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Critical Reception: NIS America’s Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome

This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, focuses on NIS America’s l...
This week's Critical Reception, a regular column that looks at how the gaming press has received a particularly notable recently released game, focuses on NIS America’s latest PlayStation 2 strategy-RPG release, Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome. The spiritual successor to last year’s Phantom Brave, and in a similar style to previous titles La Pucelle Tactics and Disgaea, Makai Kingdom continues in Japanese developer Nippon Ichi’s tradition of turn-based tactics, as recently discussed in a Gamasutra interview. Scoring an average rating of 79.10% with reviewers, according to review aggregation site GameTab, the title’s reception seems decent for a niche genre. However, Disgaea fared better with critics, scoring an average rating of 88.33% according to GameTab. Does this hint at a downgrade in Nippon Ichi’s clout in the hardcore market, or is it simply that this particular title doesn't quite hit Disgaea's dizzy heights? In his review on 1UP, Nich Maragos [also a writer for Gamasutra] said: “Given how deep and flexible all of Nippon Ichi’s games have been—and Makai Kingdom is the deepest and most versatile yet—a single one could last a year.” Maragos found the game to be very similar to past Nippon Ichi releases, each building and improving on the last. For instance, Makai Kingdom implements the free-movement system introduced in Phantom Brave and adds features like troop transfer units to the mix. Other reviewers found alternative facets of the game to like, with Etoychest’s Roger Helgeson enjoying the title and particularly commenting on the high quality of the American-created voice acting for the U.S. release of Makai Kingdom, suggesting that it "can make even the staunchest dub-hater think twice.” While GameSpy’s Christian Nutt sees Nippon Ichi as “a new rising star,” he found the game’s format a bit long in the tooth. “Yes, there’s a ton of stuff to do here, but after a few Nippon Ichi games it all starts to blend together.” Nutt thought that the micro-management inherent in the title would be tedious to some, yet vital to the hardcore. “The battles themselves are fun, if a bit random,” notes Nutt, who in the end was “just not 100% thrilled at Makai Kingdom’s execution” of the game’s battle interface. Reviewing the title for GameSpot, Greg Mueller commented that the “free movement system is especially frustrating, since your characters tend to look the same, and when they’re bunched together it’s difficult to tell them apart.” Mueller liked the addition of vehicles, which can be equipped with weapons and characters to do more damage in battle. This addition may have contributed to the battles being “always extremely difficult or extremely easy.” In summary, GameSpot’s Mueller liked the 2D art style: “The 2D character sprites look childish and the weapons are completely exaggerated, but it’s charming nonetheless. The battle animations are overblown and spectacular as well, and you’ll have fun trying out new skills and attacks just to see them performed”, and, commenting on the overall package, Mueller said the game contains “countless hours of gameplay to be had here, but there’s nothing other than your own ambition to carry you from one battle to the next.” Other reviewers agreed, suggesting the game is, indeed, expertly tailored to the hardcore gamer crowd. Whether this will result in overly limited sales is unclear, but NIS America's business model is built, to an extent, around this niche appeal, with NISA's Jack Niida commenting: "A major company like Square Enix needs to sell millions, but a small company like us can make a small profit and survive, which is perfectly fine with us."

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