Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom Hands-on Impressions

In 2009, Namco-Bandai announced Majin: The Fallen Realm, an action-adventure title being developed by Game Republic, perhaps best known for their work on the Genji series and the PS3 exclusive Folklore. Since then, the game’s title has become Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, and the publisher is aiming for a holiday season 2010 release. At a recent Namco-Bandai press event in New York City, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom seemed pretty far along in development, and came as a pleasant surprise that stood out amongst the more heavily marketed games.

In the world of Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, civilization has suddenly collapsed after a kingdom’s long and prosperous reign, leaving most of humankind dead. A dark force has taken over, and with it powerful warriors intent on destroying the last survivors of the kingdom. A 100 years after these events, a young man with mysterious magical powers teams up with Majin, a charming ogre to survive the darkness and reclaim the fallen kingdom. Though Majin is a single-player game, it requires the player to control both characters, whose different strengths are needed for them to survive. The human is small, quick, and nimble; he can fit into smaller openings and solve puzzles as long as he stays out of sight of the dark warriors. The ogre, on the other hand, is big and strong; he can fight and lift heavy obstacles. One cannot progress without the other, meaning there is no choice for them but to form an unlikely alliance.

Despite the dark themes present in Majin, the world is presented as a vibrant and colorful place. Though civilization is gone, the outside world is full of lush flowers and trees, and it’s easy to see why the kingdom would be worth fighting for. The human character doesn’t do a lot of the fighting, though; he’s better suited for stealth, like when sneaking past enemies to acquire an item, or trying to quietly find a way for the oversized Majin to follow him. Though the player only indirectly controls Majin, the ogre appeared to be pretty capable of fending for himself.

Like many games in the genre, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom combines combat and exploration with puzzles, which should add enough variety to the gameplay to keep it from getting repetitive. This often requires the human character to double back and retrace his steps, or temporarily separate from his ogre friend, which changes the dynamic of combat somewhat. With Majin at his side, the mysterious ogre can collect the life force of the dark warriors, meaning that the enemies killed will actually stay dead. Without Majin, any slain foes can come back to life after a short time, adding to the danger of the situation and making stealth often a much smarter alternative.

Even though he’s technically a secondary character, Majin was actually more memorable than his human partner. When left unattended, he’ll scratch his rear end or observe his surroundings, and all of his movements seem totally natural. These moments are easy to miss if the player isn’t paying attention, making their inclusion even more enjoyable. It’s hard not to love Majin when he attempts to communicate with his partner in broken speech and hand motions, too.

Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom isn’t the biggest game in Namco’s holiday line-up, but it just might end up surprising a lot of people with its intriguing premise and gameplay. Game Republic still has a few months to do some extra polishing and tighten up the camera, which seemed a bit wonky during the demonstration, but it wasn’t hard to believe that the game would hit its intended release date. Majin may not be the biggest or most anticipated game of 2010, but it’s definitely worth a second look.