Seven months after the release of the first game, Square Enix is ready to give PlayStation 2 owners another of shot alchemy, particularly the Fullmetal variety.
Edward Elric will once again represent the player on screen, with his brother Alphonse being controlled by AI. Other cast members that series fans will recognize are also present, but Ed remains the only character whom players will control. To inform those that aren't familiar with FMA, the story revolves around the Elric brothers, a pair very involved in the dark art of alchemy. A horrible accident caused Edward to lose one arm and one leg, while his brother lost his entire body. Ed and Alphonse had their lost parts replaced by prosthetics made of a metal. Yes, this means Alphonse's spirit inhabits a large metal body. In hopes of one day restoring themselves, the brothers seek the legendary Philosopher's Stone. There are flawed, less powerful versions of this stone scattered all over the place as well, by the name of "Crimson Stones." These smaller stones showed up at the same time as the mysterious Golems which are raising heck all over the land, so their origin is certainly shady.
"Fans of the anime series will feel right at home"
Fans of the anime series will feel right at home in the early going, as Curse of the Crimson Elixer's story takes much from the first few episodes of the series. After making a few changes to certain things in that story, an original plot takes over. Some new characters have made their way into this version.
Arlen Gloster is an archaeologist and former adventurer and knows a lot about ancient cultures. He's an energetic fellow for his age, which is almost 70. Much like a star athlete, he won't hesitate to come out of retirement if prompted by the right motivation.
Elma appears briefly to give Ed a strange ring. She then simply disappears. What her role is and what's so special about the ring remains unrevealed.
Jack Crowley used to be known as "The Silver Bullet Alchemist." Through getting too experimental with human transmutation, his status as a National Alchemist was revoked.
A common enemy in the game will be a type of phantom. This is an odd creature whose entire body glows a sickly pale blue. Other than that, the creature looks very human, and for some reason, it's taken to chasing after Ed and Al. Intellect-wise, the phantom isn't much smarter than a caveman, but it's scarily proficient at fighting.
Like the story, another feature which seems like it will be a fan pleaser is the visuals. Fullmetal Alchemist 2 looks more like the animated series than the last game did. It's been said that the characters' movement has also been retooled to more closely resemble a moving cartoon.
In battle, Al hangs out in the background, generally only fighting things that come his way while Ed handles the bulk of the trash-kicking. And that kicking is hardly figurative; Ed's basic fighting techniques will be unarmed physical blows, some of which form combinations. Circle and R2 are the key to defense, with circle magically forming a protective stone wall in front of Ed and R2 being the go-to button for blocking and evasion. As a bonus, a perfectly timed block will can result in a counter attack.
Magic can also be worked into the fighting. For example, the player can tap the circle button right after a punch and cause stalagmites to jab the enemies from below. In lieu of that, hitting triangle at the same juncture will cause a large spike to come out of Ed's arm, ready to slice the bad guys.
Ed will master various transmutations as the game progresses. Some of them will be used to create weapons such as a sword, a lance, or a hammer. When Ed is near something that can be transmuted, it will begin to glow and display icons telling what it can change into at different levels. Items have a Level 1 item that can be obtained right away, but waiting can eneable Ed to transmute it into something more powerful. The total number of transmutable items is very high--in fact, exactly twice what it was in the original game--ranging from trash can lids, to demolition equipment, to cannons and boomerangs.
But what about Al, standing in the back all alone? While he will hold his own automatically, players can issue certain commands to him with the R1 button. Hitting it once near a weapon will make Al pick it up, with a second press being the command to attack the closest enemy with it. Holding the button down will make Al run over to Ed and hurl him into the air. If Ed's "Rage Meter" fills up, he can do some role reversal and give Al a fling instead. This allyoop is not simply for street cred or style points; pressing circle while up there can trigger powerful magic attacks.
Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir will ship to North American retailers on July 12, selling for $39.99. Look for a review on RPGamer shortly thereafter. At this time, the previewer thanks fellow staff member Adrienne Beck for the detailed character descrptions.