Game Name: Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom
Platforms: Playstation 3 and Xbox 360
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: Game Republic
Genre: Action, Adventure, Puzzle
Release Date: November 23, 2010
ESRB Rating: T for Teen: Animated blood, Violence
Price: $40 (USD)
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom is a game that tells the tale of a land consumed by a black ooze and the unlikely hero that teams up with an all powerful guardian to rid the land of this evil. Right off the bat you can tell this doesn’t sound very original and admittedly it isn’t. That is roughly the plot of almost every Zelda game. Unoriginality aside, Majin is a game that should not be missed.
The story starts out with your character, Tepeu, sneaking into a castle to find the treasure that is assuredly hidden inside. He is aware of the tragedy that has happened to mankind, being consumed by the black ooze, even though it doesn’t affect him as he lives in the forest with the animals. As he makes his way through they castle he encounters creatures made from the ooze which causes him some distress. Eventually he happens upon the Majin and frees it from its prison. Eventually Tepeu and Majin make their way out of the castle. Throughout their journey the duo come across big glowing trees that fully revitalize their health and the Majin’s magic. Each time you come across these trees you are shown a bit of the Majin’s past in a way that mimics childrens books (which is what the Majin’s character is based off of).
These special cutscenes tell you the backstory of the game, what the Majin is and how this ooze came to be, all while fleshing out the Majin a bit. Tepeu starts his adventure looking for treasure and the Majin is tagging along to help his new friend but also in hopes of finding a girl he was originally entrusted to protect a long time ago before he was imprisoned, but along the way Tepeu realizes that treasure isn’t as important as ridding the land of this ooze as the ooze is now beginning to affect the wilderness, his home.
Some might wince at the Majin’s personality. He talks with bad grammar, like a child first learning to talk. His voice is deep yet innocent making for a good match with the Majin’s physical form, powerful yet playful. Every now and then the Majin will trip, letting out a small “ouch” which will likely make you giggle the first few times. It will wear on you as the game progresses but it never becomes a hindrance and happens less often than you are imagining right now. When you find a fruit to feed the Majin you can hear him giggling to himself, knowing he is about to be fed. He jumps for joy after defeating a group of enemies and without thinking will absorb the ooze off you so that you don’t die. Overall the Majin fills the position of “lovable oaf” quite nicely, however as he gains each new power Tepeu grows increasingly wary of the Majin’s newfound strength. After the Majin gains the ability to breathe fire, for example, Tepeu is taken back with caution as he sees the inferno the beast produces at a mere whim, wondering to himself if the Majin understands truly how powerful and dangerous he has become. These small, subtle tidbits of emotion really shine through when it comes to fleshing out the characters.
The actual gameplay is pretty unique. There are games with similar mechanics but none do it quite like Majin does. It follows the “escort” structure of Ico, with you leading around the Majin. The twist is that you are VERY weak, with the Majin being a veritable tank. Majin will be doing the bulk of the damage, not only is he extremely powerful but each hit from him sends enemies flying. Your role in combat will likely serve one grand purpose, to initiate the devastating, room-clearing combo attacks and finishers. After enough damage has been done to an enemy by the Majin (you cannot create the opportunity for a combo, Majin MUST be the one to break the damage threshold) they will flash red while in a dazed state. A few hits from you will open up the combo attack, as long as the Majin is close enough and isn’t incapacitated by an enemy a mere press of a button will direct both you and the Majin to team up and attack the enemy at the same time, likely killing it (until near the end of the game) and creating a blast that should knock out any affected enemies, creating more combo chances.
Once a combo is performed, a small meter is displayed at the bottom of the screen, this being the “combo” meter. The more combo attacks you perform in quick succession, the higher the meter rises. Once it reaches max, you need to work fast to get one last enemy weak enough to have a combo attack done on them. Performing a combo attack with full combo meter will see you and the Majin performing a finisher, a room clearing attack that nets high amounts of experience (more on that in a second)and kills everything nearby, regardless of its health.
Aside from this combo mechanic, combat from your character is highly discouraged. Lacking the ability to stagger an enemy with your normal attacks, you do but a mere fraction of anything the Majin can do. You have a roll technique which, like in many games with a combat roll, makes you invulnerable for the duration of the roll. Fear not if you get hit though, to heal yourself all you need to do is stand in front of the Majin and allow him to absorb the darkness off of your character. Conversely, the only way to heal the Majin is with a special plant that you find throughout the game world, though you won’t need to be healing him quite often so it doesn’t become a problem. While it is true that for most of the game your character is more or less a liability when it comes to combat, you can eventually turn that around by leveling up your character. Both you and the Majin have experience, blue is for you and red is for your “friendship” (read: Majin) level. Getting blue experience will increase your health, damage and resistance to damage. Getting red experience will open up new combo attacks for the Majin, make the combo meter raise quicker and increase the speed at which the Majin heals you. By the end of the game you should be able to handle most enemies by yourself, even though battles would go MUCH faster with the aid of the Majin.
