9.0

Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis review
New name, same game

The good:

Burst is harder to get now which makes the battles actually challenging.
New systems such as the Gossip system make a refreshing change.
No game overs (mostly) and no game over penalties makes the game so much less annoying.
Good implementation of school life and adventuring and an even better way to find out more about your party members.
Alchemy recipes for new items are everywhere with lots of items and most of them contain recipes for more than one item (but you'll have to find that out).
Japanese-English voice selection.
Most of the scenes are funny.

The bad:

You'll have to make lots of items using alchemy with limited ingredients.
Using alchemy has become more complicated than necessary.
There are more voiced scenes and characters in Japanese than those in English.

Summary:

Mana Khemia, Alchemists of Al-Revis is a 2-Dimensional RPG game for the Playstation 2. If you're wondering at the title of my review, I said that because this game is a spiritual sequel to the Atelier Iris series, some aspects of both games are similar to each other as it has always been in the Atelier Iris series, Mana Khemia is a spin-off of the series, one might say.

Story
The story revolves around a character named Vayne Aurelius (along with his pet cat, Sulpher) and his life in the academy he was requested to attend. There, on his first day he meets Jess, Flay and Nikki and they open a workshop. Vayne meets other people too, some friends, some enemies. In his school life he has many adventures and is revealed to a shocking truth about himself near the end of the game. There is a sequel made for this game where some of the characters from this one return.

Gameplay
If you've played one of the Atelier Iris games then you know what the game-play is like, mostly. The battles use a turn-based "card" system with a time gauge like Final Fantasy X or the Grandia games. There are skills that slow enemies and fasten up allies, other types of skills are healing or damaging skills (which have elemental types of fire, ice, lightning, gravity or light) or strengthening skills to boost your party members' stats, some skills hit multiple enemies or heal multiple allies and some have special effects like revealing the enemies' weaknesses and remaining Health Points. The battles take place in a separate battle field instead of right there and the begin when you touch an enemy on the field. Some enemies are unavoidable but most are easy to avoid, also, when it is night, the enemies' stats increase and it is harder to avoid them since they move faster. In the field, the enemies are represented as slime-like creatures, touch one and you enter a random battle, the bigger the creature, the harder the fight, you can strike these creatures to make sure you have the first move in a battle, if they catch you they will attack first (but it also depends on your characters' speed). These creatures are red but sometimes you encounter small, blue ones, that means they are weak, if you strike them you instantly kill them without a battle and you gain whatever item they would have dropped. In a battle, by doing or receiving damage, you fill up your burst gauge, when it is full, your attacks grow enormously stronger and if you attack an enemy with an attack, skill or magic of an element he is weak against, you will do massive damage. Later in the game, by fulfilling certain requirements in a battle while in Burst mode (the game tells you what you have to do, for example, once you activate burst mode, the game may say "Attack with lightning") you will be able to unleash an almighty blast with one character of your choice to deal literally thousands of Health Point damage to your enemies. You can take up to 6 characters with you at one time and there are 7 in total which means you'll leave someone behind, the one left behind won't participate in battles, therefore he/she/it won't get Ability Points. AP is used to "buy" skills from registered items in the Growth Book and the party member who delivers the final blow gets a little more AP than the rest of the characters. What I like about this game is that you can change characters in the middle of battle. Only 3 of the 6 characters you bring with you can fight at the same time but you can change with the push of button on one of your character's turn, before an enemy attack, or after your attack for more damage. You can chain the attacks with your stand-by characters so you attack with all three of them but only the last appears, generally, when you call a character in, you replace with one of your in-battle ones. However it would be too easy to just do this over and over so the game doesn't allow you to change between characters whenever you like, you have to wait before you put a party member you just replaced with someone else back in the fight for some turns. When the members are in stand-by and not in the actual fight they regain Health and Skill (used for doing special attack or magic) Points every turn. If you strike an enemy you'll begin the battle with every character in stand-by ready to change with a fighting one but if you are caught by a monster you have to wait before you change them.

Exploration is one of the biggest parts of the game, the fields are in 2-D and are very big and contain fishing and mining spots (as well as trees you can gather stuff from, not to mention weeds and other stuff like boxes you can destroy to get items). Fields are unlocked as the game's story progresses. Since you are in a school you have to do some assignments or take jobs occasionally, these may be to find something or to defeat an enemy or you just want to go to an area just to gain AP, whenever you enter an area outside of the school, a "Search" begins. As hours pass during a Search, night falls and then day comes back again and then again night and so on. Some assignments have an hour limit or you have to be back before a certain time to get a good mark. Also you can issue commands like material gathering to your party members using a sheet in your workshop later in the game, this doesn't have any effect on them, they will still follow you around and enter in battles.

Alchemy is the other biggest part of the game. You can fuse from two to four items together to make a new one and you can find (and buy) recipes all over the place for new items. Sometimes you can make more than one item with the same recipe by changing some of the ingredients. Items also contain traits and skills that go to your weapons if you choose to synthesize weapons (using alchemically-created or found in the field items). The Growth Book is used to gain skills and increase your stats instead of the traditional Level-up system, its similar to the Sphere Grid system in Final fantasy X or the Revelation system in Rogue Galaxy, you have to create items with alchemy and then spend Ability Points earned in battles to "buy" their skills and stat upgrades (including Health Points and Skill Points). Each character has his own Growth Book. You can also equip weapons you made with alchemy. Weapons carry effects and skills which pass on to the user. You can make weapons using the Athanor by fusing materials creating with alchemy, which means you can use different materials to make your weapons have different effects that suit you better.

Also in the game there is a "Gossip" system that acts like an Achievement system. By fulfilling certain conditions (in and outside of battle, for example, "Jump 200 times" or "Strike enemies 20 times in a search") you unlock "Gossips". It is exactly what it sounds, people will be talking about you and what you've done, you can instruct a NPC (non-playable character) to spread whatever rumur you want as long as you've unlocked it. Spreading rumors gives you extra effects like stat upgrades or shop sales, however their effects aren't permanent and stop when you choose to spread another rumor.

Another handy game feature is the Encyclopedia, it lists all your items and enemies you have faced as well as you alchemy recipes and important items. You can find more about an item (like the traits it passes to a weapon) or an enemy (like what items they drop) by looking the up here (bosses are listed too, including humans).

Graphics
Not much to say, graphics are in 2-D as I've already said, the character models could be better I guess but that doesn't matter much to me. I can't help but get the feeling I'm watching anime when playing this game for some reason, mostly because of the character sprites, or maybe because of the anime cut scenes.

Sound
Some of the events voiced but most aren't, the ones that are are mostly the main story ones. In Japanese though, more characters are voiced including those in shops and those that offer some kind of service.

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