I tried my best to resist the allure of the Fullmetal Alchemist games. My reasoning was that they would only be disappointing after the anime and manga. Eventually, my fangirlness won out over common sense, and I acquired Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir for PS2. I am happy to say that while it is certainly not a great game, it is also not a bad game. Actually, it is pretty entertaining, though short.
Fullmetal Alchemist 2 is an action RPG in which the player controls Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist, through a series of chapters. The first few chapters basically parallel the plot of the anime, with a few changes and additions here and there, while the rest of the game is essentially a new subplot taking place between episodes of the show. It all flows pretty naturally, and the plot isn’t bad, though the story is short. It would probably be a bit confusing for people unfamiliar with the storyline of the anime and manga, but for the most part, things are explained as you go along.
The controls are simple, and fights take place in real time. Ed can unleash a few different attacks, chain them together into combos, and of course, use his alchemy to create weapons and shields. His alchemic powers include transmuting four different weapons to fight with (which can also be used to make combos longer and more powerful), as well as transmuting objects in the environment into more useful things. Cannons, boomerangs, crossbows, and other weapons can all be transmuted from objects scattered around the stages. When Ed approaches an object that can be transmuted, a transmutation circle will light up to let you know its use. It’s pretty simple, and to be honest, I found the fights to get a bit tedious after a while.
Ed is followed by his brother Alphonse, whose soul has been fixed into a suit of armor following a disastrous attempt at forbidden transmutation. Al acts as a sort of punching bag for the enemies and can dish out fair amounts of damage. For the most part, Al’s AI is pretty good. I didn’t have any trouble with it, but that’s not to say he’s very smart. Still, it helps to have another character to take damage. In addition, other familiar characters from the anime join the brothers at various points in the story. They are all, like Al, are controlled by the computer. There is an RPG element to the game in the way that Ed and Al can level up and distribute points to various attributes. Of course, there are also tons of items to equip.
The sound isn’t bad, though nothing about it particularly stands out as excellent. The music fits, the sound effects are solid, and the voice acting seems to be by the same voice actors who were in the anime. I was sort of disappointed that you cannot choose the Japanese voice track, but not terribly surprised. Graphically, the game is a mixed bag. Cel shading is used to mimic the style of the anime, and the cutscenes are anime. The characters look good, though the movements are sometimes stiff and unrealistic. The backgrounds and environments range from vibrant and interesting to dull and monotonous. Conversations are told through text boxes, narrated by the characters, but there is very little actual lip synching. Instead, an anime picture of the character’s face shows up next to the text box and changes depending on the emotion. It works fine, but since some of the conversations are very long, it gets a bit tedious.
Overall I enjoyed the game, though some aspects are tedious and it is pretty short. I imagine that someone unfamiliar with the franchise would probably not enjoy the game very much. At its heart, it is only an OK RPG. It’s fun for anyone who lusts after more Fullmetal Alchemist goodness, but it still falls short of greatness. Hopefully the next game, if there is one, will be an improvement on the formula.