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   Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel - Staff Retroview  

Toothless Vanilla
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Very Easy
COMPLETION TIME
10 to 15 Hrs.
OVERALL

2.0/5

Rating definitions 

   With Square Enix investigating the concept of cross-marketing, a game based on the Fullmetal Alchemist series was to be expected. Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel is set in between episodes 17 and 18 of the series, and follows the exploits of Edward and Alphonse Elric, a pair of brothers who were mutilated in an attempt to bring their deceased mother back to life through the power of alchemy. The brothers now search for the Philosopher’s Stone, a mysterious item which is said to enable its user to break the laws of alchemy, in order to return their bodies to their original states. The game fails to do much of anything new or compelling, and although the story has its moments, it by and large fails to do justice to the source material. There are a few bright points; the ability to Alchemically transmute various objects in one’s surroundings provides for some interesting tactical instances, and some of the boss fights are enjoyable, if a bit too easy. Overall, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel may appeal to people looking for a bit more of the series, but its lack of any real creativity or passion will only serve to irritate those interested in compelling gameplay.

   The combat system of Fullmetal Alchemist starts with a very simple action RPG base and adds the idea of alchemic transmutation, an ability which allows the player to transform various objects on the field of play into weapons and other items. The player is put in full control of Edward, with the ability to give basic commands to his larger brother Alphonse. Edward starts off with only his prosthetic automail arm for very basic combos, but can transmute objects in his area, such as lamposts, columns, and rocks, into a variety of weapons. These can be equipped by either brother in order to increase their attack power and combo length, but Edward’s fighting style doesn’t change a whole lot between weapons, and in the end the system comes off as being largely homogenous. Transmutation goes a long way towards making combat more fun, but there isn’t enough variety to what things can be transmuted into to sustain interest. The game does do some interesting things with boss fights, but it’s too little too late. The lack of originality shown in combat design is echoed throughout the title; there just isn’t anything very compelling about this game.

    One of the more irritating things about the combat system is the way item use is handled. The game forces the player to pause the game in order to use items, which is a design choice that breaks up the action and makes it hard to get into combat to any great degree. Additionally, the camera is a bit thick-headed and unresponsive, requiring constant realignment to keep enemies in view. Other than that, the interface is reasonably well done, with solid if somewhat inattentive AI and a very good translation.

Expressive portraits and voice acting help the plot a great deal. Expressive portraits and voice acting help the plot a great deal.

   The soundtrack, on the other hand, completely fails to satisfy. Mostly a collection of hard rock noise interspersed with bits of classical for the cutscenes, the music is largely without impact and slides more or less beneath notice. The voice acting, on the other hand, is extremely well done. A fine performance by the series cast, the voice acting is serious without being heavy-handed, and adds a lot to the plot.

   Being interposed in between two parts of the main series plot, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel couldn’t take too many wild plot twists for the very simple reason that it would screw up the continuity of the series and cause all sorts of plot holes. While it is a valid concern, the end result of such a conservative narrative philosophy is that, as there are no real twists or turns to the story, it’s largely without a point. The characters are reasonably well-written and likeable, and the plot moves along at a decent clip, but the story’s lack of purpose or meaning deals it a serious blow.

Anime cutscenes are this game's visual highpoint. Anime cutscenes are this game's visual highpoint.

   Rather than using cel-shaded animation to mimic the animation style of the series, Fullmetal Alchemist uses a fully polygonal graphics engine that would really be more effective in a series looking to emulate reality. The anime style simply does not translate well to this kind of computer animation, and the end result comes off as undetailed and lackluster. The character models and designs are reasonably good, and the character portraits certainly work in their favor, but the lack of a style with any real impact makes the visuals come off as flat and uninspired.

   In the end, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel feels very much like a cynical and uninspired cash grab. This is more or less to be expected, of course, as the Fullmetal Alchemist series has grown exponentially in popularity since its stateside release. Game companies seem to see licenses as their own version of the Philosopher’s Stone, turning leaden game design to gold with nothing but the phrase, "based on the hit series". However, this sort of trickery eventually works against them, alienating and angering the fans they hoped would be easy to please. Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel’s overall lack of impact is abetted by the level of difficulty, which is quite low, and by its time to complete, which at 10 to 15 hours, is very short. Its lackluster visual style, forgettable music and careful, conservative plot all cause further problems, and in the end, Fullmetal Alchemist’s first foray into gaming is simply bland and toothless, and probably not worth playing.

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