In most platforming games, exploration leads to new powers and abilities for the player character. Call that a broad metaphor describing the maturity that comes with diligence, practice, and action. Majin And The Forsaken Kingdom is a bit different. The player character does grow, but the dramatic character-building is applied to an AI-controlled creature called the Majin. This creature (re)gains the fanciful control of wind and lightning, and without it, the hero doesn’t stand a chance. This story is really the Majin’s story, and that angle on a well-worn genre gives the game some mildly unique character.
A young thief frees the Majin, a legendary protector, to help cleanse the kingdom of a shadow which has overtaken the human population and clings, like sticky tar, to those who attempt to fight it. An uncomfortable undercurrent to the fight attempts to set Majin apart from a legion of other games. In killing shadowy footsoldiers, are you really destroying co-opted, perhaps innocent civilians?
The real differentiating aspect is the creature. The AI is good enough that he’s a character rather than an irritating construct. In battle, his strength and powers can be applied to the game’s many puzzles, or to create and execute steathly traps. None of the puzzles are exactly inspired: You might use the Majin’s electrical powers to juice up dormant machinery, but too often, he’s just another cog in threadbare door-and-switch conglomerations.
The Majin is animated with care. Watching the creature grow stronger is a pleasure, as is seeing him move through the attractively rendered world outside the initial fortress environs. He’s ponderous but magnificently strong, and moves accordingly. He’s also childlike, salivating and clapping impatiently for food, and he’ll dance joyously after completing a task. That personality livens what could be a too-serious story.
He’s also childishly voiced, and a rather inept localization undermines his charm. While Majin isn’t overtly a kids’ game, the translations and voice acting are almost comically silly. It’s as if the game is so focused on the Majin’s slightly dim persona that it mistakenly believes players have the same IQ. The game casts the hero as parent as much as as adventurer, and the effect would be powerful, rather than just diverting, if the dialogue truly complemented the action.