FullMetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel - Review  

Slightly Broken, Mildly Angelic
by Anna Marie Whitehead

10-17 hours


Rating definitions 

   Imagine a world slightly different than ours. Instead of technology, a science called "Alchemy" is developed. Being a science, it has set laws which all alchemists must follow, with one law being tantamount: to receive something, one must relinquish something else of equal value. Something cannot come of nothing. How this law is applied is shown in many different ways while playing FullMetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel. Based near the beginning of the anime, the game takes the main characters, Edward and Alphonse, and throws them into an adventure that fits exceptionally well into their world without causing any breaks in the Fullmetal timeline. The game does an exceptional job of capturing the essence of the series, helped along by anime cutscenes made specifically for the game and also manages to maintain well the plausibility of alchemy throughout the world. But, the game can get bogged down by the sheer repitition required, a rather boring battle system, difficulty that spikes and dips, and a very short completion time.

   The battle system, at first glance, can seem complicated but when you delve into it, it is simple. Anyone familiar with the anime will pick it up in a snap, and even those who have played even the most basic action game can figure things out without any hassle. The game is divided into chapters, and each chapter's location is divdided into different sections, all filled with bad guys ready for combat; some areas from each chapter being revisited multiple times. During each chapter, there are a number of interconnected locations that the brothers must fight through; if the duo leaves an area, it completely resets, and all enemies defeated, as well as items transmuted, are back. Considering how much backtracking must be done, this gets tedious by the end of the game. Bosses are fought in enclosed areas. Al is controlled by the game's AI, which is far too heavy on the A and not enough in the I.
Bossy A Boss Fight
Ed can call Al over to smash whatever is in front of the smaller brother, do a team attack if their rage bar is full, or pick up/mount a weapon to use. Ed is controlled by the player, and can perform a variety of actions. His automail arm is automatically transformed into a slashing sword, which when the attack button is pressed multiple times, can turn into a combo. A second button is used for using instant alchemy that can either be used to make stone walls - to block attacks or climb on - or be used in combat to set up a vicious set of stone spikes, either alone or as part of a combo. Some enemies are weak only to alchemy, while others are quite resistant to it.

   Ed can also transmute items around him. When he approaches various items set around the environment they will glow slightly. Using the alchemy button, Ed charges up his skill and the item can then be transformed into a variety of useful tools, including weapons for himself, weapons for Al, stationary weapons for either, or miscellaneous helpful distractions such as a fake Ed who walks around or a wind-up cow that spits out poisonous bubbles. Items can be instantly transformed into their first level item by simply tapping the button, while holding down the button may give Ed more than one choice. When transmuting a weapon, if Ed has been lucky enough to pick up some elemental stones, he can then add that element to the weapon he is creating; elemental boosts generally only work for Al's weapons, however. While this all may sound sensible on paper, in actual playing, the battle system becomes pretty boring once a pattern is established and the novelty of the first couple of chapters wears off. It tends to consist of running into an area, beating down a few enemies, setting up an alchemy trap, and then nixing many of the enemies with it because they're stupid enough to fall into it. Had there been more variety of items to transmute, it would have helped the monotony significantly. Smarter enemies would also help.

   The visuals of the game start out on a high note. A nicely done anime scene complete with English voice actors would seemingly set the mood for the game. Unfortunately, these anime scenes are few and far between, and the graphics in the middle can leave an RPGamer cringing. Enemies and the environment often have a boxy look; this may have been acceptable in Final Fantasy VII, but graphics really should have stepped up at this point. While it does not completely detract from the game nor make it unplayable, it is a minor annoyance. The music does do a solid job of fitting the environments and the emotions of the characters as they progress through the game. As befits an action-RPG, most of the music is very fast-paced and upbeat, and so it does the job admirably in keeping the mood going. While it's not the highlight of the game, it in no way detracts from the game.

Transmute! Items To Transmute

   The difficulty of the game is hard to particularly explain or categorize. While some levels are laughably easy, others present a stronger challenge. Even two different areas in the same chapter can have largely varying levels of frustration. Also, the bosses are always much harder than the actual level. To fight bosses, Ed and Al must find each boss' particular weakness then find a way to exploit it. Since Al is controlled by the game's AI this is not always as easy as it sounds but once a pattern is established he'll usually follow it. While some bosses may take an extra attempt or two, the game can be easily completed in less than 20 hours; speed demons or those playing through again can probably zip through the game in as little as 10 or so hours.

   The menu system is simple and mostly well organized. Ed and sometimes Al gain points at level up, and these can be used to improve their stats such as HP or Alchemy in the case of Ed. This is also where items such as healing potions can be used on the duo. The localization is also cleanly done, with the voices being the same used in the localization of the anime as well. Ed's high spirit and Al's more conservative nature are captured exceptionally well during the story, and the new characters added into the timeline fit their universe well. There are no noticeable errors throughout the story scenes of the game, and RPGamers will often find themselves chuckling aloud at some of the duo's antics. The localization is one of the high points of the game.

   The story, while obviously part of the Fullmetal Alchemist universe, doesn't seem to especially fit into the anime's plotline at any specific point. This is both advantageous to the game and a little disappointing since it leaves the game feeling a tad disconnected from its parent series. The story, while not having anything near the depth as it could have had considering many of the touchy subjects the anime focuses on, does fit into the general ambience of the series well enough that it is plausible for the events in the game to be part of Ed and Al's journey towards the Philosopher's Stone. The game has some pretty nifty tricks, such as changing items in the environment into usable battle items, but beyond that it follows a lot of the same old action-RPG standards such as chapters and stages; the way battles progress; and bumbling enemy groups that never seem to think of attacking with much coordination.
Peekaboo Using Alchemy Wisely
The game has some amusing moments, but they are sadly overshadowed by a fair share of mediocrity.

   Fullmetal Alchemist is a decent game for anime fans and FMA series loyalists, which are most likely to find various levels of enjoyment within. While it certainly does have some unfortunate flaws (some of which could have been prevented), they certainly do not drown out the appeal of the game entirely. Those that are looking for a fun action-RPG that plays similar to Kingdom Hearts or Dark Cloud will want to give this title a second look. Those that are looking for an in-depth game with loads of replay value may, however, wish to steer elsewhere, as such things will not be found here.

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