"Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is Alchemy's first law of Equivalent Exchange." This is how the popular anime, Fullmetal Alchemist, begins--with the law that two young brothers have been living their lives by. Currently airing on Cartoon Network, Fullmetal Alchemist was localized by FUNimation, but originally developed by Square Enix, so it's only natural that the same company should also produce the RPG, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel.
The premise of the story involves two brothers, roughly a year apart in age, who destroy their bodies attempting the forbidden alchemy technique known as human transmutation. The elder of the two, Edward, loses his right arm and the younger, Alphonse, loses his entire body while attempting to re-create their dead mother. Fortunately, Ed is able to bind his brother's liberated soul to an empty suit of armor, where he spends the entirety of the story; however, this feat costs Ed his left leg, requiring mechanical prosthetic limb replacements that he sports throughout the story as well. Afterwards, the brothers set out to find the fabled Philosopher's Stone, which is said to yield great alchemic powers, in order to restore their bodies to their original forms.
The game is essentially an action RPG, with the player being able to control only Ed, yet having Al available for backup. It is a fully 3D adventure taking place in the same world as the anime. Fans of the show will find many characters and locations to be quite familiar, as they are taken straight from the series. The brothers will gain experience points and gradually increase in level as they battle through the stages, indicating an increase in several possible status areas such as strength and maximum hit points. Also, bonus points are awarded when a level-up is achieved, which can be divided up between Ed and Al in any way the player sees fit. The most unique feature to the title's game play is the Alchemy function and the ability to create items and weapons out of formerly useless objects in the environment. Using alchemy will be key to getting out of certain situations.
In battle, Ed is more capable of using alchemy to perform magic attacks, while Al, in his suit of armor, is better for dealing close-range physical attacks as well as absorbing damage. Being able to control Al is essential to being successful in battle. For example, the player can call Al over for assistance whenever necessary, and even have him tackle in the direction Ed is facing. Also, if Ed's magic meter is full, he and Al will be able perform a special attack together, tearing through any nearby enemies. In addition to utilizing Al, the player will have Ed's entire volume of transmutation abilities at his or her disposal. If Ed gets close enough to an object on the battlefield while his magic is fully charged, he will be given the choice of transmuting that object into one of two possible choices: anything from handheld weapons (e.g. knives) to stationary weapons (e.g. gun turrets) to "other" items (e.g. bombs, decoys) can be created for either brother to use in battle.
The graphics, as mentioned above, are fully 3D, though not anything groundbreaking. However, they are at least on par with the standards people have come to expect from games today. Characters, monsters, and environments are fairly well-detailed. The transmutation effects are creative and pretty. The cut scenes are animated with the same style of animation from the show, though most of the story is told through still screens and on-screen text, which is typical of most RPGs. However, the cut scenes will utilize the American voice cast from the anime, all playing their respective roles.
With many things going for it, the game is not without its faults; however the title looks as though it will do the series justice and then some. Unfortunately, there's no way to tell for sure until the game is released on January 18. Stay tuned for RPGamer's official review of the game soon afterwards.