Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy - Staff Review  

It Feels Like We've Been Here Before
by Billy "madhtr" Young

Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy
20-40 Hours
+ Characters are interesting
+ Music and dialogue are good
+ Making items is never more fun
- One step forward, one back
- Pacing is a bit off
- Deja vu
Click here for scoring definitions 

   It was a surprise to see a sequel to Mana Khemia announced, and an even bigger surprise to see that the game would be localized, considering the PlayStation 2's age. Once Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy was revealed for North America, I was excited, as I really enjoyed the first game and hoped that this sequel would be as charming and interesting as the first. While the game was just that at first, it really showed its true colors the further it went along.

   When it comes to graphics, Gust has never been top of the line, but by the end of the PlayStation 2's life, it would be expected that artistically, the game would be a few steps ahead of where they are now. The 2D art style is fitting for the type of game it is, but the characters and backgrounds should be of a higher quality than they currently are. While this does not take away from the gameplay, there are many people that will look at this game and judge it based solely on its low quality graphics.

   The soundtrack for Mana Khemia 2 is nothing new to anyone that has played any of the Atelier series, or even any of the other Gust-developed titles. There are not a lot of sound effects to speak of, though what is heard is fitting. One thing that fans of Gust titles will chuckle at is that using the action button on barrels will cause different characters in the party to yell out "BARREL!"

Punini ni puni Puni!!

   The gameplay is where the meat of the Mana Khemia 2 experience takes place. The main element of the game is alchemy, and there are many different recipes for the player to create and play around with. This is how players create weapons, armor, and useable items. Very rarely will players find any items throughout the world, so it is up to them to create new ones and make themselves stronger. Throughout the game, players will find items, and sometimes even the recipes they're used in, that can be used in alchemy.

   The game follows a storyline that once again places players in Al-Revis Academy, and under the watchful eye of Flay, the school's new vice principal and teacher. Like the first game, players will go to classes which require them to defeat different enemies, create items through alchemy, and even just gather items. There are a few different types of maps that players will traverse during these quests, including the school and world maps where the player can choose where to visit from a list. There are also area maps that take the form of school areas and dungeons. In these areas, players can roam about freely and even battle enemies when seen on screen.

   Battles are very similar to how they were in the original Mana Khemia, in that players will see red and/or blue blobs sliding around areas. Players can then opt to avoid or run into the enemy. In the original, players could get initial attacks by engaging enemies first, but in this title, players can hit a face button that appears on screen, and if the correct button is hit fast enough players will get the first attack. The blue enemies once again provide items, but they now appear at all times of the day and not just at night. The size of the enemy blobs on screen will also denote how tough they are, culminating in boss battles where the enemy wears a crown. Some battle options have changed, such as there being new types of attacks. Some of the battle interfaces have changed, but they all act nearly the same way as in the original.

Et is so ditzy She barely can remember to wake up in the morning

   The grow book has changed quite a bit moving into the second title in this series. It was much more important for players to continue to watch for upgrades in the book due to it handling HP and SP abilities in the original, but the book no longer handles those stats. Players can now level characters by gaining AP, and this is the main method to upgrade a character's HP/SP levels. The AP gained is still used in the grow books, but levels are based on running totals gained by each character. No longer do players have to make a certain item to get to later areas of the grow book, but to throw a kink into that, to get the third ability of each page in the book, players must create a 100 ether level version of the item.

   Unfortunately, while the original game really had a fairly interesting story, this game fell a little short of it. Games like Mana Khemia 2 are really starting to blend together, making it harder to see the differences between them. While it started off interesting, this title really fell off and by the end was just a chore to move from one area to the next. While the game wasn't necessarily bad, there were many aspects of the game that could have been improved, and it was disappointing to see them unchanged. While it took a little longer than planned to complete the game, I still enjoyed some of its charming aspects, but in the end it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

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