Ah, Kemco, my old nemesis. After the release of the surprisingly high-effort Alphadia Genesis ($4.99), for the first time in quite a while, Kemco did not come out with a new RPG at the beginning of last month. Maybe they wanted to give the game time to breathe. Maybe they were anxious about what to follow it with. Whatever the case, iOS gamers have had to face a dystopian reality where we had no new Kemco RPG for a month and a half. Our long nightmare is over, however, because we’ve got a new release, and its name is Fortuna Magus ($3.99). Android gamers got this one several months ago, actually, so we’re a bit late to the party on this one, but don’t worry too much. It’s a pretty lame party.
I’ve talked many times about the various developers Kemco taps for their mobile RPGs. My least favorite of the lot is generally World Wide Software. While the other teams generally have issues focusing their interesting ideas into a high-quality product, World Wide Software simply doesn’t bother trying anything new. They’re seemingly content to just throw together the same simple turn-based battles, boring character building, and uninspired dungeon designs, stopping briefly to staple on a script fished out of the dumpster behind Namco’s offices. While some of Kemco’s other developers have created less enjoyable games at times, they at least fail in interesting ways. World Wide Software appears to be happy operating on the same philosophy my old university roommate did: Cs get degrees.
That said, even by their usual standards, Fortuna Magus feels incredibly phoned-in. It’s extremely short, clocking in at under ten hours even if you take your time and finish off subquests. There’s almost no customization at all in the way your characters grow. As opposed to the interesting crafting or skill-learning found in the equipment systems of other Kemco games, here you need only visit your local shop and buy the next weapon and armor up from the one you have. The battles are bog-standard turn-based affairs that require almost no strategy. The dungeons are extremely basic, with a few short branches that contain treasure chests and no interesting gimmicks at all. You just walk to the end, fight a boss, and leave. There isn’t even an overworld, instead opting for a map with dots on it representing the various towns and dungeons. As for the story, it has orphans, magic racism, a terribly obvious late-game swerve, and an oblivious hero who doesn’t seem to realize that his adopted sister is hot for his bones.
The only somewhat different twist on the combat is the presence of special moves, which can be used when you fill a meter connected to the damage each character has taken. Basically, they’re limit breaks from Final Fantasy 7, except you can use them several times in one boss fight. There are even combo specials certain characters can do with each other if both their meters are full. These attacks are incredibly easy to abuse, though you almost never need to do so. If you’re ever in a pinch, just defend with everyone except the healer, heal up any damage and wait for the front line’s special meters to fill, unleash hot pain into the enemy, and repeat as necessary. It’s a reliable yet dull way to pick your way through the game, but that reliability is somewhat important, due to the game’s unusual way of giving your character new magic or skills.
In Fortuna Magus, your characters have a set of abilities they can use in battle at the cost of SP. Each of them starts off with one or more, usually matching their basic role in the party. Hero Amane has a sword skill, Tia has healing magic and debuffs, Rett has elemental magic, and so on. Every time you use one of these techniques in battle, you have a random chance of learning the next one in that line, provided you meet other unspoken requirements such as level or elemental affinity. That means there is effectively no reliable way to get more advanced skills. All you can do is use your techniques as much as possible and hope that you’re lucky. Since using your techniques eats up SP, however, you probably don’t want to spam them regularly, which means you either have to intentionally grind until fortune favors you or simply accept the whims of fate and take what you get through normal progression. Since you can survive just fine without them by leaning on specials, I recommend the latter route, however much it might drive completionists nuts.
In terms of presentation, it’s the same as usual from this developer. The sprite work is nice and detailed, though a great deal of it is recycled from prior games. On the other hand, there’s very little animation and it’s mostly dedicated to your characters, making the monsters seem incredibly sterile and artificial. There’s still an odd lack of smoothness to the scrolling, something that none of Kemco’s developers seem to be able to stamp out of their game engines. There are only a few pieces of music that get recycled through the game’s various locations and situations, as usual. They’re neither annoying nor memorable. The game also has voice clips during battle, though they are entirely in Japanese. Outside of battle, everything is text-only, which is probably a good thing based on the few Kemco games that have had substantial voice acting.
The UI is pretty much the same thing it’s been for a while now, allowing you to control your characters with a combination of virtual controls and touch. By default, the virtual buttons are very small, like they’re made for ants or something, but you can change them back to the usual, more practical size in the options. Rounding out the usual suspects is the presence of IAP. Killing enemies will earn you special points which can be exchanged at any time for special items. Many of these items aren’t otherwise obtainable, and serve to break the game wide open for those who want to. Through the course of the game, you’ll earn enough points to buy at least one of the really nice cheat items, but if you want more than that, you can pay some real money. Thankfully, Kemco seems to have gotten the message about locking extra content behind this kind of point system, as there’s nothing of the sort here.
I know I’ve spent most of the text of this review being very negative about Fortuna Magus, but it’s not a terrible game by any means. It’s unambitious, predictable, short, and not very stimulating, but it’s almost impressive in how tightly mediocre it is in every aspect. There’s nothing outright wrong with it, and it goes down pretty smoothly thanks to a decent pace and its limited scope, so you probably won’t have a bad time playing it. That’s the positive side of its near-total lack of risk-taking or creativity. Still, unless you’re the sort that devours these games with every release, I find it hard to imagine that you can’t find something more worthwhile or interesting to play in the genre, even within Kemco’s catalog.