So up until now I’ve talked only about the combat, know that combat is the sidekick to puzzles in this game. This game more or less follows the Zelda format, which is go to new area->gain new ability->use said ability to defeat boss->boss’s death unlocks new area->rinse->repeat. You can think of this game as one giant dungeon, in essence. There are a total of 35 “rooms” spread out over 5 differently themed areas. While 35 might not sound like a lot, rooms are quite large. Also to note, just because I say “room” does not mean the entire game is inside some building. Most of the game takes place outside, it is merely the way the map is structured. If you ever played Metroid Prime then you know what I’m talking about. Also similar to Metroid and Zelda is the backtracking. A few times you will see obstacles that you can’t interact with yet until you gain a new ability further into the game, forcing you to come back to get the secrets hidden here. This initially seems like a problem but it really isn’t because you eventually unlock a method of teleportation, quickly zipping you to any one of the 5 areas that you have unlocked. Yes, there are secrets. Each room (as shown by the map) contains various amounts of stuff to find, experience chests, armor chests (your character can change armor that grants him new abilities, nothing spectacular but it’s a nice touch) fruit to power up your Majin making him stronger/get more health/increasing the effectiveness of his abilities and finally the memory shards. Each room has a memory shard to be obtained, which can only be collected at night time and is often hid in an out of the way spot. This wouldn’t be a problem, except that there is no way to manipulate the day/night cycle and it often takes a while for it to finally switch over to night, something in the way of an hour or so, anyway back to puzzles.
The puzzles in this game are actually pretty clever, proving to be the most challenging aspect of the game. Most of the time spent in this game will be spent figuring out these puzzles, which consist of a combination of platforming, lever pulling and strategic use of the elements (more on that soon). While that might sound easy and lame, the puzzles are quite varied and well thought out. Boss battles take a similar structure to Zelda games in the sense that they, themselves are a puzzle. Each boss requires a unique strategy that utilizes your newfound ability, often making use of the environment and requiring close cooperation with the Majin. Most of the puzzles are completed with the help of your Majin with only a handful of instances requiring that you two separate. A few of the things the Majin will do in the way of puzzle solving is crouching so you can jump off of him reaching new heights, opening doors (as they are quite large and there is no way you can lift them) and use his elemental powers to interact with the environment. These elemental powers are the “new abilities” you find in each area, allowing Majin to blow wind, breathe fire, produce electricity and crystallize enemies. There are a plethora of uses for these abilities, both in and out of combat. Out of combat they are used for puzzles, fire to light bombs and ignite explosive boxes, wind to push platforms from away, electricity to power machinery and crystallization to nullify the annoying ooze that you encounter late in the game. In combat the abilities are used to quickly initiate combos, any enemy affected by an element can instantly be combo’d. On top of this, if you manage to initiate a finisher on an elementally affected enemy, you will perform an elemental finisher which is very flashy, covers a larger area and yields more experience.
For a $40 game, this game has a very high amount of polish. Most games, even full priced triple A titles, don’t have the same level of polish and attention to detail that Majin has. Coming from the same studio that made Folklore, the game utilizes the same “glowing” effect that really brings the environment to life. As you take more damage from the ooze-like enemies, Tepeu becomes more and more covered in the ooze himself, with the ooze dripping off his body and sticking to the ground as he runs. Each time you feed the Majin a power fruit, which teach him new attacks, he will perform the attack as the camera is fixed on him to show you what he just learned. Various forms of wildlife will help you on your journey, some directly talking to you and giving you hints such as rats and birds while others serving as visual cues like lizards for a ledge you can grab and butterflies for environmental objects you can interact with such as levers. Every new power the Majin gets “evolves” him a little bit. The Majin originally starts out as a large brown humanoid with moss growing on his body. As he gains new abilities you will see that the moss turns into weeds and leaves, flowers growing on his back, roots coming out of his forearms, eventually with trees growing off of him, making for a great sense of progression.
As you unlock each new elemental power you can link that power with the combo system, with certain powers proving more effective on different types of enemies. Each armor piece is visually represented on Tepeu, some armors having quite the unique look such as a pirate, a thief, a king, a knight etc.
All of these things come together in such a way that make you go, “Wow, this game only cost $40?” The game will last around 15 hours, I fully completed it (100%) in about 13 hours. Some other review sites, such as gametrailers, claim the game takes around 13 to beat but twice that to 100%, don’t listen to them. The only way this game will take 20+ hours is if you have absolutely NO idea how to complete each puzzle and spend hours searching for the solution. While a 15 hour game might not sound like much, remember this only costs $40 and most other games are the same length, both Fable 3 and Halo: Reach were beaten in the same amount of time, if not quicker.
Overall, Majin is a great game for its price point. It’s nice to have a game do something different and succeed in this current generation that is saturated with space soldiers and sequels. Some might not like the Majin’s personality and claim it is enough to turn them off. For those with such short attention span, then I agree, Majin is most likely not for you. If you liked Ico or Zelda, or any game with great puzzles and a good sense of exploration, you should like this.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom gets