So I noticed while I was playing Cross Edge
that there were a few characters from the NIS series that I had never seen before. Well recently I got my hands on Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy and discovered that the characters from Cross Edge made up one half of the main cast for Mana Khemia, and I wish whoever they had used to write the dialog for Mana Khemia would have put their hands in to Cross Edge too after playing this surprising little title. Another one of the yearly updates to the Alchemy/Atelier series from developer Gust, you would be a little hard pressed to tell this apart from their previous games. Especially when you consider that Gust has a very distinct 2-D art style that makes their games look better suited for a PS1 era title rather than a late PS2 game. And whether or not that's a deal breaker for you is really a personal preference, for me it's all about the game play, which is by and large the part where Mana Khemia 2 succeeds.
Right out of the gate, Mana Khemia 2 is all about building on its predecessor and making it a better experience, and this is made apparent by the inclusion of not one, but two main heroes. Ulrika, the happy-go-lucky and sometimes complete ditz heroine, and Razeluxe, the male protagonist bound to a life of servitude to a totally overbearing spoiled brat who totally has the hots for him but would never admit it. If the teenage angst and saccharin doesn't kill you, then some of the more sadistic characters will. For example, Ulrika's got a friend who specializes in curses, or incantations as she would have you believe, and of course she needs someone to test them on. Or if you're Raze, then you'll need to be on the lookout for teachers. The cast is seriously all over the place in this game and they really don't seem to take it too seriously with the dialog here considering how dirty it gets sometimes. The story is also incredibly light-hearted and amusing, and if you've got the right sense of humor then this game will definitely put a smile on your face.
While this multi-character angle offers a lot of character interaction, it also gives you two paths of a game to complete with much overlap. Yes, if you want to completely finish this game you're going to be playing it twice, with a different set of characters. The upside being that you can carry items over between characters, making the second playthrough much faster. The problem here is getting through the game the first time around. The first adventure will clock in at about forty hours, and a lot of this is spent putting together alchemy recipes to get items for your second playthrough. There is also a ton of dry segments where nothing is going on in the story, and you're just exploring, trying to find ingredients, that are unfortunately out of your reach until much later in the game, but that doesn't stop the game from giving you recipes you couldn't possibly hope to complete at your current state, whatever it may be.
Having completed this game once already with one character, I feel inclined to go back and play again from the other angle, and the game did a pretty good job of crossing the character paths enough that you get a few ideas about the other team and their motivations and interest me enough that I would want to play it. But it's unfortunate that the entire game has to be experienced twice to get the full story. If the game had not included the option to carry items over from the previous playthrough then this game would be receiving a much lower score, because that really is the biggest fault in the title, is working with the cumbersome alchemy system that takes quite a while to get the results you want. Couple that with items that can only be made after finding items in the other character's story line and you can see where this gets old quite quickly.
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