It was against all odds that Lord of Magna: Maiden Heaven was even completed. The developer, Neverland, filed for bankruptcy with the game just over half finished, but was saved with help from the publisher, Marvelous; they kept key staff employed long enough to finish this swan song. It’s just a shame that the final game fails to make any significant impression.
On the surface there is a lot of promise to Lord of Magna. It looks similar to an RPG and dating game hybrid, where you have a hero and many heroines as playable characters. New moves, and stat boosts, are acquired by completing events with individual heroines and improving the hero’s relationship with them. Even better, at least for me, is that all the heroines have Japanese style pointed elf ears; an attribute that I find really cute. Speaking of cute, every character that has a portrait to go along with their dialogue also has a little idle animation that plays at appropriate times; this can be either annoying or endearing depending on your taste.
The combat system is an interesting change from the norm. Many reviews have compared the combat in Lord of Magna to that of Valkyria Chronicles, but I would say it is much closer to Sakura Wars. The unique twist to this system is that enemies will surround themselves with weak peons who all have a single hit point but can be summoned back every turn as a free action. This is a refreshing change to the usual puzzles we have had to deal with in SRPGs as becoming surrounded and enveloped by your enemy is a definite possibility. The focus here is in luring the enemy into a vulnerable position and quickly destroying it before more peons are summoned during the following turn. In addition, each character has a unique area of effect with their weapon, allowing them to better handle different enemy formations; understanding how to use your characters effectively to break into a mob becomes a key skill. The colourful and numerous nature of the enemy makes Lord of Magna feel more like a puzzle game like Peggle at times.
Sadly, that is all of the praise that can be given to Lord of Magna as the story that takes us to these fresh battle sequences is a complete slog populated with characters that lie on the very border of interesting. This is worsened by their not being undeveloped characters, but rather characters that refuse to develop. As more are added, we have an increasing cast competing for screen time with a hero who does not deliver any kind of impact. Every other character outshines the hero and it does not take long to notice that there is really no reason for any of the heroines to follow him other than his ownership of an inn.
This would not be such a problem, as I have suffered though bad stories to play a nice game, and vice versa, but the nail in the coffin is that the story sequences are so ponderous and slow; moving though them is a greater effort then the combat. Setting the text display speed only one increment below instantaneous results in text that is still exceedingly slow to display and chooses the most irritating times to change lines due to poor localisation.
This is a real pity, as Lord of Magna could have been a fantastic, addictive, little game with cute characters if it gave in and made itself a strategy RPG puzzle game that allowed you to play with its fun battle system whenever you wanted, similar to how Disgaea is completely open to letting you just play old maps again conveniently. Conveniently is the key word here, because, with its subpar story getting in the way and chewing up your time with long ponderous scenes that lead nowhere and take an age to play out, Lord of Magna is the opposite of convenient.
A genuinely sincere attempt to craft a new kind of battle system for SRPG's is hampered by a plodding story and poor localisation that makes reading though a dull story much more work than it should be in a game of this type.