Mana Khemia 2: There’s No "Falling of Alchemy"

By Ishaan . September 18, 2009 . 12:36pm

mk21 Mana Khemia 2 starts out with a fairy tale-like narration. It tells the story of Al-Revis Academy and its fall from grace. Al-Revis was a famous school known for producing some of the best alchemists in the world. Due to a decline in the number of capable teachers, it fell from great heights (literally!) to an institution on the verge of bankruptcy.

 

Zeppel Kreiver, the current principal of Al-Revis is at a loss for what to do, and is mulling the situation over when he is approached by Marta Sebesty, a member of the board, who brings with her a proposal to revamp the academy’s infrastructure. With few other choices available to him, Zeppel agrees to give her radical ideas a try. Instead of solely admitting students with a knack for alchemy, Al-revis opens its doors to anyone with enough money, regardless of talent. The administration introduces courses for combat, government affairs and other useful streams of education.

 

Slowly, Al-Revis starts to generate profits once more and returns to its once-renowned state. The catch being that, while the academy has more students than ever, the number of alchemy students has declined sharply. Like any good businesswoman, Marta suggests discontinuing the alchemy course from the following year, much to Zeppel’s dismay. In a desperate attempt — which initially sounds very much like a hit order — to change her mind, Zeppel enlists the help of Gunnar Damm, an Al-Revis alum from the first game.

 

mk2char

 

Shortly thereafter, the new term begins at Al-Revis and you are thrown into the shoes of either Razeluxe Meitzen or Ulrika Mulberry, depending on which you prefer. Razeluxe is an interesting kid with an aptitude for combat who was taken under the care of a wealthy family, while Ulrika is…a hillbilly. An awesome hillbilly, I might add.

 

I picked Razeluxe — the manual, unfortunately, made no mention of Ulrika’s hillbillyness — and was given a short introduction to his character. Raze, an orphan, lived with his grandfather as a child. Once Raze’s grandfather was unable to continue working and support the both of them, he was sent to live with the wealthy Valendorf family, friends of his grandfather’s. There, Raze established a close relationship with Lily Valendorf and her maid, Whim, both of whom like to unbutton his pants and stare at his bone spear while he’s asleep (no, I’m not kidding).

 

Following the lengthy introduction to Razelux, Lily and Whim, and the Al-Revis campus, you’re asked to visit your first class, which just so happens to be "Art of Combat," taught by Principal Zeppel’s pal, Gunnar. The game then eases you into its menus and alchemical systems with a few short tutorials, while you run around campus and listen to characters echo your thoughts — "This school is so big." or "That chick behind the counter is kind of cute."

 

Once you listen to Gunnar’s lecture, you’re given your first assignment. Assignments are the game’s form of quests as well as how it passes the time in between days. They involve exploration, doing battle, gathering ingredients for alchemical purposes and so on.

 

I’ve never played a Gust RPG before, so Mana Khemia 2′s battle system surprised me. For one thing, there are no random battles. You get to see enemies on the map, which is great. Once you come in contact with an enemy, a symbol depicting the PS2 controller’s face buttons appears, prompting you to press either X, Triangle, Circle or Square. If you hit the right button in time, you get to make the first move in battle.

 

mk2c

 

Once battle begins, it’s a standard turn-based affair. Your party can consist of six members: a maximum of three Vanguards who lead the frontline assault and the rest as Support Characters, whom you can switch in and out with the Vanguards at any time. SCs can also be used to perform Support Actions and if you perform more than two of these in a row, you can perform a Chain Attack for high damage. Furthermore, dealing damage to enemies efficiently by exploiting their weaknesses fills up a gauge, which ,when full, activates Unite Mode. In this mode, your Support Characters are capable of healing you faster and you gain access to more moves like Intimate Actions and Finishing Strikes.

 

It sounds complicated but Mana Khemia 2 is pretty good about easing you into its systems. Support Characters, for instance, aren’t even introduced until the second chapter and battles for the entirety of Chapter 1 are a fairly straightforward affair. The real differentiating factor that sets Mana Khemia 2 apart from other JRPGs right from the start is how you level up.

