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Hands-on Preview - Makai Kingdom
Peviewed on 7/9/05

It's a freakin' Nippon Ichi game!

Makai Kingdom is the fourth Nippon Ichi developed game to hit the PS2 stateside. That said, it follows closely in its predecessors' footsteps, but manages to change up the equation in a variety of fashions.

The graphics in Makai Kingdom are basically the same as Phantom Brave, which means that they are functional if not the most jaw-dropping thing you've ever seen. The environments are rendered in 3D with fairly plain stylings. The 2D sprites are simple and have little animation. Those turned off by the graphics in previous Nippon Ichi games probably won't have this game change their mind.

Enough of that, let's get to the meat and potatoes of this game. The gameplay in Makai Kingdom borrows elements from some of Nippon Ichi's previous games, but very few of these elements make it in without some change. The process of confining characters to objects is brought in from Phantom Brave but works a little differently. Now a character can stay confined to an object indefinitely. This is basically your character creation. You go up to an object and create a character into it, usually based on what stat bonuses and penalties a particular object offers. You start the game with seven fairly basic classes, with the promise of more to come. There are also buildings you can get for your base that can be used for anything from shopping to healing. The battle system is much like Phantom Brave in that there is no grid, but rather circles to move around in. One of the major additions to Makai Kingdom is the ability to put buildings on the battlefield. These can provide various services and can be actually entered during battle. The enemy can have them to, so watch out. Another interesting addition is vehicles. They even have mechs you can pilot in this one. Overall, the gameplay looks to be a highlight of the experience in this game and shouldn't be missed by Nippon Ichi fans.

The story is very reminiscent of Disgaea in that it centers around the Overlord of a Netherworld named Zetta. This time the story takes on a broader scope of a multiverse of Netherworlds all ruled by different Overlords. After doing a few very stupid things (ahem), Zetta finds himself having to build his Netherworld up from scratch all over again. However, to do this he needs other people to write wishes for him. That seems easy enough, but every wish made takes some Mana power from the writer, so he sets about getting some of the highest level people around to help him. These people, of course, are the other Netherworld Overlords. However, you don't get to be an Overlord by being a nice guy, so he'll have to do various things to get them to help. The story has potential for a lot of humor and should please anyone who wants their RPG to go down with a good chuckle.

The music and sound is as good as other Nippon Ichi games and there's nothing here that would make you want to listen to something else. The voice acting seems to be a bit of a step up from previous games, and there's still that handy option of English or Japanese voice acting to be had.

Basically, if you liked Disgaea, La Pucelle, and Phantom Brave there is an extremely high chance you'll be salivating over Makai Kingdom. Otherwise, it's really not going to change your mind about Nippon Ichi's games, which for some is a good thing. Look for it, and our full review around the July 27th ship date.


-Orie House