighting styles. To obtain new skills, characters must receive three straight "Great" turns with the highest level attack with the trinity circle. However, these skills are obtained at random, so you don't always know when exactly you will perceive these new skills. Obtaining new fighting styles is a little more rare then skills, but can be found on style scrolls in certain treasure chests and by training at dojo's.


Located in cities and villages are priestesses that are also fortune tellers. These fortune tellers can help benefit your party in several different ways. First of all, being fortune tellers, they have the ability to tell your characters' fortunes. Your fortune can range from very lucky to very unlucky. These fortunes also have some effects on your characters, such as their chance to gain more or less experience from battles, evading surprise attacks, obtaining money, learning skills and escaping from battles. Fortune tellers also have the ability to reveal the identity of unknown items that you will receive in battles.


As far as sound goes, Magna Carta does feature a soundtrack with several songs that are pleasing, but the character voice-acting could have used a little work here and there. While some of the characters aren't too bad, some, including Calintz, just don't seem to fit the character and sound a little silly.


One area that Magna Carta shines brightly in would be the graphics. Character designs and environments are highly detailed and look very well, and also feature some great looking cinemas. On top of that, the battle graphics aren't too shabby either.


Another problem with Magna Carta is the length and amount of load times. If it wasn't enough that the load times seem to take forever, there are also a large amount of them. The save times also take quite some time, causing you to rarely even wanna save your game.


Magna Carta: Tears of Blood might have a few minor problems and probably won't be the next big thing in RPG gaming, but with its interesting gameplay and depth, it is a game that is highly recommended to fans of the RPG genre.


Final Grade: 83%




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