It takes a bold company to release a game during the holiday season that hasn’t been built up throughout the rest of the year. During that period, most of the big name publishers are releasing their biggest and best titles and as a result, unfortunately, numerous other publishers end up having their games lost in the frantic shuffle of the season. Namco-Bandai decided to take just that risk by releasing Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom back in late January, amidst such blockbuster titles as Call of Duty: Black Ops, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, Epic Mickey, and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. Given that these are just a few of the titles that saw release during the same period, it is easy to see how a title such as Majin could be lost in the crowd.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom follows the story of a budding-friendship between the lumbering creature named Teoti, known as a Majin, and the player controlled thief named Tepeu during a time of darkness and turmoil in a mythical kingdom. The world has been overtaken by dark forces and Tepeu embarks on a quest to awaken and free the mythical Majin from his capture within the locked castle to set the world right. The game focuses on a combination of exploration, puzzle solving, and combat. Players will free the Majin early on, within the first hour of the game, and then set out to explore the kingdom and battle the forces of darkness. The storyline doesn’t sound that original because, well, it isn’t. This is a story that has been told countless times before and quite frankly, countless times better than it is in this title. You can pretty much see where things are going to progress from a narrative standpoint within the first 30 minutes of the game, and little is done to vary the tale from the predictable story laid out from the start.
The game focuses on those three elements throughout the entire game, and had it succeeded in two out of three of them, perhaps it wouldn’t have been bad. Instead, developer Game Republic only managed to nail one of the elements of the formula. The aspect that they did nail is the control system associated with controlling the Majin, which is required to solve the game’s puzzles. Commands can be issued on the fly to the non-playable Majin by simply pressing in the R2 button which will then allow each of the face buttons to give a corresponding command. There are three “static” commands, such as follow, wait / crouch, fight and one context sensitive command which changes depending on your surroundings. Some of these commands will involve interacting with a piece of the environment such as lifting a door or moving and object and even attacking enemies if they are present. The game gives you the ability to give these commands on the fly without detracting from any actions that you may be performing, be it battle or platforming. A majority of your partner commands will be issued to solve the puzzles presented throughout your adventure. The puzzle aspect was always fun and remained fresh throughout a majority of the adventure. The problems began to arise whenever you had to do anything else.
Perhaps the most cumbersome element of the game is the incredibly bland combat system, especially considering that you spend a large amount of the game partaking in combat with the various dark creatures that have overtaken the land. The combat system is very simple and often ineffective from the player’s standpoint. Tepeu’s attacks are often weak and pointless and serve only to draw attention away from the Majin, allowing him to deal the real damage without being interrupted. The game never evolves past anything more than simply button mashing on Tepeu’s part. Even that can only occur when you manage to find a way around the hulking Majin who often blocks your path to the enemies, greatly reducing your ability to make contact with the enemies. I felt myself being more of a spectator than a participant in the battles both voluntarily and involuntarily. I spent a lot of time standing back due to my inability to inflict any worthwhile damage, but when I did want to get involved I could never get past Teoti to do my share; he is constantly moving and likes to position himself between you and your foes. On the other hand, there is a little fun to be had in manipulating the Majin around the battle field. The giant war machine quickly responds to your attack commands and gains some effective abilities which you can use to dispatch your attackers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t balance out with just how ineffective your playable character ends up being.
The exploration part of the game proves to be just as bland as the combat, mainly due to the lack of personality given to the world itself. The duo travels around the kingdom, seeking clues and information from various animals that they find along their way. You end up seeing the same animals over and over, particularly in the form of rats or birds, although it is a different “character” each time. Surely there are more types of animals in this world, right? The animals give you straight forward instructions on where you need to go next, pointing out various routes and strategies which will help you traverse the now dangerous lands. As you wonder through the world, you will also want to keep an eye out for magical fruit and treasures located throughout the land. The fruit is the key to restoring the Majin’s power(s); the restoration of him to his true power depends on your ability to find these mythical fruits which are usually guarded by servants of the darkness. As the Majin regains his strength, he will gain new abilities that enable you to access areas that may have been previously inaccessible. Speaking of the kingdom and world, I hope that you are fond of various shades of brown and green as the world is practically devoid of any color or personality. While the two main characters feature plenty of spunk and originality in their design, the rest of the world is completely devoid of even a fraction of their inspiration. The developers try to mix things up, gameplay wise, a little bit by including a customizable equipment and armor option and leveling for both characters. Different costume pieces can be found scattered around the world which will help your character(s) increase their abilities in different areas such as combat or agility. Aside from the partner controls of the game, this is probably the only other strongpoint of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom. It proves to be very beneficial for players to seek out improved equipment and to experiment with different combinations depending on how they wish to approach the game, but you honestly won’t “want to” after a while. The rest of the game proves to be so monotonous that it becomes more of a chore than anything. The leveling system would have been a beneficial feature of the game had players been given the ability to choose how the progression effected the character(s). Instead, it just proves to give you access to preset abilities as time progresses based on how many enemies you defeat and treasure chests that you found. You don’t directly get to dictate how your characters grow and improve, aside from the equipment, which in turn almost cancels out the whole point of statistically leveling your character in the first place.
While both the Majin and Teteu “look” interesting, you will find yourself wishing they were mutes very quickly. The voice acting of the game is downright atrocious; even beyond the point of being comical. The Majin in particular, is portrayed, vocally speaking, as a big, stupid beast and Teteu comes across as your typical, pompous rogue. The Majin is constantly speaking to you throughout the adventure and the same phrases are repeated over, and over, and over, and over… he just doesn’t stop. Namco really should have included an option to completely turn off the voiceovers and rely solely on subtitles; it really would have made a world of difference in a positive way.
While the partner-control scheme of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom sets a benchmark for similar games, the rest of the package leaves a lot to be desired. The game controls like a dream when it comes to instructing your Majin around the screen, everything else will either bore or frustrate you. The story is unoriginal, the graphics are bland and dreary, the combat system is archaic and unresponsive, and the voice over work is atrocious. The game is playable and interesting in short spurts but it really pales in comparison to its peers in the genre. It is almost sort of fitting that the game was lost in the Christmas-shuffle as that sort of describes the game as a whole: lost in mediocrity.