What We Know:
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom explores the symbiotic relationship between a boy named Tepeu and a Majin, a sort of nature golem with the mind of a vulnerable young child. Through a mixture of puzzles and combat, the pair explore the eponymous Forsaken Kingdom. At Gamescom, Daisuke Uchiyama, the game's producer, talked us through some more of the game.
What We're Seeing Now:
With Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, the developers at Game Republic are attempting a new style of graphics, gameplay and storytelling. While they didn't touch much on story during the demonstration, the graphics and gameplay are definitely unique and unlike anything you'll play this year.
The game looks very pretty, thanks in no small part to colorful, stylized artwork and strong character designs. Environment design sounds like it's pretty varied throughout the game, with Uchiyama promising deep green forests, twilit mines, deep blue oceans and glimmering crystal caverns. Emphasis has been placed on color, to make these areas stand out.
The most striking thing on the screen is easily the Majin itself, and that's not just because it takes up a large portion of screen space. The beast's design makes it seem sort of cute, with its dopey face, but also powerful. That coupled with its rudimentary speech ("I try hard!") should help to create an emotional connection between the player and the Majin. Something the developers consider vitally important for the title.
In their quest to differentiate Majin from every other bloody, shooty, violent game on the market, the developers have put a lot of emphasis into the bond of friendship between the Majin and Tepeu. As this bond increases, the number of combat combos and puzzle solving abilities increase in strength and variety.
Combat revolves around either sending the Majin to do your dirty work, by utilizing basic commands (follow, attack, act, wait, etc) or fighting alongside him to get the most out of the combo system. The Majin and Tepeu obviously fight very differently, while the Majin is a slow, weighty beast, Tepeu is small and agile, allowing him to move and strike quickly. It seems like this gives the combat a decent amount of variety and strategy.
The simple puzzles I saw in this demonstration consist of using the Majin to destroy energy pylons which would otherwise damage you, or having him crouch on the ground so that you can climb on top of him and reach a higher area. At another point Tepeu was required to carry and position some pylons to close an electric circuit. Judging by the tutorial windows that were popping up, this section is fairly early on in the game, so puzzles will no doubt get trickier later on. It sounds like the game will have similarities to Metroid in that returning to old areas with new abilities will give access to new areas and secrets.
The game seems very polished at this point, which is great to see considering Majin is due out in just a couple of months. The developers promise between 20 and 30 hours of gameplay time, which sounds pretty long for a third person action game. During that time the Majin will grow and evolve over time, not just gaining new abilities, but changing its appearance. Unfortunately I wasn't shown examples of this evolution, so it's unclear how much the Majin changes visually.
There's already talk of downloadable content, with Uchiyama stating that costumes will be made available post-launch for both Tepeu and the Majin, which give both characters extra abilities. The demonstration didn't touch on the game's story much, but we're promised that, in keeping with the developers' attempt to create a bond of friendship between the Majin and the player, the story will be quite emotional.
Comparisons have been drawn between Majin and Team ICO's next outing on the PS3, The Last Guardian. While it's true that they both feature children guiding and being protected by a large, ancient beast, that's as far as the similarities go. Contrasting art styles and the fact that we don't even know how The Last Guardian's gameplay is going to work mean that both games should attract your attention.
The demonstration was reasonably short, but definitely showed this section of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom to be nicely polished and, if the rest of the game follows suit, it could easily be worthy of your time, come November. The colorful world coupled with the great character designs make this an aesthetically pleasing game, too. If the screenshots appeal to you and you enjoy meaty third person adventures with an emphasis on story and emotion, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom seems like a safe bet.