I feel as if, from the get-go, I had a completely different expectation as to what this game would offer me. Part of it is the title: there are magicians, but there’s not exactly much magicking; there are “Mysterious Times”, but rather than the times our characters live in being mysterious, there is quite literally a “Mystery Time” each week. More importantly, though, there are no ‘Quests.’ Or, maybe there are – I didn’t finish the game (and there’s a very good reason why), but I played the game for almost two months without finding a single ‘Quest’.
Still, I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Just because the name is misleading doesn’t mean the game should be excluded from getting a fair critique, and Magician’s Quest Mysterious Times is no exception. So, let’s get started, shall we?
Magician’s Quest has been likened many times to “Harry Potter meets Animal Crossing.” In fact, I watched a video where even a Konami employee made the same connection. You go to a school of magic and learn how to cast spells and stuff, which is its likeness to Harry Potter. And, it’s like Animal Crossing in the way that there’s a town, and you talk to people…and stuff? Can you tell I’ve never played Animal Crossing?
Anyway, the game works like this: Every day (the game synchronizes with the DS’s internal clock), you have to go to class and learn how to cast magic spells. Then, you have the rest of the day to mess around and talk with people who live around town. Magic is cast by arming your magic wand with symbols. For example, if you load the symbols “Magic”, “Transfer”, and “Who?” into your staff, you can use your wand to transform into a nearby classmate.
The story is a simple set up for the gameplay: since you’re the only person from the human world going to magic school, you’re also the only one who can solve some wacky, mysterious mysteries for some unimportant reason that I forgot. Either way, at one point in every week, there is a “Mystery Time” where the sky gets all funny looking, and you can find strange items on the ground.
After Mystery Time is over, you can run around campus looking for the mystery of the week to be solved. There are thirty-eight mysteries which occur in a specific order, as well as fourteen mysteries that happen on very specific weeks of the year. So, if you really wanted to ‘beat’ Magician’s Quest, you’d either have to cheat, or play for almost an entire year (which is why I didn’t finish it).
Here’s the biggest problem, though: these mysteries, as far as I played, do not require any magic whatsoever. There is an element of the game where you gather bugs, fish, plants, and other stuff; and a lot of the times, the mysteries revolve around finding items, or even just performing one action frequently enough. This brings me to my second gripe: they’re not even mysteries! You just find someone who will ask you to do something, and then you do it. It’s strange to me (or perhaps I should say mysterious?) that one of the main aspects of the game has virtually no use for magic, and is not even puzzling or exciting, as the word ‘mysterious’ might suggest.
Another thing that bothered me about magic is the class times. You can set what times you want the classes to start, but not in a very specific manner. Instead, you have to choose whether or not you want to be able to attend classes from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, or Midnight until Noon. So, for us real human beings who get up, go to work, be productive, and go to sleep at reasonable hours, the most likely time of the day that we’ll play the game to attend classes – 8:00 PM through Midnight – are out of the question. Why even give us such an option if it’s going to have arbitrary limit imposed on it?
So, what’s left is the Animal Crossing aspect. Now, I’ve never played Animal Crossing, but from what I understand, the whole point is to run around town, doing whatever you feel like, talking to whoever you want to, whenever you want to. For a game like this to be fun, the world has to be expansive and exciting, and the people have to be interesting enough for you to want to keep coming back.
Magician’s Quest offers neither. The magic school campus in which the game takes place is incredibly small. Sure, there’s your dorm, apartments for all the characters, as well as the school building and shopping center; but, I figured that would be a given! Beyond that, there are maybe three or four extra locales, with almost nothing to discover (although the haunted house was a fun way to kill ten minutes). So, the scope of your own self-perpetuated adventures is limited. Other than that, you can buy stuff to deck out your room, which is kind of fun.
The characters were interesting to talk to at first; they all have eccentric personalities and say the craziest things! …Until, you realize that they repeat the same few lines over and over again. Even worse, some characters repeat the the exact same lines as other characters, verbatim. This really made it hard for me to get riled up about the social aspect, because it now felt as if I were talking to a DS cartridge instead of an exotic person, from an exotic world, attending magic school with me.
What really broke the character interaction aspect for me, though, was the rumors. Every once in a while, when you talk to one of the townspeople, they’ll tell you a rumor like “Kelsey was throwing hadoukens in front of the school” (I made that one up). Quite frequently, though, the game glitches out when trying to tell you a rumor, and it’ll say something like “You’ll never guess what I saw! Kelsey The Rumor Stuff.” Or maybe “Kelsey The Rumor in front of the school.” I’m not sure what causes this to happen, but if you didn’t feel like you were talking to a robot before, you will after this begins to happen.
I’m not saying that it’s impossible to derive any enjoyment out of this game. In fact, while it was still new, it was a lot of fun to take in the sights, learn magic, talk to people, and solve mysteries. But, before long, the small world grows stale, you realize that all the mysteries are just fetch quests, magic is rather uninvolved with the entirety of the game, and the people are just too unreal to enjoy. You’ll have to find something really charming to hold onto if you intend to see the entire game through. Still, I think you might be better off listening to Harry Potter movies in the background while playing Animal Crossing.
“Harry Potter meets Animal Crossing” might give you the gist, but it’s far more underwhelming than it sounds.
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What’s fun at first will quickly fizzle out unless you’re absolutely infatuated with the concept. Still, there’s no denying that it’s cool for two weeks.
Nothing that really stands out, but the subdued nature of the music fits the relaxed atmosphere.
The game could last you almost a year. It might not be replayable, but how many games do you continue to play for fifty-two weeks?
If you really put in the time necessary, Magician’s Quest Mysterious Times can be pretty cool. However, it does nothing to hook you, and the poor implementation of the main gameplay aspects will probably turn most people off quickly. If you purchase this game, be ready to invest some time and patience into it.