Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome PS2 Review

Absorbing, engrossing and captivating are all lovely words, which may define similar things, but they all describe Nippon Ichi’s (better known as the developer of the offbeat but excellent Disgaea) newest strategy RPG: Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome. You see it’s so good that we just can’t use enough complimentary words to describe its overall greatness!

Makai Kingdom’s narrative and hellish setting are reminiscent of Disgaea, but as you can confine characters to items and are free from the constraints of a grid, its gameplay probably has more in common with Phantom Brave. It’s a concoction that we’re glad to say works perfectly well.

All the usual Nippon Ichi elements are also intact such as the option to level up your little team to truly ridiculous extremes, gameplay that’s so deep, that it’s overwhelming to begin with, yet at the same time still somehow manages to be satisfyingly accessible. The archaic but charming 2D visuals also make a welcome return, as does the amusing sense of humour. This is unmistakeably a Nippon Ichi game all right.

Though as always, the developer has brought, along with all the mainstays some impressive new additions to the game, making sure that it offers a different experience to any of their previous offerings and yes there’s plenty of the trademark quirkiness that you’d expect from a Nippon Ichi game, which being the odd people we are, we find to be hugely entertaining.

New this time are facilities and vehicles. Several characters or items can be placed within a facility, before or during a battle. Facilities not only allow you to bring many characters to the battlefield at a time but also generally grant any character placed within them stat or money bonuses. On the other hand, vehicles offer solid protection for multiple characters and can be good to cover huge distances in a single turn as well as possessing plenty of firepower to blow away your enemies with.

The structure of the battles is also different this time as it works on a points based system rather than the usual “beat up enemies to advance” business that is the norm in most of the developers other titles and indeed strategy titles in general. Defeating opponents and collecting or destroying any items that are strewn around the battlefield amasses points. Hitting the target score of any given map allows you to claim victory, though if you so wish you can continue on (or as the game so eloquently puts it “keep the death count rising”) until you get the highest possible points of the map and thus be rewarded with even better bonus items and additional exp for your army.

Maps may often appear to be small at the start of battle, however destroying particular items or enemies will at times reveal new areas of the battlefield, with occasionally negative conditions for you to contend with. It’s an enjoyable gameplay mechanic, as you never quite know what surprises the game is going to throw at you next!

We’ve come this far and not yet mentioned the storyline, why? Simply because as with all Nippon Ichi games, the narrative takes a backseat to the wonderfully absorbing gameplay. Anyway it follows the powerful overlord: Zetta, who mistakenly brings about the destruction of his own netherworld and narrowly escapes death by binding his soul to a book. The otherwise average plot, is made all the better by the unique Nippon Ichi sense of humour, which is at times so stupid that we just couldn’t help laughing.

So have we covered everything? Did we mention that you can reincarnate characters which works pretty much like the transmigrating in Disgaea or that you can purchase new buildings with mana gained by offing enemies or that new characters can be created from any items? The fact is it’s pretty much an impossibility with a Nippon Ichi game to cover everything in an extensive manner as the depth is simply extraordinary and we’d likely be here for eternity explaining everything to you with absolute clarity.

It goes without saying that fans of the developer’s previous work will enjoy Makai Kingdom immensely and just as long as they don’t mind depth that is daunting to begin with, fans of the genre are also advised to make a purchase. This is quite simply one of the PS2’s finest hours!