Magical Diary is a video game created by indie developer Hanako Games who specialise in RPGs and visual novels staring female leading characters. Set in a school where magic users learn the art of spell casting, it is pretty clear to see that the title gets its inspiration from the popular Harry Potter books. Players simulate the life of a freshman going through their first year at the prestigious Iris Academy where you’ll have to contend with strict teachers, managing your studies and attracting a date for the end of year prom. As a macho man, I’m clearly not the target audience for this game, but I decided to give it a go after enjoying Hanako Games’ 2012 offering Long Live the Queen. If you are interested in trying out either title they can be purchased from Valve’s Steam service or directly from Hanako’s website.
Gameplay wise Magical Diary feels like the adventure books some of you may have played during your youth. You’ll read some story until something noteworthy occurs. When a key event happens you’ll be asked to choose what to do from a list of multiple-choice answers. What response you select has an impact on the plot making it branch off in a different narrative path, which certainly adds replay value for anyone curious enough to explore all of the game’s content. Will you be a model student and ace your exams or will you skive classes and potentially risk expulsion? When it comes to dating will you try to court one of the school’s bachelors or do as I did and break the heart of a blue skinned senior by pursuing a lesbian relationship with my bookish roommate instead?
As a student of Iris Academy you’ll be expected to complete various exams, but these are nothing like the coursework or written tests you would find in a regular school. Examinations in Magical Diary consist of being teleported into a dungeon and using your spell-casting prowess to find a way out. In order to succeed you’ll be expected to solve brainteasers using the enchantments you learn in class. In one dungeon for example you can escape by destroying a wall that is obstructing the exit with a well-placed fireball. Whether you know how to cast a fireball or not however depends on if you have completed enough lessons in red magic (I wonder if Ryu from Street Fighter attended those classes.)
This all means that planning out your curriculum plays a big part in Magical Diary. At the start of each week you have to decide what types of magic you wish to learn. Blue magic focuses on transformations, green magic allows users to manipulate nature, white magic is used for communicating with spirits whilst pink magic makes you appreciate musicals and say the word fabulous in a camp voice (okay I made that last one up.) Don’t go overboard with the cramming though as stress can have a detrimental effect on your character. Thankfully it is possible to combat the effects of mental fatigue by unwinding at the mall on weekends.
Much like an examiner grading a student’s homework, the time has come for me to rate this game. My final score is four stars out of five as I enjoyed Magical Diary a little more than Long Live the Queen (which I awarded a three.) Visually speaking Long Live the Queen is the more polished of the two, but I enjoyed replaying Magical Diary more as it has a more fleshed out cast of characters. I also liked how your decisions have a greater impact on the plot as opposed to Long Live the Queen’s more linear storytelling. As far as visual novels go Magical Diary isn’t top of the class, but it’s a solid B student all the same. Strong writing, light romance elements and a story told through a girl’s perspective make this an ideal purchase for female players who may be frustrated that there aren’t enough games on the market catering to their tastes.