DescriptionThe balance in the magical world of Cefiro is supported by the prayers of the lovely princess Emerald. When the evil Sage Master imprisoned her, the existence of the entire world was endangered. Using her spiritual powers, the princess contacted three Japanese high-school girls, Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu, turned them into Magic Knights, and summoned them to Cefiro, where their goal is to save her and to restore the balance.
This adaptation of the eponymous manga and anime series is an action game with light role-playing elements, somewhat similar in style to Zelda games. The protagonists are all the three girls, but the player can controls only one of them at a time. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, as well as different fighting styles: Hikaru uses swords, Umi a rapier, and Fuu a bow. The player advances through the game by exploring the world, talking to non-playable characters, and fighting enemies in real-time combat. There is no experience system; new abilities (among them swimming and jumping) are gained as dictated by the story, and must be used in certain points in order to advance.
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|Consoles Plus||Feb, 1999||93 out of 100||93|
|SEGA-Mag (Objectif-SEGA)||Apr 10, 2009||9 out of 10||90|
|RPGFan||Dec 15, 1997||85 out of 100||85|
|RPGFan||Oct 31, 1999||82 out of 100||82|
|RPGFan||Oct 31, 1999||75 out of 100||75|
|Video Games||Feb, 1999||3 out of 4||75|
|Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM)||Jan, 1999||7.1 out of 10||71|
|RPGDreamers||2003||6 out of 10||60|
|Defunct Games||Aug 09, 2007||60 out of 100||60|
|GameSpot||Jan 06, 1999||5.1 out of 10||51|
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CutscenesThe game's cutscenes are all taken from the anime series.
LocalizationAccording to Working Designs, Magic Knight Rayearth was their most gruelling, daunting, and toughest translation ever. Working Designs had snapped up the license to translate and publish Rayearth from Sega, and had given it a "pending 1996 release date". But then fate turned against them: Sega of Japan lost about 60% of the main code for the game in a major hard drive crash, causing a massive scramble there to gather the code from elsewhere. Then, a translation of the anime series for U.S. Saturday morning TV was announced by Nelvana, a Canadian animation studio. Working Designs was going to use the original characters' names in the game; Nelvana insisted that they use their translated names; the two companies ended up in a legal scuffle over this. Then, after finally winning the court battle and gathering the data from Sega...the Saturn market had died. Working Designs finished the game anyway, and thanks to a new translation from Pioneer, they kept the game the way they wanted. Magic Knight Rayearth was released in December of 1998, 8 months after the Saturn market died, with the original character names, and as the last Saturn game to ever be released in the U.S.
Tim Trzepacz's (the programmer of the English language version) take:
Of all the hacking I've done over the course of my career, I'm most proud of the hacks I did to port "Magic Knight Rayearth" into english.Information also contributed by Tim Trzepacz
It wasn't the code that was lost, but the animation data for the cinepak movies. This data was never recovered, so I eventually wrote special software to allow me to replace the audio track with the english language audio track without changing the video at all. I also wrote another program to insert new video data in the middle of an already compressed movie. This is why you get that brilliant digital wipe when it transitions to the US logo... we didn't have a key frame and the background of the US Rayearth logo was brighter than the logo as it appeared in the movie!
As noted, the main delays actually came from Kadokawa Shoten's insistance that the same names be used as the english language dub they were trying to sell to television. Unfortunately, the english dub they had done was horrible, and we refused. The names they wanted us to use were "Marine", "Anemone", and "Luce". Never mind that they are all sea-based names even though they had air, water, and fire based powers, the last thing you want to call a 14 year old girl is "loose"... no matter how you spell it!
Every time they would make noises about the names, Victor would stop production and start working on something else till it was ironed out. So it ended up taking nearly over two years, but I don't think it ever actually went to court... I think they just gave up on trying to sell the TV show. Maybe Victor could clarify this.
During all the extra time, I worked on many different games, including "Dragon Force", "Albert Odyssey", and the Playstation version of "Lunar: The Silver Star Story". But I was always working on Rayearth a little bit, so a lot of work got done! The save system was rewritten to allow for more than three saves on a card. I wrote a complete map editor just so I could reduce the number of trees in some levels to get the frame rate up. I wrote special text tools to re-render the text for names of places on the map screens and special dialog boxes.
But the coolest thing I wrote was a program to listen to the recorded dialog and make the mouth movements match what was being said. In the Japanese version, the mouth movements were all hand animated by typing a string of letters into a file: lower case vowels were 2 frames long, upper case vowels were 3 frames long, and the letter N was a closed mouth.
I had originally written a system to use the saturn netlink keyboard to type these symbols into the game and save them out on a memory card. I realized, however, that we just didn't have anybody in-house who was skilled enough to handle it.
So I wrote the lip-flap matching tool. It worked by performing a frequency analysis on each actor singing the vowel sounds and then doing it's best to match those to the recorded dialog and pick the best sound. It wasn't perfect, but it worked pretty well, and it saved us a lot of work!
Alas, it only got used for part of the game, because Victor decided not to dub all of the dialog in the game.
I think that, if I hadn't been pushing him to release the game, he would have canned it after the first year of delays...
I still think that it's one of the best games ever released for the Sega Saturn. Certainly, it's one of the few games to really use Sega's hardware to it's fullest potential. Despite all the setbacks, I'm still really proud of the results.