The most heartbreaking thing about switching from a PC to a Macbook is obviously no longer being able to play “Maplestory.” If you know, you know. But in case you don’t, this article will make up for a lost childhood parked in front of a PC.

Launched in 2003 by South Korean developer Wizet and published by Nexon (another South Korean gaming company), the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) took fans of online games by storm. At the height of its popularity in 2009, Nexon touted an amazing 92 million players—6 million of which were from North America—holding accounts with the addictive online game.

According to its new website, the goal of the game is to immerse the player into a fantasy world where each individual embarks on their one-of-a-kind Maplestory. Nothing really was more exciting than choosing between blunt bangs and pigtails for the avatar, decidedly going with the milky white skin tone that I couldn’t achieve in real life and taking 20 minutes to decide if I wanted to be a warrior, thief, magician or bowman. (In the end it was always magician.) Thus with a fresh character, I strutted out into the Mapleworld ready to hit some drowsy looking snails with an unimpressive magical burst.

Although there really is no official objective to the game, most players focus on leveling up and socializing with friends by creating parties and guilds. By killing the various (and also adorable) animated creatures, one earns experience (exp.) that helps to get to the next level. Of course, the point in leveling up is to get more access to rare features, more exciting quests and for me, the new hairstyle change you get with the level 25 Amoria quest.

Luckily, for those kids and teenagers who played “MS” in its prime, Nexon has released “Maplestory M” for Android and IOS phone wielders. While the makers of “Maplestory” have attempted to market a mildly successful app version before, the newly redone mobile version garnered an amazing 3 million downloads in the first week. Is it worth the download? Let’s see.

Layout of the Game

Since the fancy phones of today no longer have buttons or keyboards the layout of “Maplestory M” lacks the necessary space to play comfortably. The iconic side-scrolling factor combined with the directional button as well as the skills, quick keys, and jump icon leaves limited space for the player to actually see the game itself.

Given this problem however, this app utilizes every single corner of the touchscreen in a smart and well thought out manner. The top left hand side of the screen monitors the HP and MP levels alongside the accepted quests while the space on the bottom left is allotted to the translucent directional control button.

On the right hand side are the fighting controls, potion shortcuts and the jump button all neatly packed into one corner of the screen. While this layout is certainly efficient, the buttons are so close that sometimes the finger will slip and hit the jump button rather than the attack and the character dies while trying to clear a dungeon.

There is no feeling more intense than smashing the attack key on a keyboard, but furiously tapping away at my phone to beat a dungeon boss comes pretty close.

Grinding Is Long Dead

I remember I loved playing “Maplestory” as a kid not necessarily because I was an exceptional player (in fact, I was horribly inept), but because the endless grinding (doing repetitive tasks for an end prize/goal) was both comforting and fun. In the PC version before updates made it easier to level up, it would literally take weeks to get enough experience to go up a level after one hits 60. Those who could reach level 100 were considered straight up gods — that, or the individual managed to get a bot to grind for them.

In an attempt to address the existence of bots in the game, the creators decided to make the game ridiculously easy to level up. When “Maplestory” released the Cygnus Knights as a new class in 2009, leveling from 1 to 20 took one afternoon rather than three days. In “Maplestory M,” for some reason there is a pre-installed bot system where the character would miraculously has a mind of its own and basically play the game automatically.

This new bot system installed with the mobile version definitely helps those with little to no hand-eye coordination (praise) manage to get to portals and destinations without dying en route because of a randomly spawned monster. The first time that the autoplay initiated itself during the game was a bit disorienting; once accepting a quest, the app is designed to auto-navigate the avatar to the destination of the quest, bypassing various monsters and obstacles without sustaining any damage.

So the whole advertising thing about having the player create their own Maplestory is basically undermined by the whole robots playing aspect of the game except accepting quests on one’s behalf. As handy as autoplay is, it defeats the entire purpose of playing a MMORPG.

Art and Graphics

Compared to the original, the mobile version is definitely not as exciting but it still retains the key elements that made “Maplestory” so popular to begin with. Unlike other popular MMORPGs, such as “Runescape” and “Final Fantasy,” the South Korean game has decidedly cuter graphics and an addictive quality that lies purely in nostalgia. Whereas the art in other games leans toward more realistic art with intricately defined facial features and shading, the anime-like graphics and the effort to make everything look adorable is certainly one of the factors that make “Maplestory” a visually appealing game.

Aptly paired with the cartoonish style are the amazing facial expressions that each character exhibits. While the PC version allowed the player to choose different facial expressions by pressing different keys, “Maplestory M” has built-in facial reactions like a laughing face or comically red and angry eyes when the attack key is pressed. Thankfully the mobile version has so many expressions because how else does one conduct trade or initiate conversation with an absolute stranger at the Free Market?

In Conclusion…

This mobile app is a waste of time. But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t enjoyable! After the first few minutes of creating a dorkily named but dope looking avatar and completing the beginner’s quests, the excitement wavers but the fond memories never fade away. “Maplestory M” is rated N for Nostalgia in my book.

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Christine Fang

University of California San Diego

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