 

Or to be more precise, how you don’t.

 

In Mana Khemia 2, you’re attributed with Ability Points and an increase in HP/SP instead of XP at the end of every battle. Instead of leveling up, you’re required to raise your stats and skills by using the Grow Book, a menu that unlocks a variety of cards resulting from item synthesis. These cards can have effects that range from increasing your physical or magical attack and defense to giving you new skills. In other words, if you want to build a well-rounded character, be prepared to indulge in lots and lots of alchemy and item synthesis.

 

Alchemy is the entire point of Mana Khemia 2. Sure, you can buy basic goods and equipment at the student store, but if you don’t want to get your ass kicked — and the difficulty ramps up quickly after Chapter 1 — you’ll be practicing tons of it. There’s no "falling of alchemy" in this game: everything from armour to accessories to weapons to concoctions required for class needs to be synthesized using alchemy. And there’s none of that equivalent exchange thing in MK2 either. You want something synthesized, go out and find the items you need to create it.

 

synth 

 

Furthermore, when you’re synthesizing something, the attributes of the end result can vary greatly, depending on which party member performs the synthesis and the change in its Ether Level, which is controlled by the timing of when you throw each ingredient in. There’s a lot to learn and a lot of customization possible. Your grades in class will depend on how well you synthesize (among other things) so you might find yourself reloading your game every now and then to synthesize a better quality item.

 

Good grades are useful because an "A" nets you more points than a "B" (or lower) does. If you keep your grades high enough, you’ll be able to skip class and instead, spend your valuable time on taking up jobs, earning money and getting to know your peers. And getting to know your peers is one of Mana Khemia 2′s joys that we’ll be discussing in our next playtest.


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  • anbu

    the team switching reminds me of breath of fire 4… i am tempted to get this game, but i still remember ar tonelico 2 and it pisses me of. lol.

  • vrakanox

    This is a pretty good game from what I’ve played of it. I’m doing Raze’s scenario and I’m pretty far in. Yes alchemy is a HUGE part of the game but alchemy can be fun. There is a ton of minigames too that keep the game interesting.

  • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

    Early heads up before my next playtest goes up: the dialogue and voice-acting in this game are both great. I’ll be discussing that (and other stuff) in detail next time around. I’m surprised by how few sites have covered MK2.

    • Ereek

      That’s good to hear. I really want this, but I don’t have the time or resources to play everything I’d like to. I, too, haven’t seen any MK2 coverage on any of the news sites I visit, which seems a bit strange. The first MK was well received.

    • CleruTesh

      Honestly, I don’t go to any other sites anymore cause they all suck compared to Siliconera. :) But I was wondering if y’all would be covering this one. BTW, any chance y’all will cover Scribblenauts? OK, I know, it’s lack of Japanesey-ness makes it outside of your SOP, but it’s awesomeness should give it an honorable mention, at least. I’m just sayin’ cause that is my current obsession. It’s very cool.

      • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

        Aww thanks! :)

        Scribblenauts! Yeah, I played it once, very briefly though, so there wasn’t much to write about. I really would like to cover it, but I doubt I’m going to pick it up now since there’s a stack of other stuff waiting to be played.

        Even though we cover a lot of Japanese games, I’m a fan of Western developed ones too.

        • CleruTesh

          Don’t go getting a big head now! :P
          Yeah, y’all cover cool games in a candid manner, I have a lot of respect for you people that make this site happen.
          But the truth is, what I like most is your fanbase. For whatever reason, these forums seem to always have fun, kind, intelligent comments, with a general lack of flamewars. So it just feels like a fun place to hang out.

          • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

            Thanks. This just made our day. :)

            We’d like to expand the games we cover, too. Scribblenauts is one I’ve wanted to do for so long but there’s a lot of other stuff to play and write about. Keeping up with DS releases alone is getting kind of hard…

            Still, going forward you’ll probably see us cover stuff like Red Steel 2 and more otaku-esque western games to begin with.

