Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis - PS2 - Preview
Long ago when family-friendly TV was still a hot commodity, a show came along that featured a witch and a talking cat. Sabrina, the bewitched teenager, and Salem, her pet that spoke better English than most humans, spent their days using magic and hiding the feline's vocal capabilities.
In Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, the spiritual follow-up to the third Atelier Iris game, players control a party of alchemists. Their leader – the sometimes-clueless Vayne – has a black cat that talks to him. His name is Sulpher. He doesn't need to hide his vocal capabilities because in this world, anything goes. Obnoxious students that are so desperate to graduate they'll attempt a kidnapping? Check. When you see a blob slithering around, touch it to enter combat and battle what could be a raw sewage experiment gone horribly wrong.
Mana Khemia follows the same rules and regulations of the Atelier Iris games: every objective is a mission, and every mission contains individual tasks (usually involving the collection of an item) that must be completed before you can move forward. The format hasn't changed much. You'll have new items to collect, new monsters to battle, and new characters to chat with in between. But none of this should surprise any fans of the series.
Mana Khemia also throws in a new school environment, with missions being referred to as courses and assignments. Once you sign up for a course, you're expected to participate and complete it with a passing grade.
Jess, Nikki, and Flay are three other key characters, along with teachers and the inevitable villains. Flay enters the scene when Vayne and Jess are in danger of an apparent kidnapping. This crazy guy insists that the two come with him, at least until Flay arrives. The kidnapper leaves when his sidekick decides not to help because she just had her nails done.
Back at Flay's place we learn that he, too, is crazy. He speaks in a way that says, "I think I'm cool, but I'm not really sure." But coolness is second to graduating, which he has yet to do. He'll enlist the help of Vayne, Jess and Nikki to complete the four-person project. Contrary to what previous RPGs have made us believe, they aren't helping Flay to save the world. They're helping because, according to Jess, it sounds like fun.
This tabloid photo shows what happened to '80s celebrity Teddy Ruxpin.
In the following minutes our new gang will end up on their first mission, minus Flay who has run off for some unknown reason. Three items must be obtained, one of which can be found at school. But going for that now could mean having to chat with more of the locals, a long process you will have already gone through several times before this point. If you want to jump right into action, leave campus and head for the forest…that’s alive.
This colorful land is lush with tall grass, dozens of trees, platforms (you can't climb without those), and all the expected amenities of Atelier Iris. Vayne's out-of-battle attack can be used here to cut through the grass and reveal hidden items. You may also use it to approach enemies and enter the battle screen, but like the previous games in the series, it doesn't seem to inflict pre-battle damage (as similar moves do in other games).
The combat system doesn't appear to have changed much in the last 12 months, but if you enjoy this style of play you won't be disappointed. Character attacks, from enemies and allies, are still listed at the top of the screen, allowing you to regulate your moves and reduce retaliation.
On the surface, Vayne is a typical RPG hero. This is especially true during conversations, where his words have little value except when speaking to Sulpher. But in battle it's a whole other story. Sulpher morphs into Vayne's arm, transforming him into a fierce battler. He wields a gigantic sword – not uncommon, but still effective.
Jess isn't much for close combat. She stays back and throws objects to damage her enemies. Meanwhile, Nikki uses an oversized hammer to bash her adversaries with deadly force. Nikki can equip other bashing weapons (like a spiked club), but in this build the battle aesthetic stayed the same.
I can't read Japanese, but I'm guessing that $10 Borics haircut didn't work out too well for Nikki.
After retrieving the needed items, further missions become available, allowing players to embark on another journey from the world of Atelier Iris. Get ready to embark March 31st, and stay tuned to GameZone for more on Mana Khemia.