I've got to hand it to Square Enix, not even letting Full Metal Alchemist get a chance to saturate the market with a variety of show related goods before releasing the first game. Full Metal Alchemist and the Broken Angel places players in the role of Edward and Alphonse Elric, two brothers who are in search of the Philosophers Stone, a legendary jewel that grants the owner limitless power over alchemy. If you need a basic back story to the manga/show let me break it down. The two brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are two brothers who attempted to perform forbidden alchemy. After the death of their mother they attempted to bring her back to life. But the law of equivalent trade in alchemy didn't quite perform as once believed when they attempted to resurrect their dead mother. Edward lost an arm and a leg, and his brother Alphonse lost his entire body, and to be saved had his soul bound to a giant suit of armor. The title "Full Metal" was given to Ed by the military, and as per the show he is sent on reconnaissance missions for the state. Searching for the Philosophers Stone is just a side mission to help Ed and Al regain their lost bodies.
So now that you're as up to speed as you need to get let's talk about the game shall we? The basic story is a side story to the show itself, a big search for the Philosophers Stone (You may have heard of this stone if you played the wonderfully esoteric, Shadow of Destiny, didn’t play it? I didn’t think so). Not much of a story to go on seeing as how the rest of the show does the exact same thing and actually has a resolution, but it is serviceable. The dialog is hokey, the voice acting is the same quality as the TV show currently airing on Cartoon Network, the graphics are adequate, the sound quality could be better, game play has some interesting twists, and after all of that it still isn't as good as the first Ghost in the Shell game from back on PS1. But really if you're a fan of this show and reading this you'll probably ignore what I have to say, but please, hear me out.
The core game play at times is the games greatest strength but at other times it is the absolute weakness. Basically what you have here is your very basic hack and slash kind of game play reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors or Final Fight but with a few not-so-interesting twists. All you need is a little alchemy and the slightest things on the side of the road can become great weapons to help put the hurt on the countless numbers of hoodlums and grunts you'll be fighting through all the stages. So as you're running through a stage and you see lets say a sign, you have the option to turn it in to either a weapon for Al, Ed or a stand alone weapon that you can leave lying around for your enemies to walk in to. Along the way you'll find items that will augment the weapons you create, giving them elemental attributes which helps dole out some more damage. You'll also find a large amount of stationary weapons that can be mounted that serve as a turret. You can't just pick any weapon to defeat your enemies, most of the non human enemies, chimeras, actually require some thinking in order to defeat them, does the weapon pierce, slash, take down airborne enemies? These things you'll have to take into consideration as you go looking for weapons to make.
Now the biggest problem with this system is that you can't create whatever you want, you are always given two options, and it's not always going to be something you want. So you'll have to head over to another piece of landscape in search of that perfect weapon. Aside from that there is the problem with the AI of your enemies, and Alphonse. Enemies like to run off and hide in corners, or if they are going to move in on you they make it nice and slow, Al is pretty much the same way, thankfully you can issue commands to him and make him come to your defense or pick up weapons to use but there are a number of times where he will get stuck up on something and will be a pain in the ass to get back to. Also his HP is not limitless, and the game doesn't exactly tell you how much HP he has when the action on the screen is getting hot and heavy.
Graphically this game is quite simply adequate, it reminds me very much of Brave Fencer Musashi, the graphics were good at the time, but not the best the system had seen on the PS1. FMA is simply the same thing, just on PS2. The character models are good looking, but not that great, monsters are nothing but palette swaps of past fought enemies, nothing new there, and the same could be said for the rest of the graphics, murky textures and bland locales keep this game from being a treat to the eyes. There are some really good cut scenes in the game and I would expect no less considering how the game is based off an anime.
Unfortunately graphics aren’t the only thing the game that reminds me of Brave Fencer Musashi, the basic mechanics of the game, being a simple beat-em-up with a gimmick is also painfully present. Where as it was fresh and new with Musashi, it’s simply boring and tiresome in Full Metal Alchemist. From the get go you’ve got the basic attacks which are all mapped to the square button, alchemy is assigned to the circle button, and the x button is for jumping. Which this translates in to is a mash fest for simple unimpressive combination attacks. Pressing circle button intermittently in between certain hits of the combo will expand them allowing you to add in maybe one or two more hits. It’s really simplistic and I must stress thing again, really boring. Running through area after maddening area simply pressing one button can only go on for so long before I decide, ‘Hey, I think it’s time to go play some Ace Combat 5.’ Because really, after a while you’re going to want to put this one down and play something with a little more meat on the bones.
The only real saving grace to the game, if you would want to consider it that; is the story. I actually have watched all fifty-one episodes of Full Metal Alchemist, so I’m eager to see what kind of wrinkle in the story is being created here. For the most part I enjoyed it, and if you’re a fan, it’ll be the only thing worth trudging through this game for. But really, am I the only one out there that can take fighting Outlaw A, B, and C so many times? I mean, the names are menacing I know and I wouldn’t want to face them in a dark alley, but at least Final Fight gave us names, albeit crappy ones but they were names none the less! Whoo… tangent. Unfortunately story segments come far and few between, unlike the save points, bless the soul who decided to use them so frequently, or else I might have had to put up with this game longer than absolutely necessary.
Once again, an anime property spawns a game; much like those Gundam games we see so many of on the shelves. And like so many others, it is nothing more than an attempt at creating a cash cow that ravaging anime fans will rush to pick up, only to return to the local game emporium for some credit. Save the money on this one and give it a rental if you absolutely must play it. The length of the game means you’ll beat it in a week if you really sit down with it and commit a few hours a day, but you’ll be feeling deja-vu the entire time you play. Isn’t this enemy near the end of the game just like one I fought way back at the beginning only a different color? Why yes, yes he is. Again, save your money, wait for some of the Naruto fighting games to make it state side or just wait for the next Full Metal Alchemist game, from what I hear from my import friends that game should actually be worth plunking down fifty bones for.
Another terrible game based on an anime property. So much promise and such poor execution.