REVIEW: Magic Knight Rayearth

Wanda and I loved watched the Magic Knight Rayearth anime when were young (probably not young enough), and she’s read the manga. It’s stupid, charming magical girl nonsense, but I suspect (after seeing every episode of the Sailor Moon live action series) I have a high tolerance for such garbage. MKR for Sega Saturn is notable as the last US Saturn game, and for being published by Working Designs. How is it? Like most mediocre games that Working Designs arbitrarily releases (Albert Odyssey, Shining Wisdom), just okay.

MKR is action-rpg-lite. There are no stats, characters develop through item collection (ala Legend of Zelda), dungeons are small, monsters are easy, no penalty for dying, and it’s short. The only challenge comes from scouring the land for hidden amulets to purchase fun useless items (i.e. slippers that squeak when you walk) in a special shop. Presuming it was made for little girls in Japan, this makes sense.

You control 1 of 3 characters with slightly different weapons and 3 magic spells. Pressing a button swaps characters. Theoretically, the technique involves utilizing the strengths of each character in various situations. But actually, the bow-wielding healer is way more useful than the others and I beat most of the game with her exclusively. The 2 remaining characters are nearly identical. One thrusts, one slashes, and both have 3 very similar attack spells.

Still, MKR is enjoyable. The locations are interesting, the trademark inane Working Designs NPC chatter is amusing, and I dig the big cute sprites and massive bosses. There a few puzzles thrown in and lots of extras like readable journals for each character. All of these elements help soften the fact that a game this easy almost doesn’t qualify as a game.

Translating MKR is a weird choice even for Working Designs. It’s not a stellar game, the anime hadn’t been licensed yet, there is a ton of voice work, and the Japanese version had slowdown issues that had to fixed so the release date was delayed for years. But here it is, a fun, collectible, but unremarkable game that would be completely forgotten if anyone but Working Designs  published it, or there were more than 6 RPGs on Saturn.


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