Fullmetal Alchemist comes to the DS!
Fullmetal Alchemist was one of the biggest anime in 2005. Along with the anime series’ explosion, there came several games designed for the PS2. They were published by Square Enix and were modestly successful. Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy would seem to be another entry in the game series, but it is very different.
The game begins just as the anime begins. The Elric brothers try and fail to transmute their dead mother back to life through the forbidden science of human alchemy. However, their experiment fails completely, and they pay dearly for treading on “God’s territory.” Edward, the older brother, pays with the loss of his left leg, while Alphonse, the younger brother pays with the loss of his entire body. However, Edward is able to attach Alphonse’s soul to a suit of armor by sacrificing his left leg. He promises Alphonse that he’ll get his original body back by using the legendary philosopher’s stone. This is where our game begins.
The story mode basically takes you straight through the anime (unlike the PlayStation 2 games, which were mini-stories of their own written by the series’ creator, Hiromu Arakawa) and offers no surprises to those who’ve already seen the series. And those who are new to the series will be completely lost as to what’s going on. Terribly long cutscenes (some are almost 6 minutes if you take the time to read through it all) and randomly interjected gameplay and stage challenges make no sense to those who are unfamiliar to the license. However, the story mode is mercifully short. Without all the cutscenes, you’re probably looking at a gameplay time of around 4 hours.
After you beat story mode, the game, in my opinion, really begins. Once you complete story mode as Edward Elric, you unlock a character mode where you can play through the stories of five other characters from the series such as Izumi (the Elric brothers’ teacher) and Scar (one of their arch-rivals). Each character has their own unique story mode which crosses over with other characters’ stories in a very interesting and cool way.
The gameplay is relatively straightforward, and the controls make use of basic fighting attacks using the B and Y buttons. You can also perform special alchemic moves via the touch screen. The switching between buttons for regular attacks and touch screen for special attacks can take some getting used to and can be a little bothersome when in the heat of battle, but it’s no problem after a while.
Another very cool facet of the game that is unlocked as you progress through the various character modes is the mini-game mode. Although some of the mini-games are silly and only generally good for a laugh or two, some are really challenging and fun to play. For example, “Whack-A-Homunculus” is a touch screen game where the object is to use a mallet to (surprise) whack a homunculus. However, as you progress through the difficulty levels, the speed increases and your mallet turns into a gun, forcing you to be more precise with your “whacking.” The game also has several cool non-traditional features, such as a fortune teller, and character-voiced alarm clocks.
The sound is pretty good, with modified versions of songs from the anime providing the soundtrack for the game. The original cast from the anime provides the voice acting, and, on the whole, sounds pretty good.
Graphics-wise, the game is in pretty good shape. Playable sprites move around in a 2-D side-scrolling environment that is simple to navigate. Some of the backgrounds are noticeably plain, but generally these levels are shorter than those you spend lots of time on.
Overall, the game is pretty good, but appears to be only really accessible to fans of the series. Those who pick up the title out of sheer curiosity will find the game’s initial excessive dialogue and thickly condensed story mode tedious and annoying. However, if they’re able to pass the story mode, the unlockables are almost worth playing through the lackluster story mode.