  • Volcynika

    Beaten Ulrika’s path, and kinda going through Raze’s kinda slow. Friend’s already beaten both paths + the ending scenario :o

    Too bad it has a freezing bug in the second path you take :/

    • overlord_laharl

      The bug is a minor detail, because only appear in a part time job and I kill that boss really fast. But anyway, yeah it has a little bug (lol NISA) but It’s not in the main story like Ar Tonelico.

      I already beat the 2 escenarios and the extra one. When you complete two path, a third appear and the two team characters merge together. The game is great and very fun, I couldn’t stop laughting with some scenes XD

      • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

        *GASP!* “Did you just touch my boobs…?”

        “Oh! …sorry.”

        “WHAT?! YOU TOUCHED HER BOOBS? IF YOU LIKE BIG BOOBS SO MUCH, WHY DON’T YOU GO SERVE SOMEONE THAT HAS THEM!”

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Hiryuu

          Yea, she has the gall to say that after flaunting her Puni fetish.

  • CleruTesh

    All in all I have had a positive experience with this one so far.
    The alchemy system is much more sane than the first one.
    Having all attributes defined by ether level as opposed to inheritance, means less backtracking to give a particular item a particular attribute (though admittedly it makes it less versatile).
    And being able to switch from item to equipment synthesis without walking down the hall is GREAT!
    The growth book has more depth too, since you can get those bonuses for 100 ether levels.
    And Flay was by far my favourite character from the first, so I am psyched at his re-appearance.
    And that gothic lolita chick with a hint of some S&M streak? I mean, WOW.
    Unfortunately, despite all these pluses, my playthrough has ground to a halt.
    I’ve been suffering from a bit of RPG burn out lately, and I’m gonna need a meatier narrative with a clearer goal/enemy to pull me out of it.
    Add this to SRT:OG Saga, SMT: Devil Summoner 2, My World My Way, & Final Fantasy III, I just keep picking up RPG’s and not finishing them this past year. :(

  • http://otoboku.se manga

    Played trough Ulrika´s and Raze´s routes. On the end route now and when I get the interest back I´ll play it again. But at this moment, just going around leveling the characters and defeating monsters isn´t that fun.

    I need to become motivated again.

    The freezebug is easily avoided, just kill the spaceship before it has it´s first turn and voila :) Took me some tries but I did it.

    Game is superb, fun to play and just awesome. I´ve heard people complain at the leveling system and sure, it is not for everyone. That the alchemy is to much, but if you don´t want alchemy then I do not understand why you play this game.

    People also seem to get disturbed by Lily and her always acting the same way. I found it to be quite fun to see her going on and into her own dreamworld and then snapping right back to reality and making a big thing out of the smallest little detail.

    Whim, cute mana that likes to cosplay as a maid, you can´t go wrong with that :)

    Uryu was also really cute. I wouldn´t mind raising him myself if it meant I got to use all the awesome powers of an alchemist.

    So I just adore this game.

    Visit my blog for my first impressions. Or if you want to read then jump in directly here:
    http://otoboku.se/2009/09/08/first-impressions-mana-khemia-2-fall-of-alchemy/

  • meganeshounen

    After playing through Ulrika’s story, I just noticed that she had Ayako Kawasumi/Saber as her voice. Same goes for Razeluxe/Koizumi and Lily/Misaka Mikoto/The Railgun.

    Yes, VAfag, coming through…

    And since this is a NISA-localized GUST game, I was prepared to see a few moments of slowdown during gameplay, and the usual progression-blocking glitch. But it seems like they managed to fix a few on the way to the ENG gamers. My only personal gripe is that sometimes the fonts are too small for me. Or my TV’s just not large enough…

    • http://otoboku.se manga

      I knew I recalled hearing those voices somewhere else and I recalled having seen those names before.

      So that was the reason. Good to know.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/xxHiryuuxx Hiryuu

    I played what I could when I was out of the state on my free time. Honestly, I haven’t been able to attack it that much but I’m doing Raze’s side and I’m a good distance in.

    Will say I like the OST. Hands down favorite has to be Sacred Saber or Roar of Delirium.

    • overlord_laharl

      I like those theme too, but my favourite was Vanishing Mirage (Riecher yeah! was awesome) and the final boss one.

      LOL Pepperoni and Goto, the cutest ones! XD

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