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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: NIS America
Developed By: Gust
Genre: RPG
Players: 1
Rated: T (Teen)
Release Date: August 26, 2009
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

Just last year, NIS America partnered up with developer Gust to release a new RPG series for the PlayStation 2 console. Out popped Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, an engaging take on alchemy and life of Vayne Aurelius who attended Al-Revis Academy. A year later and NIS America and Gust are back at it again with Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, which takes place roughly 15 years after the events of the first game. Seeing the first title as a stepping stone to something great, NIS America and Gust took the feedback that was given by gamers and improved the overall gaming experience for Fall of Alchemy.

The first thing you will notice right off the bat is that Fall of Alchemy takes a different approach than that of Alchemist of Al-Revis. Instead of having one central storyline, in Fall of Alchemy there are two distinct, yet similar storylines which can be traversed with one of two characters. There is Razeluxe Meitzen (or simply Raze), whose storyline deals with his past, and Ulrika Myberg, whose storyline deals with the origins of Mana. For those who are thinking that Raze looks familiar, he should since he had a role within the game Cross Edge for the PS3. Afew other characters make an appearance from this game in Cross Edge. Their storylines share a similar bond in that they both must attend alchemy classes and various school events throughout the school year, however when it comes to jobs, things start to differentiate. Once you have decided on which character you want to play as, the game proceeds to setup of the story arc for that particular character.

Al-Revis Academy is a famous alchemy school that has fallen on hard times as the years went by. It seems that the Mana that kept the school floating high in the sky above the rest of the world is weakening, resulting in the school falling from the sky to join the lower world. As time when on, the academy adapted to its new surroundings and began teaching alchemy classes once again. However, things are not like they were before as students who donít have any skills in alchemy are now being accepted into the academy, new subjects are being taught and now a three year program is now compacted into one year.

As I mentioned earlier, Gust made several changes to the gameplay in order to make the overall gaming experience more enjoyable. One of these changes is within the balancing of the game. Within Fall of Alchemy, Classes play an important role as do Alchemy and Combat. For class assignments, you are often exploring the lands outside of the campus gates for certain items or enemies. During these moments, you are able to practice your combat skills you have acquired along the way. The items you find during exploration can be used to create to new items, potions, etc., which can aid you in battle. Earning good grades get you extra time with our party or to socialize around campus. Another noticeable change to the game is its pacing. No longer will spend lot of time developing various potions and items with your party just to advance further within the game. While I didnít have an issue with the Alchemist of Al-Revis, these noticeable changes do raise the enjoyment factor of this title far beyond that of first one.

Another revamping comes in the form of the combat system. When you move around the various areas outside the campus, enemy markers will appear on the map in a similar fashion to a RTS title. Upon coming into contact with an enemy, you have a flip of the coin moment where you must quickly hit a face button in order to initiate the first strike. If you are too slow, your enemy will get the first attack. In battle, your party is split into two groups. You have three fighters on the front line, and up to three people in reserve. Your party members that are on reserve have the ability to jump out and attack or defend you from potential attacks. As you attack your opponents, a gauge bar at the top of the screens starts to fill up with every attack dealt. Once you are able to fill the gauge, your party enters ďunite modeĒ, which allows them to pull off devastating finishing attacks. These new and often interesting abilities add some flavor to the combat, lessening the repetitive nature of your normal attacks.

Rounding out the changes for Fall of Alchemy is the tweaking of the Growth System. The basic concept returns from Alchemist of Al-Revis, but has been tweaked for better gameplay functionality. Both Raze and Ulrika have a customized growth book with silhouettes of items on cards. Each item thatís synthesized has a matching card inside the growth book. Once the item is synthesized, you can spend AP to acquire the stats and abilities listed on the corresponding card. HP and SP now increase through acquiring experience points and are no longer tied to the growth book.

Looking at Fall of Alchemy from a visual standpoint, are on par with Alchemist of Al-Revis. Character sprites are polished a detailed. The static images utilized within dialog sections are pretty solid. I do like the vivid imagery showcased in the various locales you visit on and off campus. The special effects from the various attacks utilize in battle are simply amazing. In regards to the audio, itís very befitting of the game. Voice-acting is solid for the most part. With the return of Tony and Flay, some comedic banting from the first installment returns, which is very welcomed. The voice talent did a good job conveying the emotions and thoughts that are going through the minds and hearts of the characters. For those who are fans of the Japanese dialog, you will be happy to know that NIS America left it in the game, so if you donít feel like listing to the American voiceovers, you can change it to Japanese in the settings option. The musical score is another polished aspect of the title. Anyone who has played a Mana Khemia title can appreciate the uniqueness of the musical score and how it can set the mood or simply get you humming along.

Generally, most people tend to only play through and RPG title once unless itís one they truly enjoy. With Fall of Alchemy, it pays to play through the game multiple times. Just by simply playing through only with Raze or Ulrika will net you an incomplete ending, leaving much to ponder. However, when you play through both storylines, you are treated to a nice epilogue scenario that ties up all loose ends. Also considering both storylines are not exactly the same, it helps ease the repetitive nature of playing through the game again.

Itís no doubt that Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy has succeeded in the areas where the first installment didnít. While some may be weary due to the buzz surrounding Alchemist of Al-Revis, Fall of Alchemy is truly a solid RPG experience that PS2 and PS3 gamers alike can both partake in. With more than 30+ hours of gameplay, two storylines, a diverse roster of characters and locales, you can easily see that this title is well worth every penny.


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