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Fullmetal Alchemist
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Square-Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 01/18/05
Japan 12/2003



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I'd hate to be eaten by this guy.
 
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An example of the game's conversation system.
 
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Beware the purple bubbles of destruction!
 
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Which item should Ed turn into a weapon?
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Mike Wilson
Preview First Look
01/09/05
Mike Wilson

When it comes to games based on anime, Square-Enix is the last name many would think to develop such a game. Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel came as a surprise last year when it was released in Japan a few weeks after its respective anime began running. With this new game, Square-Enix has deviated from its typical fantasy theme and has created a modern world with a unique setting. It is no surprise that with the anime's recent debut on Cartoon Network that the game is eagerly anticipated here on American shores.

Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel is the story of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers whose mother has died. The boys, being alchemists, try to perform a revival spell to bring their mother back. However, the spell goes horribly wrong - Ed loses his left leg and Alphonse's life is thrust into fatal danger. In order to save Alphonse, Ed gives up his right arm, and in return, his brother's soul is trapped in a giant body of armor. After the transformation, the brothers set out to find the Philosopher's Stone, a legendary stone with the power to change them back to normal. The story stays true to the anime and follows Ed and Alphonse's journey. Players will meet up with characters from the anime, such as Armony Angelstein, Alex Louis Armstrong, Riza Hawkeye, Roy Mustang, and the mysterious villain Kamilla.

The relationship between Ed and his brother makes for some interesting battles in FMA. Fighting is quick and easy. Typical of an action RPG, Ed can move freely around the battlefield and attack enemies continuously, bearing many similarities to Kingdom Hearts. But the similarities stop there. Ed, being an alchemist, can transform objects into things that he can use, and is able to destroy enemies with strange yet effective tools. Such tools include robotic cows, cannons, and purple "bubbles of destruction." The game allows Ed to create items in his environment into weapons, and with over 50 weapons to transmute, players have many ways to dispose of their enemies. The large number of weapons also opens up different strategies in battle, such as letting Alphonse fight enemies while Ed takes them out with a cannon, or uses a vacuum weapon to round up all the enemies into one place for easier pickings. The possibilities are vast.

Alphonse, being a giant body of armor, is a powerhouse, providing brute support for Ed when he needs it. Ed can also order Alphonse to do certain things, such as tackle an enemy, and the brothers can team up to pull off devastating combos that will leave all on screen enemies in tatters. The only catch to the brothers' strength is that experience is divided up between them. The experience system is interesting in that along with gaining experience, players are awarded bonus points for attribution to the brother of their choice. This customization adds variation to character stats, which is a nice addition to the battle system.

As far as visuals go, Square-Enix has never disappointed. This still holds true in FMA. Character models are smooth and look like their anime counterparts, and the game's environment quickly reminds you of the anime. Perhaps the most noticeable visuals are the enemies- they are well designed, full of color, and interesting to look at and fight. They are also extremely varied- you will fight everything from soldiers and animals to giant fierce creatures that I can't even begin to describe (though the pictures can.) There are even animated cut scenes from the anime incorporated into the game, which is sure to please fans of the series. Another interesting aspect is the in-game conversations; during a conversation, the game displays animated pictures of the characters that are speaking. However, the game does not feature full voice acting. With every aspect of the visual department coming together cohesively, you won't have to worry about this being a bad looking game.

The game's soundtrack sounds as much like a game soundtrack as it does an anime soundtrack, and thatŐs not a bad thing at all. There is a song for every occasion here- you have character themes, event themes, and a typical anime vocal here and there. You can check out Patrick Gann's review of the game's soundtrack in our Soundtracks section for further information and sound samples.

Battles contain sparse voice acting. While fighting, Ed and Alphonse make battle cries and groan appropriately when they take an enemy hit. Ed often makes sarcastic comments when fighting enemies as well. While this may not be enough for series fans, Square-Enix has rarely produced bad sound in their games, so it would be hard to imagine them doing it here.

For fans of the anime and fans of the RPGs, FMA could be one to watch for. With promising gameplay, an enticing story, and an original soundtrack, this looks be a solid release. Also, with its respective anime running alongside it, Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel has the potential for success among American gamers. Look for the game on shelves later this January.



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