Magical Diary is an enjoyable visual novel with character customization
I honestly did not expect to have this much fun with Magical Diary. I really didn’t. A trite formula spun onto its head, Magical Diary will have players stepping into the shoes of a young girl who has only recently realized her own aptitude for magic. For those of you wondering if this eventually comes to involve suspiciously familiar schools, cat boys, vampires, demons and a variety of high school hijinks, I can tell you this: It does.
Magical Diary is fanfiction incarnate. It has everything you could possibly imagine, every form of stereotype imaginable and every plot element common to the Mary Sue-infested genre. Yet, at the same time, Magical Diary, for some incomprehensible reason, works. Within the first twenty minutes, I found myself growing invested in the story. I wanted to see how certain things played out. I cared enough to want to carefully evaluate my weekly class schedule as to be able to meet certain characters. As silly as the premise sounds, everything plays out surprisingly well.
The writing, I think, plays the largest role in this. Though a Pulitzer Prize is unlikely to be forthcoming, Magical Diary’s narrative is tight. It makes no pretensions and no attempts to provoke metaphysical thinking. If anything, it feels as though the author of the script had an extensive amount of fun working within the scope they had been given. While the characters are walking stereotypes often enough, the interaction between them feels real and believable. Yet, at the same time, Magical Diary still somehow manages to encapsulate the feeling that it is a parody though the humor is more tongue-in-cheek than pointed.
It is surprisingly easy to fall into the rhythm of the game. After the initial introduction, the game breaks into a segment of a weeks. In the beginning of each week, players can choose the classes and activities for the day before finalizing that decision. Once they’ve done so, they’ll then enact the decisions made. At times, the events can be uneventful: a class might do nothing more than reward the player with additional points (or even failures). Players will also learn spells on what appears to be a random basis, spells that are later used in tests that are held periodically through the school terms. Special events do crop up as well, from time to time. Some are drawn out like Freshman Initiation while others appear to be tied to specific characters.
A dating sim at heart, Magical Diary’s anime-inspired visuals lend well to the atmosphere. Long, flowy hair and large eyes appear to be a staple here. Cat ears and demonic wings also take a prominent role in the presentation of the people. The teachers, on the other hand, seem like parodies of the lecturers from Hogswarts. However, colours-wise, Magical Diary fails to impress as much. For the most part, the tinctures used lack significant shading. The backgrounds are also somewhat uninspired. I would have prefered if the look stayed completely 2D personally.
One of the biggest selling points for Magical Diary is, perhaps, the fact that the game permits customization, something almost unheard of in the visual novel genre. In the beginning, you’re even allowed to pick out the character’s looks. Later, as you acquire money, the game allows you to purchase equipment, equipment that shows up on the protagonist herself. It’s a nice touch as is the fact you can date people of any gender or species. Charmingly indie, Magical Diary is definitely worth the purchase.