What's that ? never heard of Magical Vacation you say?, That's understandable it was an RPG that was released on the Game Boy Advance about five years ago. and with it being a Japan-only release, and an original intellectual property at that. it was a game that was enjoyable and quite original for its time. Now, its sequel has arrived on the Nintendo DS, entitled Magical Vacation: 5-tsu No Hoshi Ga Narabu Toki ("When Five Stars Line Up"). Brownie Brown and Shinichi Kameoka, the man behind the first Magical Vacation, both return for the sequel.
The story is set up similarly to the first game: at the heart of the story are a group of apprentice magicians, all of whom harness the power of a specific star. One day, their teacher gets some ominous news and disappears. Obviously, the kids have to go and save the day, using their powers that they've been slowly mastering all this time.
One of the key components of the game has to do with the fact that you'll travel across several planets. Because each character utilizes a different source of power, their abilities will be enhanced or diminished based on several factors. One factor is the planet's alignment in comparison to the magical signs that govern the solar system. If you are using Jasmine -- a character who's affiliated star is the Wind Star -- your power could essentially be doubled if the planet you are on is in the Wind Star's quadrant. If it isn't, then you'll become weaker. Day and night cycles also affect your powers, specifically the lead character. At the beginning of the game you can choose to affiliate yourself with Light or Dark, and obviously, using Light powers during the dead of night will yield significantly weaker results than if you used them in the daytime.
Combat is strictly a turn-based affair, and everything in battle is handled by the stylus. Your primary mode of attack will be your magical spells since physical attacks do diddly squat in this game (they don't focus on magic just to be cool), and because you can recharge your MP meter just by not using any spells for one turn. The night/day cycles and the alignment cycles also play a huge part in battle, because they can change during the heat of combat. You have to be really careful because there's nothing worse than starting a battle at full power only to become handicapped halfway through.
Battles also show off the top-notch graphics of the game. Even though the entire game is sprite-based, the designs of your enemies as well as the starring cast is colorful and quite charming...even with some stereotypes along the way. The enemies have a lot of variety, and even three hours into the game, some of the bosses that you'll encounter actually take up both screens during battle! There is also the occasional cut scene here and there, although they are done in a style that's completely different from the rest of the game. They feature 3D models and a clay/pastel-look to them. Admittedly, they seem a little out of place with the rest of the game, but they're well-directed and don't show up often.
For all the good that Magical Vacation offers, the import version does have a couple of tiny faults, the main one being with the control layout. All of the menus are navigated via touch screen, but you can't use the face buttons or directional pad to navigate them. Oddly enough, you can use both buttons and the stylus to move your character around, which makes things somewhat clumsy; you often have to touch characters once you're beside them to talk to them, and considering the sprites are on the small size, it can be a pain. A better solution would've been to allow full capabilities through either the stylus or buttons, but alas, perhaps that'll happen when the game makes it to America.
You heard that right, the DS game isn't going to be stranded in Japan this time around. Entitled Magical Starsign, the game is going to hit stores across America on October 23. Import-happy gamers can pick up the game now, although a certain degree of Japanese knowledge is required, and those who aren't up to date with their Nihongo will just have to wait until the fall to get their first taste of the game.
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I played the japanese version that came out on the GBA, although I had a hard time playing it due to the fact that I don't even know Japanese.
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