Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom producer Daisuke Uchiyama is tired of over-the-top violence in games, and thinks he's found a different motivation for playing his new game: Friendship.
Daisuke Uchiyama is a friendly sort of person. He wants me to call him Uchi, which I will gladly do. He's spent the past 15 years producing anime game, from Dragon Ball Z to Naruto to the .Hack series, and now he's brining Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 next year with a message of friendship.
He's showing off a new level of Majin at Gamescom. The titular monster and his human companion Tepeu, wander through a mine or quarry, surrounded by dirt walls open to the starry skies, cart tracks winding in every direction. A strange sort of purple dust wafts through the air as the companions do battle with strange creatures, from warped and twisted canines to dark figures that seem to be covered in crystal.
The look is distinctive. Uchi tells me he wanted to create a game where the atmosphere could be conveyed in any one single screenshot. I think he's succeeded.
The gameplay is distinctive as well, though definitely part of a growing trend of titles in which you play one character, in this case Tepeu, and you have limited control over another, such as Majin. Knights Contract, another game developed by Game Republic and published by Namco Bandai uses a similar mechanic, as does the publisher's Enslaved.
The game revolves around Tepeu, a young man who wanders into a cursed kingdom which is slowly awakening. Along the way he meets Majin, a mythical beast with a heart of gold. Over the course of some 20 to 30 hours of gameplay, the two characters form a bond that the player will feel. Uchi says the end result will be a truly heartwarming tale.
That's the sort of thing that doesn't come across well in a thirty minute gameplay demo. Tepeu issues basic commands to Majin, but mostly what I see at first is combat of the standard 3rd person action variety. Nothing too flashy, and the camera seems to struggle a little bit when trying to fit the massive Majin on the screen. With the exception of moments when the monster unleashes his impressive electrical attack, it doesn't really impress. The fighting seems slow, especially compared to today's over-the-top action games.
But Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom isn't just an action game. It's also a puzzle game, and the large creature by your side is key to many of the game's more intellectual problems. A command causes Majin to lay down in front of a ledge too high to jump, becoming a stepping-stone for Tepeu. Tepeu collects electrical generators, placing them at intervals to reach the control for a gate. Majin's electric attack arcs between them, opening up a new area.
Uchi tells me the team only found out they had to provide a playable demo four days before leaving for Gamescom, and the end result was rushed, which might explain the lack of truly amazing spectacle. The atmosphere is in place, and the graphics are unique and pleasant, so it will at least be a game that offers something slightly different.
Again, a friendship that spans 20 to 30 hours is hard to convey in 30 minutes, but when Tepeu is running through the mines and Majin falls behind, his presence depicted with shadowy eyes filling the screen, you get a sense that he'll always be there, watching your back.
Violence and gore is fleeting, but true friendship is timeless. We'll have to see if Uchi can bring such a feeling to our consoles when Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom comes to North America next year.