I wanted to like the first Fullmetal Alchemist
pretty badly. The anime is great, and offers a cool mix of humor, action, and magic that you can't really find anywhere else. Unfortunately, the videogame version wasn't so lucky. Plagued with some rather repetitive gameplay and a short lifespan, it didn't hold up to other games in the genre. The E3 build of Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir
, however, looks like it's going to fix a lot of the problems associated with the first one. And if the final game is as fun as the demo, then the developers at Racjin may be on to something.
Set before the events of the first game and beginning at the very start of the anime, Crimson Elixir is a bit of a "what if" story that tells an all-new tale. Though the start of the story will essentially be the same as the television series, it breaks off into a new direction somewhere around episode five or six. From that point, players will be primed for confrontations with never before seen enemies, new characters, and plot twists that had never been explored.
To its credit, Fullmetal 2 has also decided to change its graphical style as well. Now completely cel-shaded, the game looks a lot more like its source material and seems to have a slightly sharper look overall. The interface and corresponding menus have been given a new veneer too, and the stages are much bigger in size when compared to the first title. Sadly, Square Enix reps confirmed with us that widescreen and progressive scan support won't be included for us HDTV users. Blasphemy!
On the more important tip, The Crimson Elixir has also made adjustments to its gameplay. Now Edward can alchemize any weapon on the fly by holding down L2 and a corresponding face button for different attacks. In the previous games, Ed had to find existing items in the environment before he alchemize them for use in battle -- but with the ability to create whatever you want on the fly, the combat should be a lot more interesting. And as good RPG always allows, you'll be able to add new weapons and items to alchemize as you progress along.
Your AI helper Alfonse has been given a couple of new abilities as well. For starters, commanding him has been simplified into simple button presses. Tapping R1 once will get him to tackle someone while tapping R1 and up on the D-pad orders him to lift you up. Once you've been lifted, you can use the additional elevation for a cool dropping special attack or to climb over obstacles that may be in your way. And if you're worried about Ed and Al's combo special attacks, don't be: they can still pull those off too.
It'll be interesting too see how these changes to Fullmetal Alchemist play out over an extended period of time. With the game due out in July, we won't have long to wait either. Expect us to return with additional impressions over the coming weeks.
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