Reviewed: July 29, 2005
Released: July 12, 2005
Iíve been a big anime fan for many years and have quite an extensive collection, but with so many anime titles available I had overlooked one of the best ones out there, The FullMetal Alchemist. I first got interested in the series after the first game was released back in January of this year. Since then Iíve been collecting the DVDís and other memorabilia. Iíve even played through FullMetal Alchemist and the broken Angel, which needed a lot of work.
Based upon my experience with that game I was a little skeptic going into FullMetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir and my initial opinion was a little dim after the first 45 minutes, but after things got going it became apparent that this was a truly fun and rewarding experience that I couldnít put down. In fact the first time I sat down to play this game I didnít get up until I was seven 7 hours into it (which is more than halfway through).
FullMetal Alchemist 2 isnít a sequel that follows the story of the first game, but a game that stands entirely on its own, with a completely new story that follows the TV series and includes many upgraded features such as:
Now the two are bound by one common goal, to find a way to return their bodies to the way they were. In doing so Ed decides to become a State Alchemist. The job takes him to many places where he and his brother continue their search for a way to return things to the way they were.
FullMetal Alchemist 2 is a game that is mainly based around the story while the gameplay comes second. In fact youíre in control of your character for about half the game. The good news is that the story is really good and the gameplay is extremely fun when you finally gain control of your characters. The gameplay isnít very deep or complex which is good because itís an action-RPG through and through.
Like most of you know, the main character is Edward while the secondary character is Alphonse. You have direct control of Ed while Al can be commanded by you to do certain things. For example, you can tell Al to throw you up onto a high ledge, to pick up a certain weapon, to command certain artillery or to simply attack the enemies. Killing an enemy gives that character experience points.
On top of the experience points and the stat upgrades that occur automatically, you are given additional stat points which can be distributed to Ed or Al at your discretion. Itís great having some control over how your characters power up and the fact that there are set stat points makes things balanced no matter how you distribute them. Having control is important and the brand new combo combat system does just that.
This combo system is similar to the one in FullMetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel, but itís been beefed up considerably. You fight using a combo system that implements the square, circle, and triangle buttons. By using simple, easy to remember combinations of those three buttons you can inflict a lot of damage and some pretty neat effects. This is what makes the gameplay so much fun, and trust me when I say itís about 50% better than the original. You can even perform foot sweeps, slide and high kicks when approaching the enemies.
The boss battles are always well done and I found one to be very difficult. Even so, the boss fights are designed in a way that they are challenging and creative. It took me several tries to beat one of the bosses, but after I figured out the routine and what I needed to do to win it was still challenging yet feasible.
The level designs are authentic to the anime and although most them are relatively narrow you never feel like they are. I never got lost or turned around once the entire way through the game. Thatís mainly due to the simple, yet well done map on the top left-hand corner of the screen.
Graphically FullMetal Alchemist 2 has gotten a major facelift from the bland 3D graphics of the original and looks fantastic with the new cell shaded design. Thatís right, unlike the original this one sports good graphics and thirty minuets of original animation created exclusively for this game. I had watched the first 2 DVDís of FullMetal Alchemist prior to playing the game and was very pleased to see the new animation which fit the game a lot better than if theyíd simply cut and pasted it in.
Overall, the graphics are very nice and so is the frame rate which never slows down. Furthermore the load times are minimal, generally taking 2-5 seconds. I really liked the cell shaded style for the game and it in reality complemented the anime.
The sound is one of the games strong points and thatís because of one reason; ďoriginal voice actorsĒ from the FullMetal Alchemist anime series. To top things off there are several cameo appearances by several fan favorite characters, and all the voice acting on the side is top notch as well. You never have to read any of the text because itís completely acted out and all you have to do is press the ďXĒ button when they are done talking to continue on with the story.
Sound effects and background music are also right in line with the quality of the rest of the game. Subtle effects like echoes in big rooms and the clanging of weapons to the alchemy sound effects are extremely well done. The background music fitís the theme of the story and game perfectly and is always playing at just the right moments in the game. You hardly ever hear the story being acted out with background music.
Overall the sound in the game is extremely well done and the voice acting is totally professional. The only downside is the lack of Dolby Pro-logic II sound.
How much value does a game have when it has 10-12 hours of gameplay, and additional content if you play through it again? That really depends on how big of a fan of the series you are and whether you are willing to spend $40 for a really good, but short game. To help sweeten the deal Square has packed in a second DVD with the game that includes the first two episodes from season two of the TV series. A nice bonus!
The story has always been the strong point of the FullMetal Alchemist series and the game is no different offering up one of the most memorable in a long time. I canít remember the last time I enjoyed a story so much, but I might be a little bias since Iím a fan. I admit, the game is an easy play-through and the boss fights are the only areas of difficulty. So if you are looking challenging gameplay Iíd look else where. The boss battles are where the gameplay really becomes fun!
FullMetal Alchemist 2 is filled with additional content that can be unlocked. The first time you play through the game you will unlock all the cutscenes and the second time through youíll have to find somewhat hidden screenshots (60+). I tried to play through the game twice back to back, but since the story was so fresh in my mind I became a little tired of it. However it is a game that I will eventually play through again and one that I hope fans of the anime get to enjoy.
You donít have to have played the first game to enjoy FullMetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir. In fact I would recommend this over the original; itís better in just about every aspect, although its relatively short length might have many considering a rental rather than a full price purchase. On the other hand, if you are a true fan of the series then should definitely pick up Curse of the Crimson Elixir. It is one of the best anime-inspired video games Iíve ever played, if not the best.
FullMetal Alchemist 2 is extremely fun to play with fast-paced fights and a great combo system that puts the first game to shame. This latest installment is a huge step in the right direction for the series and one that other anime-inspired games should follow.