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Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy

Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is the second installment to the "Mana Khemia" series. In "Fall of Alchemy", the school is going down the tube: enrollments and profits are down. In addition, the faculty members are not as interested in teaching the students as helping themselves. In an effort to keep the school alive, the administration created a new curriculum that includes combat, governance, and law. Students are required to take classes in all areas. Underneath the school politics, the most recent class is trying to keep their wits about themselves as they learn about alchemy and combat. The revamped school has its problems, but the new class tries their best to keep up.

Amongst the new students are Razelue Meitzen and Ulrika Mulberry. These new students are the selectable characters. Choosing Raze or Ulrika offers different perspectives of going through the school. As the game progresses, the characters take different classes. The classes require them to go into the world map and find certain items, kill certain monsters, or create special items. The process is fairly redundant, as the same maps are revisited time and time again. New maps are unlocked as the story progresses, but they tend to be pretty straightforward with different scenery. There are also free time periods when you can do whatever you like (within the constricts of the game).

The biggest aspect of this game is synthesis. Synthesis is the process of creating better and stronger items, weapons, armor, and accessories by using alchemy. Throughout the game, recipe books and ingredients are found. New recipe books unlock items that can be created. The ingredients are items necessary to create specific items. Some items can be created with different variations, which ultimately allow stronger items to be created. Items are rated by their ether value, which ranges from 0 to 100. Items get different attributes as they are created. In some cases, an item with a 0 ether value will be stronger than its counterpart of 100.

During the course of the game, it is necessary to revisit and recreate existing items. As new world maps are unlocked and the storyline advances better ingredients can be obtained to create higher (or lower) valued ether items. The initial creation of items sometime unlock attributes for the characters, which in turn allow their physical/magical attack/defense, speed, number of hits, hit/spell points, and so on to be increased. Additionally, when items are created with an ether level of 100, an additional character upgrade is unlocked.

The actual alchemy process involves multiple steps. The first step is selecting the ingredients, which is important as certain ingredients can lead to different ether values and item characteristics. The second step is picking a team member to help with the synthesis. Each member provides different bonuses to the process. For instance, one will boost fire ether types. The third step is to use the alchemy wheel, which is a continuous wheel rotation of ether types: water, fire, earth, wind, light, and dark. You need to match up the corresponding element to the ingredients ether type for a positive increase to ether level or opposite for a decrease. At this point, the team member's passive skills can be used to also improve the process. Finally, when all the ingredients have been processed, the new item is produced.

The game's combat system is fairly cut and dry. The world maps have monsters wandering the land. As you navigate the map, you can try to avoid them or run into them to start a fight. The combat system is turn based. Characters and monsters attack in an order determined by their speed. The characters can use physical attacks, magic, and special skills. There are also notions of support action: swap a character from the reserve, chain attack: have characters in the reserve join the fight with a physical attack replacing the current character, unit mode: fill the unite gauge and deal more damage, recover faster, and use special co-op skills.

As for the game play, "Fall of Alchemy" tends to get redundant. I had fun with the game at first, creating new items, the silly storyline, and so on. However, after a while the game became repetitive. The same world maps are frequently revisited and it is rarely challenging. There might be some instances when bosses are too strong, but if you are keeping up with the available recipe books and upgrading character attributes, then it will not be very difficult. Furthermore, the game play is linear with little chance to deviate. The fact the game has "free time" periods gives some flexibility, but you are still restricted to what is available at the current progress of the storyline. In short, it is fun for a while, but quickly turns repetitive.

The technical aspects are pretty good and are typical for a PS2 release. The visuals are two-dimensional, animation-style. The cut scenes are made up of detailed graphics with lively voiceovers that give the characters personality (some of them are annoying, as their characters are scripted to be). The game play graphics have a fair amount of detail that is consistent with PS2 capabilities. The music is decent and not much to speak about. If you do happen to like it, the soundtrack is included on an audio CD as an extra.

Overall, Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is a decent RPG. The storyline is basic, the maps are linear, and the general game play is repetitive. However, the item creation process via alchemy is fairly vast and offers a fair amount of diversity and options. Nevertheless, "Fall of Alchemy" will offer gamers hours of play time and it should make for a good rental if you like classic-style RPGs without too much depth or complexity.