I played the PSP version and it’s a minimally expanded port of last year’s PlayStation 2 game. The key new feature is wireless multiplayer battles which I haven’t tried since I have to track down someone who purchased the PSP version to give wireless battles a go. There are more recipes for item synthesis and around ten new monsters can be slayed. Meager features that hardly make Mana Khemia worth buying again. Something else to consider is the Japanese language track included in the PS2 release isn’t in the PSP version. UMDs have less space so I suppose this exclusion is a necessary tradeoff for portability.
I tend to prefer portable RPGs since I can punch through them in pieces where time would otherwise be wasted. Mana Khemia is well set up as a portable game too since it’s mission based and you can automatically wipe out enemies a magnitude weaker than you. These are good elements for short burst play, but the problem is Mana Khemia: Student Alliance isn’t a capable port. Mana Khemia on the PSP suffers from “Spectral Souls syndrome” or in other words grating loading times. Gust included a jump start feature, which is considered optional, but it’s necessary to give the game a chance. Even after sacrificing some UMD space Mana Khemia: Student Alliance still loads slowly and stutters through battle animations.
Remember how this was originally scheduled to ship in January? NIS America said they were spending extra time to cut down the load times. I can’t confirm how much has been fixed, if anything, but the PlayStation 2 release is far more fluid. If you have that already stick with it. As a stand alone game Mana Khemia is a neat blend of sprite graphics, Gust’s trademark alchemy, and a school setting. Mana Khemia: Student Alliance sprinkles a few features and stumbles as a slow loading UMD game.
NIS America should have made Mana Khemia: Student Alliance a downloadable PSP game and sell it for $20 or less. Running completely off the memory stick should quell the load time qualms, if not completely fix them.