|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Destineer||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Destineer||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 16, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Ever since the success of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Franchise, it seems like Anime-Inspired card games are a dime a dozen. Every major series has one, from Bleach to Naruto, and slowly all of these franchise-based card games seem to be making their way onto the Nintendo DS. The latest series to see a card based game on the Nintendo DS is Fullmetal Alchemist. And while Fullmetal Alchemist: Trading Card Game will surely delight hardcore fans of the card game, it doesn't do much for the non-trading card crowd, even among those who are familiar with the series.
For those who have never been exposed to the Fullmetal Alchemist series, I would highly recommend it. It tells the story of two brothers who made a grave mistake and have devoted the rest of their lives in search of the Philosopher's Stone to fulfill a promise that they made to one another. It is honestly a very compelling story, and I would recommend it to anyone. However, this story has nothing to do with the card game. Sure, the individual cards feature still pictures from the series, but don't expect any real story elements or plot points through this game. But that being said, it is important to realize that this game was meant for a very specific audience: fans of the Trading Card Game. Those who will be picking up this title will probably already be interested in the strategy-based gameplay that they've been playing since the card game's debut. And for those people, this game will surely be a delight to play.
One of the biggest draws for fans of the original card game will probably be the ability to use all of the cards from the series. This is quite a big deal, because instead of plunking down a ghastly amount of money on starters and boosters, everything you need will be right here in the game. But you don't get access to all the cards at once, you'll have to play through several "character" battles to unlock all the different characters. This creates a good amount of card-based gameplay and a great arena for players to brush up on their card-playing skills.
And then once you feel that you've gotten good enough, you'll be able to take your skills online. One problem with playing card-based games outside of the virtual realm has been finding new people to play with. Sure, you could find a neighborhood friend, but sometimes a challenge is needed. This is where the card-based video games make a whole lot of sense. Until now, card-based battlers had to rely on annual conventions to find a perfect forum to play their favorite card games in a competitive setting. But now they can fire up their DS and play with anyone around the world. Fullmetal Alchemist: Trading Card Game follows this trend and allows players to connect wirelessly with other players from around the world. The really good thing about the online modes is that they are pretty flexible. You can participate in ranked or unranked matches and also set specific game rules. And if you have a friend who lives close by, there are also local wireless modes as well.
In addition to the character mode and the online mode, there is another mode that will be sure to delight Fullmetal Alchemist Trading Card Game fans: Fantasy Mode. What this mode allows the player to do is forget all the rules and create their favorite decks. They can also manage the cards they have garnered through battles and organize them however they see fit. This mode is certainly realistic, and will delight fans with how true it is to the experience of card collecting, managing, and deck building.
But for all of this game's similarities to the original trading card game, I have to fault it for staying a little too true to the card game. There are so many ways that you can make a stoic card game more immersive by translating it into a game format. For example, the ability is there to create animated cards, much like those found in the Yu-Gi-Oh! games. You could also breathe life into the cards and create a solid sound scheme for the cards. However, neither of these available features were taken advantage of in Fullmetal Alchemist: Trading Card Game, and the result is a very stoic and stationary experience. It's such a shame because I really could have seen this game as a perfect candidate to push card-based video games that much farther. But instead, the graphics resemble a slideshow, and feature nothing more than still-pictures of characters and replications of cards. The game's sound is equally disappointing, with some generic-sounding music coupled with some over-used snippets of voice-overs that we've heard many times before.
Overall, I can appreciate the concept behind Fullmetal Alchemist: Trading Card Game, but I just wish that it could have gone that extra mile and become more of a video game than just an electronic card game. As it stands, however, fans of the card game will be satisfied with the experience that this game affords, and will probably be pleased with the plethora of available cards and the online modes. But anyone looking for a deeper experience will probably have to keep waiting.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Freelance Writer