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People always say something or someone is a “diamond in the rough,” but what kind of image comes to mind when you hear that? Do you imagine a diamond, the kind you see in the store on rings or necklaces, stuck in a cave wall and they just need a little cleaning before being set on gold? In reality, diamonds and all gems start out as these huge hunks of rocks that you would never guess that people would want. It is only after they get cut into all those hearts and squares all shined up do the gems have any value. So, the phrase “diamond in the rough” really means the start of a gem that needs a little time and effort to really shine. One diamond in the rough I found is a visual novel called Magical Warrior Diamond Heart, but to be honest, it is already shining pretty well.
First note, the game described is a demo, a rough and incomplete draft of the game. The creator, Xeregha Lopez also known as Pyonkotchi, released the demo in order to give people an idea of what the game will be like in the future, in order to build interest so the people donate to the Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform, to get the money to get the game. The total amount raised for the game? $12,165, double the original asking goal, so Magical Warrior Diamond Heart certainly sparked the interest of many people.
At first, the game reads like a typical mahou shoujo or magical girl anime: a typical everyday teenage girl comes across a magical, stuffed-animal-looking creature from another world fleeing from villains who attacked said world. The girl, and later on several classmates or girls around her age, gains magical powers to fight the villains and save both worlds. The characters also tend to fall into the stereotypical group that you would find in a magical girl anime: the pink girl is the energetic leader one, the blue girl is the smart one, the orange girl is a tomboy, the purple girl is the elegant lady—the typical color typecast this series contains. However, there are two things that helps the game be a cut above the rest of the magical girl genre. First off, the inclusion of people of color, various sexualities, genders and, according to the profiles on the characters on the game’s Tumblr blog, characters with Autism and ADHD. Second is the fact that this is a romance game, so you have the choice to romance one of your magical teammates, regardless of gender. These differences help catch the gamer’s attention. And the demo steals the heart.
The magical main cast is as colorful and shines brightly like the gems the team uses for their magical names. Each character has a unique voice, interacting with each other in a different way, all creating an interesting story. For example, Valarie Amaranth, the main character of the story whose point of view is the narrative, is bursting with energy. Whether it is calling one character “itty bitty,” feeling like she’s been “punched in the gut” during classes, or out-right yelling, “You’re that weirdo from yesterday!” to another character she barely knows, Valerie’s lines really convey her character. No two lines are the same, giving each character a unique way to shine in the story.
The story also is a cut from a different cloth of magical girl story. While many of them talk of the magical world being attacked and often show some flashbacks of the magical character fleeing, the game starts out with the attack on the magical world, creating a tenser and more dramatic storyline. The plot does shift to a more light-hearted tone, but the battles are very action heavy and the characters get injured more often than their anime counterparts, adding real severity to the action. The tension really kicks up when another character from the magical world pops in and changes the dynamics of the cast completely. New magical warriors are found, motivations are questioned, established relationships strained, speeding up the player’s heart rate with every mouse click or button tap until the demo’s end.
One thing that really helps the story and characters is the animation and art of the game. In most visual novels, the main character’s sprite or model will have some expressions that cover the basic emotions, changing with a click. Valerie is represented by a face sprite that is animated like a GIF, meaning she’ll repeat an expression on loop until the player progresses the story. When she is delighted, flowers bloom around her head, flickering in and out; when she is sad, tears pour down over and over, and when she is mad, a giant vein pops out on her forehead. These animations really show Valerie’s emotions making her so much more dynamic and energetic than the average visual novel hero.
Another case of animations is the use of floating objects in the background that really help sell the magical aspects of the story. When battles start, the background gets a black and red swirling effect, adding a dark and creepy feeling, putting the player on edge, ready to fight. Once the battles are over, the background returns to normal but then sparkles begin to float down, showing how everything is magically back to normal. It is a small effect but really sells the magic of the story, even making the regular everyday street pretty for a bit.
As earlier stated, Magical Warrior Diamond Heart as of now is just a demo, so everything is in the rough draft stage. Yet what the game has now definitely shines and enchants the player. It takes time for diamonds to truly be beautiful. And this diamond is off to a fine start and many eagerly await to see the final story come to light.
The game demo discussed is available at itch.io. To learn more about Magical Warrior Diamond Heart, visit the game's website, Tumblr, and Twitter. To learn more about the developer Pyonkotchi, visit their website, Tumblr, and Twitter.