Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir - Staff Retroview  

Give Up the Other Arm
by Michael "CactuarJoe" Beckett

Very Easy
10 to 15 hrs.


Rating definitions 

   The adventures of Edward and Alphonse Elric, which now span books, video games, and movies, gets another telling with Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir. Rather than present an entirely new story sandwiched in between episodes of the animated series, as Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel did, FMA2 takes the plot of the animated series and alters it, effectively muddling what was already an inconsistent story. FMA2 makes some mild improvements over the first title, but with a combat system still hounded by an unruly camera, an ineffective plot, and a visual style that tries with little success to mimic cel animation, the game simply doesnít change enough of what made the first title substandard to make it a worthwhile play. Even fans of the series will most likely find this game too short, too easy, and entirely uncompelling.

   The basic storyline of the Fullmetal Alchemist series is already reasonably well-known: two brothers attempt to resurrect their dead mother through the art of Alchemy. Edward, the older brother, loses his right arm and left leg, while Alphonse loses his entire body, his soul instead tied to a suit of armor. The series chronicles their attempts to locate an item called the Philosopherís Stone, an item said to break all laws of Alchemy, in order to restore their bodies to how they once were. The plot of FMA2 stretches across most of the first season of the series, changing the plot to include a mysterious fish-like monster and hulking black warriors called Golems. The story is reasonably well written, but itís also largely pointless as it adds nothing to the overarching search for the Philosopherís Stone or the brothers' attempt to reverse the effects of their forbidden use of Alchemy.

   Fullmetal Alchemist 2ís use of an already well-worn plot hurts it quite a bit, and brings down the overall quality of the game. It feels, on the one hand, like a retread of earlier material, and on the other as a debasement of that material as it neither answers unresolved questions from the series nor poses new questions of its own. The overall lack of innovation in the story is mirrored in combat, with a few token alterations doing very little to mitigate the largely uninteresting design. The change in visual style does make the game feel a bit less like a retread, but with most of the visual design taken directly from the series, thereís little enough there to get excited about.

Caption Golem design is by far the most interesting thing about FMA2, visually.

   Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir uses a very basic action-RPG combat system composed of a two-button combo scheme and some very limited dodging and counter-attacking mechanisms. FMA2 does add a unique method of obtaining new weapons for Edward; holding down L2 and pressing the corresponding button will allow Ed to draw a weapon directly out of the ground. The different combat styles available through these new weapons allows Ed a bit more variety during combat, but most enemies donít require a specific weapon or strategy to defeat. Blind slashing will destroy most foes without much trouble. The game does introduce a new counterattack mechanic, which consists entirely of pressing R2 as an enemy attack closes in on Ed. It doesnít add much to combat, and most of the fast dodging that results will mess with the camera, but it is satisfying to see Ed backflip out of the way of an oncoming fist or claw. The game's use of Ed's Alchemy skill to transmute random items in each area into a variety of often bizarre weapons can add a bit of flavor to the otherwise dull combat, but it is entirely unnecessary and is never actually required to best one's foes.

   One thing that Fullmetal Alchemist 2 retains from its predecessor is the method of using items during combat. This is rather unfortunate, as that method involves opening up the pause menu and using items as one would outside combat, effectively destroying any sense of tension or speed in combat, as well as removing any real challenge the game may have presented. As it stands, it is quite difficult to die so long as Ed and Al have more than a handful of potions in their inventory. The basic design of FMA2ís combat system makes it entirely too easy and robs it of any real impact.

   The gameís control is reasonably good outside of one major oversight: the camera. Basic movement is handled with the left thumbstick, while the camera can be tilted and panned using the right, a setup which makes it very difficult to fight and keep the camera in line at the same time. After a while, combat develops a bit of a rhythm to it - attack, dodge, adjust camera, repeat. It becomes even more difficult to deal with as Edward transmutes more objects onto the playing field. With a few enemies and a handful of spiked balls rolling around the room, the game becomes a race between the camera and the various environmental obstacles, to see which one can find the other first.

   FMA2's soundtrack is largely forgettable, comprised of a mixture of techno and classical themes, and is entirely cliche for the RPG genre. The voice acting is quite good, on the other hand, with the cast of the animated series reprising their roles with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. There are a number of unnecessary pauses and melodramatic gasps for the actors to deal with, but they muddle through to produce one of the high points of this title.

Caption The writing's not bad, but the story's a bit of a re-run.

   Fullmetal Alchemist 2 switches from the entirely 3D polygonal style of Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel to a cel shaded, heavily outlined look in order to better mimic the cel animation it uses during animated cutscenes. This shift in visual styles doesnít really do much for the game beyond separating it from its predecessor to a certain degree, and as an attempt to mimic cel animation, it is rather poor. The visual design is a bit of a bright spot, particularly in the Golem design. Appearing as giant pools of pitch black, highlighted only by glowing, golden mystic runes, the Golems in some ways resemble the Heartless of Kingdom Hearts, and their animation and unique means of attacks are interesting things to watch.

   With a low difficulty and lower time to complete, Fullmetal Alchemist 2 isnít going to stand up to much replaying. The new game + feature does help a bit, especially given the hard-to-find kittens to collect, but in the end, FMA2 is really more of a rental title.

   The Fullmetal Alchemist series feels, at times, like a kind of Square-Enix proving ground. The counterattack mechanics and Edís looping style of combat seem strangely similar to the Reaction commands and dual Keyblade wielding style of Kingdom Hearts 2. However, as a stand-alone title, Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir offers little enough to fans of the series, let alone uninitiated gamers. With a retread story, unimpressive combat, and irritating control, FMA2 is a good example of a short, pointless game.

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