Thursday, July 19, 2012

Game Review: Magical Boutique

This is a repost of an old review from my previous blog which now redirects to this page.

Magical Boutique looks and feels like a mini-game spin-off of the Mana series. (Legend of Mana, Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Sword of Mana, Dawn of Mana etc.) The colorful interface, Framboise' character design, the layout of the in-game interface, and the colorful backgrounds just remind me so much of Legend of Mana, especially.

Is this a good thing? Definitely! It doesn't feel like the creator just blatantly ripped off Square/Squenix just to somehow ride-on to their success - it just feels very close to that cozy, children's story-like atmosphere of the mana titles.

Of course, there are a few complaints I have. While the character art for Framboise is not very professional-looking, she's passable enough and I'd say it could have benefited quite a bit from dark outlines outside her body making her look more cartoony (Think simple cartoon network titles like Powerpuff and Dexter). Another thing is the text used in the main window. It just doesn't suit the game over-all. It looks too plain and well...default when compared to the pretty fonts used for the item descriptions and pretty much the rest of the game. I'd also liked to have seen a smaller text box rather than the fullscreen one the game is using. It just doesn't feel aesthetically correct to me... or they could have made the window look something like a piece of parchment paper while retaining the transparency.

VN purists (of the eltist variety) will cringe at the artwork used for this game. Actually, it's not that bad. It works well enough for this type of game and really, it's not that distracting to the eyes that you have to overreact to it.

A few looping tracks that sound magical enough. They do get repetitive after you've made your hundredth or so potion, but the music does its job well enough.

This is the meat and potatoes of the game. Honestly, I don't really like game VNs, but that's just me. Magbou is best described as a potion shop management sim rather than a visual novel. Your main task is to create potions for customers while being assisted by Framboise (shown in the video trailer) who can also make potions or go on quests to find more items for ingredients. You can also visit local merchants during special days to buy furniture that upgrades your shop's capacity or adds some special features.

The days advance automatically and you'll get an option to assign tasks to your current staff for the day or view your status screen and see what items/ingredients you've got in your inventory and what potions you can currently brew. Attempting to brew a potion that you don't have the ingredients to will end up with you wasting a turn. (naturally)

Your characters gain experience with each potion they brew unlocking higher level potions that you can sell to your clients. I should note that there is really no way to manually sell the potions you create to your clients and it seems to be controlled automatically by the game.

Bits and pieces of the story get unlocked automatically as the game progresses. I'm not quite sure, but I think some special events can only be viewed by completing certain tasks for story-based customers.

Just like any other management sim, Magbou suffers from repetitive gameplay, though it does offer some rewards for players diligent enough to attempt to unlock everything in this game (I'm not :P). Over-all, it's a solid title and a nice little time-waster for slow days. It's a game that you can just pick-up, play and leave at any time without feeling any vague moral obligation to keep on playing till kingdom come. It has a nice cozy ambience that just seems welcoming for all types of players.

So, to conclude, should I give you a numerical assessment of this game? Tsk. Why bother? Just try it out. I forgot to mention the best part. It's free!

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