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Platform

DS

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Nintendo

 

Developer

Brownie Brown

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

October 2006

 

 

- Interesting setting

- Excellent writing

 

 

- Boring, drawn out battle sequences

- Lame overall plot

- Forced touch screen controls

 

 

Review: Children of Mana (DS)

Review: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team (DS)

Review: Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS)

 

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Magical Starsign

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

For some reason, the portable systems keep getting the shaft when it comes to RPGs. Sure, the Mario & Luigi games are pretty okay, but they arenít exactly aimed towards the hardcore players. Golden Sun was flashy but ultimately shallow, and Pokemon has barely changed since its inception. Itís almost a little sad that the best of the best are still the GBA Final Fantasy ports, which are all over ten years old at this point. But Nintendo keeps trying, and here we have Magical Starsign. Created by Brownie Brown, a team of ex-Square vets, Magical Starsign is actually a sequel to a GBA game called Magical Vacation, which never left Japan . It seemed kinda of a shame, since the bright graphics looked appealing, and the system desperately needed some fresh blood. While Magical Starsign offers an interesting concept, and characters that deviate from the norm, the rest of the game is unfortunately quite typical.  

 

magical starsign          magical starsign

 

Magical Starsign gleefully rips off Harry Potter, as the story begins in a school for young magicians. One of the teachers is called away into outer space for something mysteriously, so you decide to steal your own rocket and take off after her. Naturally, this is a recipe for disaster, since you end up crash landing alone on a desolate planet. Luckily, the rest of your friends have followed after you, and you spend the rest of the game jumping from planet to planet, reuniting with your classmates, and finding out what happened to your teacher.

 

Each of the planets is patterned after one of the typical elements (earth, water and the like), and are usually filled with wacky inhabitants, ranging from a civilization of spiked moles (who tend to make up their own silly sounding words) to a colony of cold blooded sea otters. Since the storyline isnít exactly compelling,

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Magical Starsign makes up for this with plenty of clever and amusing dialogue - most of the NPCs are interesting than your actual party members, who have some of the most obnoxious character designs ever seen in an RPG. Each of your party members also has different skills they can use when adventuring, although theyíre primarily used to solve transparently simple puzzles. Your player - 

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who is the standard silent male or female - seems to be human, but youíre also joined by a bunny girl, named Lassi, a lizard with an enlarged head, a robot with a sarcastic sense of humor, and other strange looking humanoids. The artwork is vaguely reminiscent of a demented take on the more recent Mana games - which makes sense, considering Brownie Brown also developed Sword of Mana for the GBA.

 

While the dialogue sparkles thanks to a solid localization, the actual gameplay fails to do anything really interesting. Itís your standard turn-based battle system, with each character wielding both magical and physical attacks. Thereís an astrological@ system where certain characters will be more powerful during certain orbital cycles, depending on what planet your on. However, these power-ups either require a lot of foreplanning, or simply occur by chance, so they rarely add any real strategy to how you actually fight most battles - just memorize what enemies are weak to, and repeat. This in itself wouldnít be too offensive, but Magical Starsign insists on being painfully slow. All of the animations are drastically overdone, and even the menus seem to act sluggishly. It gets even worse when you have all six characters in your party, at which case the battles seem to drag on ever more. The random encounter rate isnít too drastically high, but the amount of time you spend in battles make it seem higher than it is.

 

magical starsign          magical starsign

 

And remember during the early days of the DS (only two years ago, actually), when all of the titles tacked on touch screen functionality just for the hell of it? Magical Starsign forces you to use the stylus for practically everything.. You can move with the directional pad, but any other action - including talking to people or using objects - needs to be done with the touch screen. You canít even access the status menu with the Start button like most games. Itís nice during battles but a pain during everything else - the designers shouldíve taken a look at Contact and implemented both control schemes. The top screen occasionally shows an expanded view of the landscapes, although itís usually used as a map. Thereís also a multiplater mode dubbed the Amigo Dungeon, where you can pick a single character and race against a total of five other players to kill monsters and find treasure. Itís pretty much the standard throwaway multiplayer mode thatís being featured in a lot of DS games nowadays.

 

Other than some poorly rendered full motion CG, the graphics couldíve been done on the Gameboy Advance, although the sprites do look pretty nice, and the backgrounds are pleasantly colorful. The only real complaint is the way the camera keeps zooming in and out of battle, pixellating everything drastically. This was impressive back in the Super Nintendo days - here, not so much. The music is also mostly forgettable.

 

While Magical Starsign offers a bit of amusement, and more than its share of chuckles, the actual game mechanics keeps it from being too engrossing. Maybe Nintendo shouldíve pooled its resources to translate Mother 3 instead.

 

- Kurt Kalata

(January 13, 2007)

 

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