Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome is
an in-depth strategy RPG that tries to separate
itself from other titles in this genre, and is surprisingly
successful in doing so. Working for the Lord Zetta,
you must complete a series of battles involving
Netherworlds, Overlords, parallel universes and
a lot of character development throughout this thought
provoking role-playing game available for the PS2.
What is Makai Kingdom?
The storyline behind Makai Kingdom may take a while to
become familiar with, but as the story develops throughout
the game, you will find that successful mission completion
can be quite rewarding. In Maki Kingdom, there are parallel
universes and each of these universes also has a parallel
Netherworld. The main character is Lord Zetta and he is
the ruler of one of said Netherworlds. When a wise prophet
tells him that he will foolishly destroy his land, Lord
Zetta consults the Sacred Tome to determine how he can save
his people from destruction. The Sacred Tome mocks Lord
Zetta’s style of ruling, so he throws it into a fire.
Much to his dismay, torching the book also torches his Netherworld,
and after much turmoil, Lord Zetta is actually turned into
the Sacred Tome. In Makai Kingdom, the overlord friends
of Lord Zetta help him to rebuild his world and turn back
into his human form.
As you can see from the provided screenshots,
Makai Kingdom isn’t exactly pushing the PS2 to its
hardware limitations. Maintaining a visual appearance comparable
to that of Final Fantasy Tactics, Maki Kingdom possesses
a homely, cartoon-like feel. The character models may be
small, but each warrior feels like a member of the family
with their welcoming looks. During battle, special attacks
have a very powerful feel despite the fact that they are
completely 2-Dimensional. The overall artistic style of
Makai Kingdom is accompanied with vibrant colors and this
uncommon visual style is particularly pleasing.
Most of the sound effects in Maki Kingdom
have been used in previous titles from NIS America, but
nonetheless, the battles still have a heavily dramatic feel
thanks to the intense background music and appropriate warrior
chants. The greatest feature in the sound department involves
the storyline narration; players have the option of listening
to the authentic Japanese voice actors, but the English
actors also portray their parts nicely. Still, having the
ability to hear authentic Japanese voice actors in action
is a very pleasant treat.
Time for Battle
Makai Kingdom revolves around turned based battles on hundreds
of randomly generated battlefields. Starting off with only
Lord Zetta, you must use him to invite other characters
on to the battlefield. The characters can then be placed
anywhere within a certain range of Lord Zetta and they will
be ready to commence battle. The game isn’t turn based
though, and no character is “more important”
than any other, so the flow of battle moves quickly. Any
character on the battlefield can easily be moved into attack
position, shoot off a quick spell and then retreat before
being heavily damaged. The battlefield offers for free movement,
so you won’t be constricted to a grid-like system
that most other turn-based RPG titles offer. The computer
A.I. has improved a lot since previous releases from NIS
America, so you can expect your opponents to utilize the
openness of the battlefield as much as you can. When forming
your attacks, it is quite possible that your characters
will group together and wind up stacking up on top of one
another. When this occurs, it is difficult to discern one
character from the group and as a result, throwing off a
quick series of attacks will leave you struggling afterwards.
Even with the freedom that you have, the battlefield still
feels like it should have a grid system. Sharp angles and
rigid slopes take the place of what should be smooth terrain,
making movement across certain areas difficult. As in previous
titles, two characters can work cooperatively to toss someone
over large gaps. Each character will have to remove all
of their weapons for this feat to be performed, so such
transportation can be daunting on your crew.
The overall flow of battle is similar to previous NIS titles,
so gamers familiar with previous titles in the series will
feel right at home. Several new gameplay elements have been
added, one of which is the new facility system: before being
invited, characters can be loaded up into a facility. Once
the facility is invited, the characters will be deployed
with a special battle bonus. Facilities can offer increased
defense, increased attack speed and anything else beneficial
to the warriors. However, there are still drawbacks to having
facilities constructed. In the event that one is destroyed,
the special bonuses will be lost by any character that originated
from it and characters that were still in the facility will
die. Likewise, taking out an enemy facility is sure to change
the flow of battle for the better because your opponents
will face the same penalties.
Vehicles are also an interesting touch to the Maki series.
They can be invited to the battle like characters. When
a character becomes a pilot, he can equip the vehicle with
various accessories and weapons. They will take damage before
the pilot and once it is destroyed, the pilot will still
be able to partake in battle. Spending time to modify vehicles
will surely give your side an upper hand in battle, but
it will also take away a lot of your precious attack time.
Vehicles range from floating demon heads to motor cycles
and even some heavy artillery robots, so using them effectively
will clearly ensure success for Lord Zetta.
While the initial battlefields aren’t overflowing
with space, hidden areas are scattered throughout the maps
containing surprises. These areas can have unoccupied facilities,
new enemies or even deadly traps. The traps have effects,
such as paralyzing everyone, taking X amount of HP from
every character, or lowering attack power, so it is possible
for shocking turnarounds to occur at any moment. After completing
just a few objectives in one battle, the battlefield can
almost become too large. It will take several turns just
to get to a certain location on the map. The flow of battle
will be slowed down and the overall intensity will be lost
somewhere amongst the never-ending battlefield. For the
dedicated gamers, staying until every enemy has been obliterated
will result in extra experience bonuses, as well as the
potential for new weapons and unlockable characters.
The computer A.I. has significantly improved since previous
NIS titles, the latter battles will prove to be quite the
challenge, even for veterans of the series. Your opponents
will stop at nothing to make sure you meet your demise and
with their enhanced knowledge about the battlefield, you
should keep your eyes peeled for any trickery. Losing a
facility or even having a vehicle destroyed can be very
costly to your battle tactics and can even lead to your
demise. Only by exploiting your enemy’s weaknesses
while protecting your team will you be able to succeed within
the harsh world.
The Future of Makai
NIS America has already blessed us with a unique style
of gameplay that will definitely be imitated in the future.
Hopefully, we can expect for them to raise the bar with
their next release. Titles like Makai show that it doesn’t
take Hollywood special effects, environments overflowing
with detail and a handful of highly paid voice actors for
a game to be a success. In the future, all we can hope is
that NIS continues to stay away from the mainstream, because
what they have now is great.
Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome is an exceptionally
well done RPG that doesn’t constrict the gamer with
any limitations as to how the flow of battle should go.
Whether you prefer to pilot robots, utilize hit-and-run
tactics or build up characters with dreadful spell casting
capabilities, there is only one thing that is necessary
for every RPG gamer out there: to get this game!