Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir is the second title based on the hit anime to be released for the PlayStation 2 in the past year. Luckily for fans everywhere, it seems that Square-Enix has heard your cries and fixed most of what you had problems with the first time around. Fullmetal Alchemist 2 (FMA2) continues the saga of Edward and Alphonse Elric in their search for the Philosopher’s Stone. Along their quest they find someone who is breaking the laws of alchemy and equivalent exchange and they believe it to be the fabled Stone. When they find it to be something else they investigate and this leads them in the direction of the Crimson Elixir, a substance that seems to be able to amplify alchemy to great levels. Without ruining the actual story, the rest of the game leads you from one clue to another and overall feels like an extended version of an episode. Whether or not that’s your bag is up to you to decide, for the rest of you help is on the way in the form of this review.Visually, Fullmetal Alchemist 2 is a big improvement over the first game. The backgrounds all look better; there are a lot more stills of the characters when they speak to one another and the cel shading looks much better this time around. Most importantly, though, they included more animated cutscenes to make the game seem more like the anime itself. Even the fact that they have Edward go through a costume change midway through the game is an improvement over the first version. All in all, FMA2 is a better looking game than the previous title.
Again, the improvements made in Fullmetal Alchemist 2 seem to be consistent with what the fans were expecting from the first game, and thankfully this includes full voice over work from the cast of the anime. Just due to this addition the game is far better than its predecessor. Instead of reading everything and having only key phrases voiced, the entire script is voiced and it makes a huge difference. The voices when fighting aren’t repeated as often and therefore aren’t as annoying as the first game. The music is average, though it’s clear that they don’t want to share the talent that they put to work on games like the Final Fantasy series on something like this. It’s unfortunate that they really only seem to spare the real talent for the animated cutscenes. Fans of the anime and of the first game will end up enjoying this one so much more because of the substantial upgrades made in the audio portion of the game.
The biggest improvement in Fullmetal Alchemist 2 comes in the gameplay department. Controls are a little tighter, with some added moves and combinations to enhance the fighting engine, and overall the camera work is better this time around. The biggest problem with the first game is that you were forced to backtrack a lot and forced either to fight repopulated areas all over again or just run past them out of frustration. This time around, thankfully, the backtracking is kept to a bare minimum, so your frustration level can be held in check. This makes the game more enjoyable, though, somewhat shorter because you end up just skipping from the end of one stage straight to the beginning of the next. The camera issues have also been fixed for the most part, there are issues on occasion, but they are fewer in number than the first go around. The camera still gets stuck behind objects and the controls still get weird when tumbling and trying to move the camera at the same time, but it’s still far better than the last game. The combinations have been ramped up for some increased fun, even though mashing the buttons will still yield a favorable result. The biggest shame, by far is that there is no cooperative play. There is a second character, in Alphonse, and yet he remains unplayable and his willingness or even capability to perform the necessary actions is extremely limited. To their credit, Square heard every gamer’s complaints about the first game and fixed it in the sequel. While it still doesn’t match some of the best action/role playing games on the PS2 it is an admirable effort. They do, however, leave room for a third game by introducing new enemies at the end if you just can’t get enough Fullmetal Alchemist action.
Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir, unfortunately, offers no more replay than the first part, which is a shame because they improved on most every other aspect of the game and yet they seemed to have missed the bus here. You can replay the entire game in search of pictures to view in a photo gallery, but aside from that there isn’t anything else to do here. Some added difficulty would have been great, maybe some extras like a selection of music from the anime or, well, anything else would probably suffice for fans. So, in the end it’ll probably be a one and done for most gamers which is not the way most people want to spend their money these days, though anime fans should be used to it by now, judging by the premiums they pay for DVD’s with a few episodes.
Fans of the anime will have a much better time picking up this one due to its vast improvement over the first, though there’s still a lot left to be desired here. The most notable improvement being that this really could be a great two player game. If anything could make the next game better it’s the inclusion of a cooperative two player mode. If anything could make the game worse, it’s leaving it just the way it is currently. The franchise is looking up and hopefully, for the fan’s sake the third time is a charm.
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