When Square-Enix announces a new game, the world takes notice. Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel is the latest title to come from the house that Final Fantasy built. Based on the hit anime, Fullmetal Alchemist is an action/role playing game that puts you in the role of Edward and Alphonse Elric as you take a break from your search for the Philosopher’s Stone. For those who don’t know the story it goes like this: Ed and Al tried to revive their dead mother using forbidden alchemy, and when it backfired Ed ended up losing an arm and a leg while Al lost his entire body. Ed was able to transmute Al’s soul into a nearby suit of armor, and now they seek out the fabled Philosopher’s Stone to return their bodies to normal. Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel is a side story that has you slowly piecing together a military conspiracy involving a recent horde of monsters, which you happen upon merely by coincidence. Fans of the anime will certainly find this game appealing, so the question is whether this game is for everyone else, and that’s what this review is for.Fullmetal Alchemist boasts some very pretty graphics especially during the cut scenes, which looked as though they’re ripped directly from the cartoon. In-game the graphics are also pretty good, though they tend to be somewhat repetitive and backgrounds can be rather lacking. The monsters are good looking, but the old palette swap trick with the average bad guy is getting a little old at this juncture of gaming. However, the bosses look great and are fairly huge. The character animation for the most part looks good, but it has issues with the old stutter step, meaning when you move the controller in one direction one leg will move and it’ll be the same leg if you keep tapping it, so it never looks fluid or realistic. These things aside, the characters’ images, when they’re speaking to one another look very good and contribute to the anime look and feel of the game, even if they’re not actually animated. Fullmetal Alchemist does a good job of capturing the look of the anime and fans will surely appreciate that.
If there is one thing you can normally count on from a Square game it’s that it will have a wonderful score. This time around, well, it’s about average. The music is good, but it’s just not great. The sound effects will wear on you after a while because every time you pick up an item Ed says, “thank you!” and with multiple items per area and thousands during the course of the game, it gets annoying. The voice work, on the other hand, is done extremely well; it sounds like they were done by the original voices. The flip side to that is that they aren’t used nearly enough. The story for the most part unfolds via text, and why that is just isn’t clear, but it’s really a shame because fans like to hear the characters talk especially when they have existing voices. While I’m sure it would have held up the game a while longer to dub voice work, there is no doubt fans would have appreciated it much more.
Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel in essence is a hack and slash adventure with role-playing elements which is probably suited well to such a license. The fighting in the game can be pretty furious, but for a gamer of any sort of skill probably not much of a challenge. During the game you control Ed with the ability to issue commands, such as guard, use item and tackle, to the more powerful Al. As Ed you have the ability to transmute average objects into powerful weapons that allow you to annihilate your opponents with the greatest of ease. There are various weapons ranging from boomerangs and lances to tanks and even pogo sticks.
As with most games of this variety, button mashing is the name of the game. The melee weapons each have their own different combinations, and coupled with your alchemy skills make for more devastating attacks. The interesting catch is that the more hits you can string together consecutively, the more bonus experience points you get, at the same time you build up a meter that allows for special team attacks that devastate everything on the screen. The controls are fairly good though on occasion they break down when you and the camera move at the same time, forcing you to readjust yourself because Ed begins to move in the wrong direction. The boss battles will provide the most challenge, and even then it isn’t too difficult, as big as the bosses are there are always plenty of weapons to transmute to finish off the boss with ease. As an action/RPG game Fullmetal Alchemist does a good job with its gameplay, even though it may get repetitive over time.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of the game is its’ lack of multiplayer. It could have been a good beat’em up with a second player, but instead it’s simply an average solo effort. There is enough reason to come back after completing the game, like a movie and still viewer that lets you see the in-game movies as well as pre-production art. There are many pieces of art and movies to collect, but after playing the game a second time do you really feel like watching the movies a third time? The other benefit to playing through again is that you get to keep all the items you collected the first time around, so you can breeze through the game the second time around. Fans of the anime will get the biggest enjoyment from replaying the game a second time, while everyone else may only enjoy it for a short time.
Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel is a solid game with some great selling points, but it has its rough spots as well. The graphics look great and keep the game very true to the anime, but this is one of the rare cases where more cut scenes might have made it more enjoyable. Fans love the anime, and fans will undoubtedly love the few cut scenes that are here, but will almost surely be clamoring for more.
Along those lines, I think it is almost unthinkable that the game doesn’t utilize the voice talents of the anime more. The voices are established and would’ve made this game much better. The combo moves are cool, and the continued linking of hits leading to bonus experience is a nice touch, but half way through the game there are no more abilities to learn and your alchemy attack remains at the same strength. Some more strategy like enemy weaknesses to certain types of weapons, jumping or alchemy attacks or even combo moves would have added to the strategy, and overall enjoyment of the game. The fact that there are so few enemies is a bother, and for some reason the game even resorts to palette swapping for them. Lastly, and possibly the biggest flaw in my book of Fullmetal Alchemist is after going back to a cleared area you will be attacked by the same tired enemies you’ve already beat down again and again. If it is to help you build levels then they should have allowed for more abilities and more weapons. There are many flaws that as a gamer you will notice, but as a fan of the anime you might overlook because of your feelings for the cartoon.
Speaking as someone who doesn’t consider himself a fan, there are many things in Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel that have been done before and done better, but true fans of the anime probably won’t have any sort of issue with it. While the game does do a good job of capturing the look of the anime it just doesn’t do the best job of capturing the spirit of it. There are many things lacking here; the game is very linear and offers no side quests or alternate areas to explore and it probably can be completed without dying once, so there’s not much of a challenge either. There’s much to like here for fans, but those looking for an action/RPG title may want to try renting this one first.
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