I kind of have a thing many people find weird. I love visual novels. In a medium where some of the most talked about subjects is either graphics or game play mechanics it seems unusual to some one of my favorite types of video games amounts to what is essentially a mix of first person POV narrative and a choose your own adventure game. Hell some of them have no choices, which makes some gamers dismiss the genre as a whole, dubbing it as casual games without ever delving into one of the many Visual Novels out there. So if you’re trying to get someone started with Visual Novels or want to try it out for yourself, my advice is don’t play Magical Diary.
I got this ungodly spawn on a Humble Bundle sale, excited that there was finally a visual novel included in a bundle I want them to have again: the Celebrating Open Source bundle. After paying my small tribute I immediately got my Steam key to fire that baby up and, after I see the menu appear the screen turns black. I started the game again and again wondering if it was broken until I pressed a bunch of random keys and had a normal full screen. Later I figured out the problem was the game didn’t work so well with the Steam user interface that lets you chat and access other community information while you’re playing and every time it got a notification the screen inexplicably turned black, which made the game malfunction at first due to the access notification you get every time you start a game. All you have to do to fix the problem is wait for the notification to vanish and press “F” which is used to get in and out of full screen. Having to minimize and maximize the window every time a friend decided to play something or message you was really bothersome, but that was only the beginning of everything wrong with this game.
You play as a girl (no other option) who finds out she has magical powers and decides to attend a magic school. But before you go on your magical adventures you create an abominable monstrosity; seriously, it’s the worst customization options I’ve ever seen in a game. The Caucasian colors are deadly white or piggy pink, the face is all deformed and pointy so that most eye options look too big to even fit on your character’s face. Either way my first playthough I created the lovely Miss Master Destroyer.
She looks better in the thumbnail I swear!
Not always a good thing.
This game is just, bad on so many levels. To begin there is something outside of the visual novel’s narrative, which have worked very well for games like Cherry Tree High Comedy Club but just seems like a pathetic effort at content creation on the part of this game. You have five different colors of magic. What does it really contribute to the game? Nothing at all. I’m dead serious on this, you have a few “tests” throughout the year that even if you fail miserably don’t really contribute anything to the narrative and just give you demerits you can easily earn back if you’re on good terms with a character named Donald and aren’t a complete doofus. The fact you use magic so rarely makes the act of even going through the effort of planning out your classes seem utterly pointless because the way the game is designed makes it easy to pass tests with low level magic. Not to mention sometimes the spells you use make no sense (“breeze” to locate the exit of a dungeon) and a few annoyances here and there (like when you push items).
Now on to my main issue with this game, the narrative. I don’t like make your own character games as much for a reason, it’s hard to create a story with a consistent narrative voice when the character can be anyone. My point is, it’s great for multiplayer and open world games, but not so much for single player games heavily narration based. When it comes to its characters, Magical Diary leaves much to be desired. You never learn enough about them, and some of them are pretty boring. Only character I really liked was a pretty boy called Damian. However his path is not enough to save the game from being utterly terrible. In fact, I think it leads to one of the dumbest conclusions this story can reach.
If you want a taste of what type of dialogue a masterpiece like Magical Diary will have these screenshot will speak for themselves.
OH GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR FACE
Oops, I cast a bad spell, I wonder what kind of shenanigans will occur.
The worst part is the choices the game gives you sometimes don’t seem to be rational or important at all. There are obvious turning points of course, but there are also subplots like another student’s relationship with another student you constantly help out but get nothing out of in the grand scheme of the story. I’ve explored almost all the romantic outcomes, even the ones with girls, and I can tell you this game isn’t entertaining in the slightest. Also did I mention the dialogue gets extremely repetitive? For example you get this one liner from your character every time a teacher mentions anything out of the ordinary.
I would label it “My First Visual Novel” perhaps for preteen girls, but then I feel this would be an insult to the intelligence of preteen girls. My advice is, don’t pay for Magical Diary. The official site flatters themselves by making this game worth $19.95 (at the point in time I’m writing this review) so if you must have it or your curiosity at seeing how bad this game can get is that strong, just wait for a sale or Humble Bundle, because in my opinion this game isn’t even worth $1.
If you wanna know, my impressions of this game can be seen from my loading screen.