Phew, I can’t say very many bad things about game. Sega did a great job with this game, and the Working Designs translation was just as good. From what I remember out of the gaming magazines (and in fact postings here at RPGamer) for early 1998, this game’s release was postponed several times so that Working Designs could have that much longer to work on it. I’d say all their efforts paid off pretty well. In Magic Knight Rayearth we have a very solid all-around RPG that I would quickly recommend to anybody, regardless of whether or not they’re a fan of RPGs.
Gameplay: Basically you have an overhead view of your characters and enemies. Your two allies follow you around and you can switch out between them as necessary. (Just like in Secret of Mana.) The menu system is icon-based, giving this game easier access to a younger generation of RPGamers. There isn’t much to shout about in terms of gameplay mechanics, because this has all been done before. The important part, however, is that it was done well.
Visuals: Close to being run-of-the-mill for older RPGs. The characters are all sprite-based. Magical effects (of which there were few) were decent, but not great. The anime cutscenes were very decent and greatly facilitated storytelling. My only complaint would be the system performance when dealing with the graphics – there are several points where the Saturn just can’t play the game at full speed because of everything that’s going on.. and that’s supposed to be one of the improved parts! Kudos to WD….. or what? Over-spriteage leads to frustration in the Ice City of Rosen.
Music/Sound: I won’t go as far enough as to say that the music is grand. I have heard better. This is about the only category that Square can stake claim to complete ownage in. However, I’ll grant MKR’s music this – for the colorful and upbeat environment that the game itself offers, the music fits in very nicely. The sound effects are pretty decent as well. I liked the voice tracks for the magic spell casting, they added a nice touch to the whole audio scene.
Originality: Can’t tell you much good about it, unfortunately. The game just isn’t original. The character control system has been used already, the story’s a classic that’s been told and retold thousands of times. The one major feature I’d count as original, though, is the diaries that each of the main characters keep. You can read their entries and get three different points of view on the same situation. It helps with story comprehension, and the audio version makes for a very nice touch.
Story: Very good. A little cliched, earth kids saving alien worlds, it’s been done a hundred times, but just like the gameplay, the important part is that the story was done well. It’s tad bit short (no more than 10-15 hours, if even that..), but there are very, VERY few points in the game where you’re just running around doing nothing like you would in Final Fantasy.
Replay value: There isn’t much to replay, unfortunately. I personally don’t have replaying that game at a high priority in my life due to the commodity that time is, but if I had extra time I definitely would.
Overall, this is a very good title in spite of technical shortcomings. This is one thing I DEFINITELY would not mind seeing Working Designs re-release on Playstation or Playstation2, to tell you the truth. The game offers everything a video gamer would want – challenge, a decent story, and great gameplay. I give this 7 points out of 10. Sega and Working Designs did very well with this one, and this in combination with a few other titles is a major reason to buy a Saturn.
[Historical note 2021-03-30: originally posted sometime in the summer of 2000 on RPGamer.com. I’m not sure of the exact date, so I just used 2000-06-01.]