Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Magical Diary Review

Magical Diary is a visual novel/dating sim by Hanako Games.

Published on Steam, it's available to download for £10.99, currently on sale at £4.94. Magical Diary is a game set in a Magical School, in which you, the main protagonist have been sent to to harness your magical powers. Born to human parents, you can feel somewhat of an outcast among your new school friends. Magical Diary deals with the challenges you face as an adolescent including romance, friendship and studying, all with a touch of magic.

On the face of it, Magical Diary seems to be just another visual novel with a magical gimmick. However, it is much more than that. The inclusion of a wide variety of genders, races and sexualities is a vast improvement on the usual genre, and it never makes a big deal out of this, either. What you may expect to be stereotypical anime tropes don't always turn out how you might expect.

The artwork is pleasant and consistant but nothing hugely special. The UI could do with a little work and the 'skip' mechanic can be a little buggy at times. The audio, again, is nothing special but it does the job. I often find that overcomplicated audio in visual novel games can be a little distracting especially when the loop is noticable, so it's not much of problem. You can design your own character which is a fun addition, and makes you feel more part of the story.

The gameplay follows three different patterns; the novel, the lesson segment and the dungeon segment. The novel segment is one of the best and the story is believable and well-scripted. While some of the characters can be cliche at times, a lot of them may surprise you in the end as you delve further into the story. You are given a variety of choices in Magical Diary which have a direct influence on the story, and can impact further on down the line. I like that a choice you made much earlier can effect the game much later, and everything you do has a direct and noticable consequence. All the choices are also believable. Sometimes, VN games give you choices that you would never consider doing yourself, and it can be jarring, but Magical Diary doesn't do this.

The lesson segment is simply a way to build stats, to learn spells which will help you in the dungeon segment. While it's a simple mechanic you still feel like you are shaping a character, but to be honest no matter what you pick unless it's extreme you'll be hard pressed to go wrong. You can also choose to do other things like sleep or go to the gym, which reduces stress levels and increases strength. On the weekends, you can study or go to the mall, and there are a variety of magical items on sale and things to do. I feel the items are overpriced because you rarely earn enough currency in the game to be able to buy the most expensive items, and when you do have enough cash to splash it'll be near end game and you won't get much of the benefit of them.

The dungeon segment is fun but could be vastly improved. It does add a little extra though, a puzzle element. You can use the spells you've learn throughout your lessons to complete various puzzles along the way. To be honest, I feel that you do end up using the same spells most of the time and most of the spells you do have go unused, although that might have just been my style of play. You can complete the game without using any of the really complex or expensive spells. You have health/mana, and you may need to replay a few times to be able to get the hang on the mana system. Overall, it's a nice touch.

The game also has Steam achievements if you purchase it via Steam which gives an extra push for you to play it through a couple of times more. If you are interested in pursuing romance or unlocking some of the achievements, this is possible too. The game supports many save states so you can branch off wherever you like.

Overall, I had fun playing Magical Diary. It's a short game, maybe about 4hours if you take your time, but the design of it suggests you play through more than once to get enough out of it, and certainly you may be interested to do that.

I give Magical Diary a 8 out of 10.

You can purchase it via Hakano Games and they are having a Christmas Sale at the moment.


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