Magi Nation - Reader Retroview  

The greatest game you didn’t play
by Glowing Hyren

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20-40 Hours
+ Charming cast of characters
+ Memorable villains
+ Great sense of humor
+ Catchy soundtrack
+ Engaging battles
- Super secret content is hard to find
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   Magi Nation is a game that flew largely under the radar back in 2001. Based on a CCG released by Interactive Imagination, Magi nation drew a dedicated fan base with its memorable cast and interesting story. It took some fans with lots of free time several months to excavate all of the secrets hidden within the depths of a seemingly shallow and linear game. Due to its timing and competition, Magi Nation never caught on with the masses, but it remains as one of the best RPGs ever made

   The game follows a young fellow named Tony Jones. It’s never stated exactly how old Tony is, but based on his saggy pants and attitude it can be assumed that he is in his early teens. Tony is new in town and in order to earn the respect of the neighbor kids he delves into a cave on a dare to retrieve a crystal. While inside the cave, an earthquake opens a fissure and drops our hero into a bizarre and foreign land known by its inhabitants as The Moonlands. This new world is inhabited by Magi, people who can summon Dream Creatures from rings on their hands. Though seemingly straight forward, your quest to save The Moonlands from the forces of darkness from the core holds many choices. Each choice holds consequence and none of them are in dialogue boxes. This allows for a more seamless feel in the flow of the game and can really give you an astounding sense of realism when you discover the results of your choices.

   The Moonlands are beautifully crafted and hold many interesting features that distinguish it from other RPG lands. It holds the necessary fire area and forest area which are drawn about as you would expect. It’s the underground (The Underneath), underwater (Orothe) and sky (Arderial) regions that really defy expectations. The areas are detailed and colorful despite the limitations of the system and the era. The Underneath is filled to the brim with fungus, some of which is large enough that the residents have made them their homes. Orothe is home to large cities carried around on the backs of giant turtles and Arderial is quite literally a kingdom on the clouds. The areas never feel cheap or blocky and you can always tell what something is supposed to be. The battles showcase nice artwork of every creature that you and your foes use as well as all spells and abilities. The over world loses a lot of definition, but it is more than made up for in the details of the more zoomed in areas.

Glowing volcanic mushrooms, try and find that in a Final Fantasy game Glowing volcanic mushrooms, try and find that in a Final Fantasy game

   Battles take place on a small grid. Both you and your opponent are given four slots into which you may summon your Creatures. This means that, unlike other monster games like Pokémon, you can use several Creatures at once and targeting must be strategic. Fights may be entered by two means; you may run into a random monster by touching a glowing orb on a map or, you may be challenged by an opposing Magi. Battles can become nail biting strategic cliffhangers because you must gamble every time you summon a creature. This is because each creature has a set energy which it uses as its hp. This energy is also YOUR hp, forcing you to lose health in order to summon your creatures. Larger and more powerful monsters will have more energy and are a bigger risk to your survival should they fall in battle and leave you open to attack. Fortunately, this also applies to opposing Magi and when you finally defeat all of their Dream Creatures you are usually presented with a satisfyingly weak and warn down opponent.

   Aside from battles, Magi Nation operates much like other RPGs. You will wander across a vast world and use an over world map to traverse large distances quickly. There are many towns across the world which hold shops to buy healing items and equipment for your Creatures. These towns also hold ring smiths which can create new Creatures for you from the remains of those you’ve defeated. You and your creatures will gain experience for winning fights, but only if you’re near the same level as your opponent. This forces you to move along and face more challenging foes rather than power level in the starting area. While exploring the world you may run across some bizarre things that you don’t understand, such as a home overrun with fungus, or bizarre fluorescent algae which you can collect. Only when performed in a very specific sequence and with purposeful intent can these secrets be unlocked to grant you access to great riches. These secrets span the entire game and act as a running side story to parallel the main quest. It is quite satisfying to unlock the hidden treasure after spending a great deal of time backtracking and doing some off-the-wall things to get it. Exploring the world of Magi Nation is in general, an appeasing and satisfying experience though getting the greatest secrets can be a chore.

   One of the secrets of the game that can be access fairly easily is the jukebox, which is terrific, because the music is very catchy and well orchestrated. Every town has its individual theme song as does most of the main cast. Flipping through the extensive track even years later still gives me a sense of nostalgia and tends to result in another replay of the entire game, which is always worth the time. One play-through can take 25-40 hours but you’ll undoubtedly want to explore the new game+ mode (where you keep all of your levels and creatures) to see the game a second time and find more secrets.

RPGamer has only 5 screenshots from this game. This one was the only other one that was cool. RPGamer has only 5 screenshots from this game. This one was the only other one that was cool.

   It is hard to top Magi Nation’s cast of characters and sense of independence. One of the first people you’ll meet is Eidon, who believes you are a great hero of legend, but has a tendency to cry wolf on the subject. The training instructor is a messy haired man named Yaki who likes to make loud and out of place exclamations. The Underneath is home to the self absorbed muscle head, Gogor. The townspeople praise him for his strength and heroism, only to be disappointed in his failure when their need arises. Necessary sub-villains Korg and Zet constantly follow you around and attempt to foil your plans, only to foil themselves due to Korg’s incompetence and poor leadership. Their unthreatening nature is pulled away when you are forced to fight Zet. He turns out to be an astoundingly difficult boss, proving that he could have killed you early in your quest were he not subordinate to a dunderhead. The higher tier villains are really dastardly and have no hesitation in killing your friends to get what they want. This really helps create a sense of satisfaction when you put them in their grave. More amusing is the fact that without a magical translation item, all of the inhabitants spew random nonsense when spoken to. The first words you hear upon entry to The Moonlands are: “Dirigible fork! Taxi apple sponge?” This leads to a couple of memorable situations when you are not in possession of your translator. Overall, the cast is difficult to top even in more modern and story driven RPGs where the casts tend to be all be made from the same mold.

   Nearly every item in every room is something that you can interact with in at least a basic level. Mostly this revolves around Tony’s comments about the way he sees things. Beds made of fungus can lead him to comment on the squishiness, bookcases cause him to comment on the reading material, and empty chests prompt a shout of “It’s empty…. NOOOOOOOO!” The denizens of The Moonlands are not above Tony’s observations either. The forgetful historian often incurs Tony’s sarcasm and the greedy ferry man is told as much to his face. If you poke around enough in an area you’re nearly assured to find something amusing to interact with.

   In combination, all of these things really contribute to the great game that is Magi Nation. Many other games can claim to some or maybe all of these factors, but I’ve found none that possess them in equal measure or in as charming a presentation. Magi Nation was overlooked before but it should not be now. It is one of the greatest RPGs ever and my personal favorite. Play it, and it will be one of yours too.

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