Thursday, April 7, 2011

IMPRESSIONS - Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom.

I made relatively few posts about it, but as soon as I saw a screenshot for Majin: The Fallen Realm - which would eventually be re-titled Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom - I followed the title. I just loved the art direction - Games Republic also put together the notably gorgeous Folklore - and if the game ended up being different enough...

Of course, it was released during 2010's Fall Crush of Games, and despite loving the demo and mentally bookmarking the game as worth a purchase, I simply didn't have the time to play it - so I didn't buy it.

I've always felt a bit guilty about that.

I like to actively support stuff like this. We need to support these kind of games if we don't want to find ourselves staring at a release calendar full of Military Themed First-Person Shooter XXXIV spinoffs and ripoffs.

I went poking around last week, and found that GameStop was selling it for $30, new. I called them up and asked if they had a new copy.
"Yes we do."

"Is it sealed?"

"Um... no."

So I went to HMV, where they had an actual sealed copy for the same price. It sat among my library until last night, when Blue came over for a game night, and we put Arkham Asylum on the back burner to check out Majin.

Majin - so much like the products of Double Fine - is a poster child for the inspired, inspirational games we see so rarely getting disc releases these days. It deserves our support.

As we played, we found ourselves at a bit of a loss. One of the benefits of playing a crapload of games is that you are able to trace the lineage of mechanics, but Majin doesn't really bear comparison to any other title on the PS3 or 360.

It's a bit like Zelda in its structure, a bit like Ico in its platformy-ness, mashy combat and clever puzzles. And it's gorgeous. Not technologically impressive by any stretch, Majin is a visual feast thanks to its lively, imaginative art direction and willingness to paint with rich, saturated colors and healthy light bloom.

Still, Blue and I had trouble pinning it down. We both agreed that "it's a fairy tale" - the likes of which we never really see, these days. A completely original, imagination-fueled, gentle but affecting story about an imperiled land and a magical beast.
"It feels very... classic, right?"


I love the combo move where Majin tosses you into the
air and you come crashing down with your weapon.

Eventually, we sort of nailed it when I pointed out that its mechanical structure was very, very much like Link to the Past. The puzzles, the combat, the design is totally old-school. The animation is good, but there's less of it than you'd see in most modern games - little procedural stuff like not-quite hitting a ledge after a jump isn't there - it's much more analog.

The game doesn't do anything for you automatically. Much of the little extras of the current gen are either missing, or left entirely in the hands of the player.
"It's like something you'd see on the PS2," Blue observed. This was not a criticism.

"Yes! It could have been done back then, in terms of mechanics. It's not trying to live up to the expectations of the current generation. It just is what it is - and it's so unusual."
There's something willfully and unpretentiously wholesome about Majin.

It's a puzzle-platformer adventure game, a bit like Ico. Instead of a helpless waif to drag along behind you, you have a mossy gentle giant with tendrils of greenery growing from his colossal back, swaying in the breeze. Like Elika in the underrated Prince of Persia '08, he is your double-jump. He is your area-of-effect attack, your power-up - he isn't just a foolish AI-controlled friend, but an extension of the player's power.

When the dark forces threatening to overcome this land have stolen all but a sliver of your life, it is Majin who cleanses you, and heals you. When Majin is hurt, it is only you who can restore his health - he is your friend, but he's also you.

It's charming. And innocent. And beautiful.

Blue, I am going to have to play and review this game. Don't worry, our save file will be intact for the next game night - but I think this has just replaced Yakuza 4 on my must-play list.


  1. The demo seemed like it was aimed towards a younger audience and didn't grab me; but demos don't always adequately represent the finished game. Funny that you brought up Ico, because it struck me as a sort of Shadow of the Colossus where you don't brutally murder the giant. Based on your review, this could be a new purchase. How bad could it be when you've got a giant Muppet following you around?

  2. Not a review - preview. It's not my final word - and judging from past previews, the reviews end up being much more somber than the initial elation previews are prone to.

    But yeah, very much digging it - though the demo doesn't do a bad job of representing the final product. There are more mechanics to discover in the full game, of course.

  3. Oh, and way cooler environments. And enemies. And stuff.

  4. The game is very much a "last gen" adventure title with a bland openning that will turn people off it.

    The game however gets much better and the environments improve dramatically once you get past the openning of the game. It is a shame that many people will give up on the game 10-20 minutes into it and miss out on something that is really quite charming and unique.

    And the enemy designs are just gorgeous.