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Animal Crossing Wild World DS proved that the engrossing world game worked well on Nintendo's handheld. In the meantime there has been a strange absence of competitors, not least because of the investment required in this type of game. Now though, Konami come to the table with an impressive offering - Magician's Quest (ENchanted Folk in Euroland). Bit the effort seems to have taken its toll as there has been little drum-roll for what is an engaging and well executed game.
Adventure games are enjoyed for two reasons: they provide enemy encounters that require tactics and strategy to conquor, and they create a fantasy world in which to explore and adventure.
Magician's Quest is similar to Animal Crossing, with some wizardry action thrown in. This unofficial wizardry version of Nintendo's franchise is what makes it unique and interesting. You play as a boy or girl, enrol in a magic school and aim to become a successful magician.
It's in the relationships, fetch quests and general tinkering around that the game most strongly shows it's Animal Crossing colours. The game is all about making use of newly-found magic for your weekly adventures and simple everyday tasks such as planting flowers and trees, digging holes, fishing, catching bugs, and all the other tomfoolery we've come to expect from Nintendo's own sim.
Visually, the assent to Animal Crossing is there again, although here better use is made of the DS's two screens. This not only provides more screen real estate but also allows for some impressive two-story buildings and elaborate modelling. The city itself is impressively large and provides a classroom, a commons ground, the dorm, a beach, forest, island, caves, haunted house, and shopping district.
You can, of course, fish, plant flowers, chat to townsfolk and run around town, but these are extended by specific tasks scattered throughout. Magic is then handled through keywords listed on the bottom screen, and combined when casting. complex interactions and spells are possible through the combination of these basic building blocks. For example you can add a greeting and weather symbol for that oh so English pursuit of talking about the weather. In addition, clothes can all be edited with a pixel editor, the world exists in real time, including town clocks and weather based on the time of year, and a town melody, used every hour on the hour, and also to signify when classes begin in school.
The game can also be played locally with four players alternating, or in local or online mode, with friends linking up and completing the weekly adventures together, shopping, or writing to each other with either the game's shorthand symbol based conversation or full-blown keyboard.
Players will be attracted to Magician's Quest because of it's homage and extension of Animal Crossing Wild World - and with good reason. It's the attention to detail and wide range of in game activities that impress most. The haunted house for example acts like a scaled down Metal Gear or Boktai. We spent a good while here with ghosts patrolling and guarding random objects. I also happily lost myself playing with the conversation and magic tools, trying to get my fellow magician's in waiting to respond or do certain humorous things.
The more structured element of the game hooked me in quicker than Animal Crossing - which took a while for me to really 'get'. This class aspect of the game ranks and rates you on a weekly basis along with teaching you new spells and abilities. It's great to see the game open out as you make friends and even date specific characters.
The more structured play means that this is easier to ration for parents than the free-ranging Animal Crossing. Still, sessions quickly get distracted in the minutiae of Wizard life and can last many hours if not reigned in.
There really is so much for even high end gamers to collect and achieve here that it will take a good year to see everything.
Young and novice players will take a little longer to get to grips with the huge variety of tasks available and maybe find the experience a little overwhelming.
Those with a little more gaming and years under their belt are better placed to dig into what is something of a monumental gaming experience. Gamers with time to spare will get the most out of it.
Expert and completest gamers will revel in another Animal Crossing experience to play.
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