Magic Knight Rayearth - Retroview

Girl's Night Out
By: Zachary Lewis

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 5
   Interface 5
   Music & Sound 8
   Originality 5
   Story 5
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 5
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Completion Time 10-15hrs  

Then why are you standing in a cave brimming with monsters, huh?
Then why are you standing in a cave brimming with monsters, huh?

   Sega Saturn: a console designed with enormous 2D potential at the dawn of the 3D gaming era. Working Designs: a company that sold their first born sons into slavery for the localization rights to a game based on a popular Clamp manga series. Magic Knight Rayearth: the game Working Designs announced it was translating prior to the Sega Saturn's release and that was actually released after the console's demise. What can be learned here? Hopefully one of the lessons is not to spend so much time and money on such a mediocre game.

   To start, not every aspect of the game is completely average. As has been Working Designsí outstanding tradition since the early days of Lunar: The Silver Star on the SegaCD, the game made a fabulous transition from Japanese to English. The voice acting is top notch, especially considering the age from which the game hails; the music, although slightly repetitious, is utilized to good effect; and the overall feeling of joy that the game exudes makes playing it a thrilling experience. Alas, these areas of outstanding effort are marred by the many other portions of the game that are hopelessly average.

   Consider that the game was released fifteen months after Final Fantasy VII and the sheer atrocity of the games' SNES-level graphics soon become apparent. Although the animated clips are colorful, flashy, and high in number, the in game sprites and super deformed nature of everything seem extremely out of place even when compared to the manga that gave the game its genesis. Due to the huge clash in styles that the game maintains, it is difficult to take many of the more emotionally driving plot scenes seriously.

   In some part because the game fails to deliver the plot in a plausible fashion, the story itself loses much of its imperative 'save the world from itself' feeling. In the end the game becomes a series of help-your-fellow-man-because-it-makes-you-feel-good events that loosely bring the adorable Fuu, haughty Umi, and fiery Hikaru to their confrontation against the sinister Zagat. Admittedly, a plot of this nature more than shows the true form of the manga that spawned it, but it simply isn't anything new, untold, or interesting as RPGs go.

Perky but still evil.
Perky but still evil.

   Another portion of the game that has little in the way of innovation is the action oriented battle system. It uses the tried and true method of 'hack and slash through crowds of enemies until you find a massive boss' that requires an iota of strategy. Repeat, ad nauseum. Combat itself is set across from a well planned and useful status menu that gets hackneyed very quickly because the icons have no text to explain which does what. After several hours of use, the system should work out all right, but burning the bridges of a player before they cross them isn't the best plan to encourage them to stick with the game to the end.

   Were it not for all the above listed reasons, the game might pass as replayable. However, the very short nature of the game and the laughably easy difficulty add little to a second pass. Like most RPGs, however, it has a sidequest or two that a real completist might find themselves wanting to retry even if it's only to see the classic outtakes and other stuff that Working Designs always throws into their titles.

   Essentially, Magic Knight Rayearth is a game that almost nobody has played because of the timing of its release, the console of its production, and the over-hype of its journey from Japan to North America. Saying that the game is bad would be a lie, but saying that it's good would also be a little trite.

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