Full Metal Alchemist: Curse of the Crimson Elixir

A few tweaks from the first game appear in the second.


The Lowdown

Pros: Better combat system plus there is deeper gameplay than the first game.

Cons: Many of the same problems return and the graphics are worse.

Purchase at Play-Asia
Full Metal Alchemist has had quite the buzz recently. Even though the anime series is about to complete in Japan, it still managed to crank out two more PS2 games. Full Metal Alchemist 2: Akaki Elixir no Akuma is Square-Enix's latest action RPG based on the series. Akaki Elixir no Akuma is a follow up to last years Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, that comes with mixed success. While the game had enough sales to yield a sequel, it also had it's fair share of problems.

Full Metal Alchemist follows the story of two brothers Edward and Alphonse. Both of them are gifted with the power of alchemy and can transmute objects. On an experiment where they attempt to resurrect their deceased mother they learn the number one rule of alchemy, you can't get something from nothing. Edward ends up losing half of his body and his younger brother Alphonse nearly dies. Using quick thinking Edward moves Alphonse's spirit into a suit of armor, giving him a chance to live again. The only chance for Alphonse to get his body left is for them to seek out the legendary philosopher's stone. The game does follow the Full Metal Alchemist story from the first episode where Ed fights the chimera. After that, like the first Full Metal Alchemist title, this game has it's own story arc. Just a warning about this game, if you don't want the story spoiled for watch some of the anime before starting this game.

If you played the first game, Kingdom Hearts or any other action RPG you already have a good idea of what the gameplay is like. You're in control of Edward who can attack enemies by pressing the square button. The triangle button allows Edward to use a different set of attacks, for instance he'll use his metal arm instead of basic punches. You can make combos by pressing square and then pressing triangle. Things get a lot more interesting when you use Edward's transmuting power. When Edward uses this he can summon an earth wall to appear and protect him from enemy shots or hit an enemy. If you use his alchemy power to finish up a combo Edward will call forth a blast of earth that can hit multiple targets. The combo system is structured in such a way that it is easy to chain hits. You can launch an enemy in the air with the Earth attack, then jump up and continue attacking them. Square-Enix chose to reward players who make large combos. After ten attacks you'll get 1 EXP per hit you dish out. The average enemy will give you a mere 15 EXP at the start of the game so a long combo thirty hit combo can give you a nice EXP bonus.

Square-Enix has improved on their interactive environments, which provide Edward more useful opportunities to use his transmute power. Instead of changing objects into random cannons, Square-Enix makes the cannons useful. One puzzle in the game has a flood gate machine destroyed and Edward needs to close the gates. Edward can transmute the broken machine into a giant cannon and then blast the gates so they close. Another good use of the transmute ability is in one area Edward has a bunch of guys to fight in front of him, more than him and Alphonse can handle. In front of him are some metal gates, that can be transmuted into giant wrecking balls that Edward can push to roll his enemies over. The transmute power certainly keeps the game from being just another action RPG.

Square-Enix also made some improvements to how you control Alphonse. You still don't have direct control of him, all you can do is press the R1 button to shout out commands. This time around Alphonse can do more than just rush in to tackle an enemy. He can join in your combos, attack surrounding enemies and even have the smarts to attack with the throwing stars he's holding. Another upgraded element is that Square-Enix allows Edward to switch between different weapons. In Full Metal Alchemist 2 you can't actually equip new weapons. Instead Edward can switch fighting modes by holding down the L2 button. He can use his fists, the traditional staff, a sword and one more weapon. Equipping a different weapon is almost like switching Edward to a new fighting style. A weapons like the staff is more useful when surrounded than your fists, which are better for one on one combat.

Even though there are all of these minor improvements to the combat system the game still is pretty much like the first one. There is a lot of fighting, almost as much as a beat-em up game. The leveling up system is really simple too. After each level up, you're given points to use on either Ed or Al. There are no new moves or skills to learn other than the basics, Even though Square-Enix uses all of their clever puzzles and tricks up their sleeves the game still feels repetitive half way through. There just isn't enough variety or clever gameplay to keep players interested for 20 hours. The story is good, but you can see the whole thing on TV. Only fans of the series will play through the whole game just to see how Square-Enix's perspective on the manga.

The first Full Metal Alchemist game had 3D rendered graphics, which weren't great and not that detailed. This time around Square-Enix chose to use cel-shading. The result isn't that pretty because the characters just don't look as detailed as cel-shaded characters could be. Ed's face just isn't that clear on his main model. If it wasn't for the large static facial expressions, he wouldn't be able to express himself. Square-Enix did up the animation level a bit, but it's not enough to justify some poorly made characters.

Even though Full Metal Alchemist 2: Akaki Elixir no Akuma is more of the same with some improvements over the original. If you loved the original title or the anime than the sequel should please you. Otherwise you probably want to try before you buy because Full Metal Alchemist 2 isn't a hallmark action RPG.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 4

All of the voice acting and accompanying text are in Japanese. You can likely play through the game and not understand any. However, you'll be missing the best part of the game, the story.

US Bound?

Square-Enix is releasing the first game over here, so it seems likely that the second one will follow.

Update: Square-Enix has entitled this game Full Metal Alchemist: Curse of the Crimson Elixir and has it scheduled for a Summer release in America.

Overall

Full Metal Alchemist 2 offers fans of the series more of what they already expect, but the minor gameplay changes might not be enough for gamers unfamiliar with the series to enjoy the game.