Poor Lord Zetta. A once great overload confined to the pages of a book, all because he was too freakin' bad-ass to notice his own inadequacies. And now, the nefarious denizens of the underworld are all ganging up on him. It’s like a warped Fox teen drama set in the bowels of hell, how could you not love it? Capturing on paper the energy and spontaneity of the many hilarious characters and dialogue scenes you'll experience in Makai Kingdom is almost impossible, but know that after just a few minutes with the game, its exquisite personality will have you hooked.
I know what you're thinking, "last time I went on a blind date, the person had a 'good personality,' tell me it ain't that bad?" Let's put it this way, if NIS' latest entry was a person, you'd be far better off talking on the phone than going out for dinner. While spell and skill effects animate well, the quality of character sprites and cut scenes fall below any of NIS' previous games, it's a shame really cause Pram and company are wonderfully designed and deserve better graphical representation.
All that shallowness aside (I mean looks aren't everything, right? Right!?), the addictive quality of this precocious treasure is unquestionable. In fact, it's like the videogame equivalent of crack, well that isn't the best way to put it, more like the videogame equivalent of M&Ms to someone who really likes M&Ms. You get the point. Makai Kingdom is as untraditional as it gets and wavers just barely inside the SRPG category (for lack of a better place to put it!), by focusing more on the "attack" stat and power-leveling, Makai Kingdom still leaves plenty of room for other types of strategic play. In fact, the characters, weapons, vehicles, and facilities you choose to acquire and to what extent you use them, is the strategy that will drive you through this game's many branching story segments.
The storyline (while "spit milk out your nose funny" at times), doesn't always coalesce with the boards you have to conquer. Often it is your generic characters against AI controlled generic characters, though I don't necessarily see this as a drawback, preferring to customize my own team over using pre-selected characters (Zetta and company only become unlockable once you've played through the game many, many times).
I wuv cute penguins. Dood, these are not your ordinary penguins, they're Prinnies--bomb-toting beatdown machines! That's right, like any great reunion all (well almost all) your favorites are back. So if you have a hankering for some Prinny action or perhaps want to snipe the competition with an archer, do so. Want to see how everyone's favorite fallen angel Flonne is doing? Well, you gotta find your way to her and beat her first! There are more classes (and hidden characters) than ever in Makai Kingdom, ranging from chefs, to carrot guys, to engineers and professors, and the focus on weapons has changed too, where bazookas, gatling guns, rifles, and other modern weapons have been thrown into the fold as well as some odd additions, such as pies, boxes, and syringes?!
To even moderately describe the innerworkings of Makai Kingdom's game system would be a long and boring task, and well, no one wants to read long and boring things on the web, so I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes version. Your goal is to restore Zetta’s netherworld, one of many in the great expanse of the underworld, and in order to do that you will enlist the aid of a freaking boatload of cohorts to pound through 9 episodes of power-leveling, mana farming, and overall mayhem. Pick the character classes you like and have at it.
Phantom Brave's gridless system makes a comeback as does confining objects, though confining characters to objects is a semi-permanent endeavor, so, no, your characters will not disappear mid-stage as they did in Phantom Brave. I said semi-permanent because reincarnation is back, so you confine to a new object every time you reincarnate. Weapons and accessories are equipable but not upgradeable (like the item world in Disgaea), though make sure to hold on to the high-level ones with stars, they assist you in reincarnation, trust me.
So you have your characters and they want to read up on Shakespeare a bit, or perhaps learn how to build an engine, well NIS has you covered there too. You can now make use of facilities such as academies, factories, clock towers, and a dog house?! Many of these facilities offer bonuses, so load your characters into an academy (EXP +50% bonus) and drop it into battle. If you want to take a vacation from the main game, create a free dungeon with some of that mana you’ve been saving. Don’t forget to bring along your favorite vehicles.
This is just a glimpse; seriously, I am only scratching the surface here, of the fun to be had with this game. Just be sure to understand that this isn’t the Disgaea killer we were all hoping it might be, more like its pimply faced cousin, still cool by association, but ultimately paler in comparison. Just take it slow and have some fun with all the new classes and weapons, it’s not often that you get to run around as an over-powered carrot wielding a gatling gun.