Like what the title suggest, this review is only ‘half’ of the review. The reason is exactly like what I said yesterday; my PS2 is now officially dead. And because of that, I can no longer continue playing Mana Khemia 2 until I get a new PS2 (and god knows when that would be). As a result, I would like to keep my impression of this game fresh and write a ‘half review’ on it. Since I cannot give a completely unbiased ‘final score’ for this game yet, I will only give a ‘personal’ score I have for this game right now at the end of the review.
Without further adieu, let’s get into the review!
- Since this review is only a ‘half review’, this article intends to share my experience in the game ‘so far’. Some of the points I made are not 100% finalized.
- Pictures used in this post are from random Google Search. I thereby claim no ownership to any of them.
This review will contain spoilers to [Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy]. Proceed at your own risk!
If you’ve read my review of the first game, you will know that Mana Khemia 2 was actually the one I wanted to play, not the first Mana Khemia.
I was lucky the first game was ported to PSP, where the games are still easy to look for. But for Mana Khemia 2, it was a little troublesome since not many game shops here sell PS2 games any more. The ones that still sell PS2 games are mostly sports like Winning Eleven or shooters or GTA. It’s really hard to look for RPGs. But in the end, I managed to find a copy and finally played it.
Mana Khemia 2 features a story line, told by two different characters. Obviously, I picked the route of the characters that starred in Cross Edge first – Razeluxe. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally get to play this. But unfortunately, I’ve only been able to complete Raze’s route when my PS2 broke down. I just started Ulrika’s route and who knows when I’ll ever get to clear it.
In any case, I would like to share the experience I have with this game while it is still fresh in my mind.
Exploration and Graphics
The exploration and game’s flow are very similar to the first game. You take control of Raze or Ulrika (depending on who you choose at the beginning) and take classes at the Al-Revis Academy (which has now fallen into financial crisis).
The encounter system of this game is slightly different from the first game. You no longer get to ‘slash’ stuffs while exploring in the field. Instead, whenever your character makes a contact with the red enemies’ sprites, a face button will appear above the monster’s head. Quickly press that button to get the advantage in battle. If you pressed the wrong button or waited too long, the enemy will get the advantage.
Contacting with blue enemies’ sprites also makes a face button appears on the monster’s head. However, should you press the correct button in time, the blue enemy sprite will instantly disappear, allowing you to completely avoid the encounter.
The ‘time’ feature in this game is a lot better than the first game. The basics are still the same; time passes as you explore the dungeon, and at night, the monsters become more vicious.
There are two major improvements to this system:
- The dungeon clock now has ‘numbers’ to tell you exactly what time it is right now. In the first game, you can only see how long it is going to be before night falls, but not the exact number. Having the number on the clock also helps when trying to accomplish assignments within a certain time limit.
- At save points, you now have the option to ‘camp’. Camping allows your character to sit down and rest until time passes to a certain period. You have 3 options: Rest until Morning (Time passes to the next 4 AM), Noon (12 PM), and Night (7 PM). This helps a lot when trying to collect certain types of fruits, since some fruits are available only when picked up at a certain time.
Story and Game’s Flow
The game progresses exactly like the first game.
There are 9 chapters for each of the main character. In each chapter, you take different courses until you attain the required units. Once you do, you will be awarded with free time, where you can go do side quests and continue ‘Character Story’ (known as Character Quest in the first game).
Of course, at the end of each chapter, there will be various events that progresses the story and, most often, a boss fight.
Once you clear both characters’ storyline in the same save file, an ‘Extra Chapter’, where both characters’ parties join each other, will be unlocked.
Once again, the battle follows the same Turn-Based formula as the first game.
A total of 6 characters can participate in battle as usual – 3 Vanguard members and 3 Reserve members. However, for each character’s storyline, you are given only 5 main party members. The 6th spot is mostly saved for guest characters that will temporarily join your party and leave after a certain point. You cannot customize the guest character’s weapon or grow books.
I heard, however, that in the ‘Extra Chapter’, Raze and Ulrika’s parties will join up and you will finally be able to freely pick a party of 6 characters from a pool of 10.
The game changed from the Time Card system to Time Sphere system. The concept is still the same.
The spheres on top right of the screen rotate and once the sphere of a character reaches the active slot, that character gets a turn.
The Double Up and Knock Back skills make their return. Time Card skills, which are now known as Time Sphere skills, are also back.
As usual, you can swap your Vanguard members with the Reserve while attacking and being attacked.
Support Attacks and Defenses have special effects such as Knock Backs and damage reduction.
The Unite Mode replaces the Burst Mode from the first game, but the concept is still the same.
Once the ‘wing bar’ next to the Time Sphere Circle is filled, your party enters the Unite Mode. While in this duration, your party’s attacks become slightly stronger, but the most important feature is that the charge rate of the Reserve characters will fill up almost instantly. This allows you to perform Tag Combos with your team easier. Under this mode, your party will also be able to unleash two more important abilities.
Upon entering Unite Mode, another wing bar to the right of the unite bar will start to fill up. Once it is full, your Vanguard character can then unleash their most powerful attacks. These attacks are normally a table turner and hits very hard.
Unlike the first game, the only condition to fill up the finisher bar is to perform tag combos with the Reserve party members repeatedly.
Upon combined efforts during Unite Mode, your characters can unleash various powerful skills that will turn the tide of the battle to your favor.
Intimate Attacks (I believe it’s actually ‘Intimate Strike’, but I’m more used to calling it ‘Intimate Attacks’) are easily described as Tag-Team Special Attacks. It requires that you have at least two characters in Reserve fully available to switch. After you perform an attack with the Vanguard character, switch one character from Reserve for a Support Attack. Before the Support Attack is over, quickly rotate to the second Reserve Character and hit the Triangle Button. The first and second Reserve characters will then perform Intimate Attack.
This attack is easy to perform and fairly powerful. All you need is do to have two Reserve Party members ready to switch. Plus, since Intimate Attack consumes a chunk of ‘Unite Gauge’, you don’t need to build up the Finisher Bar to perform it. So with careful management and the cooperation of Time Sphere orders, it seems like theoretically you can pull off two Intimate Attacks per activation of Unite Mode.
Intimate Defense sounds odd in execution. The idea is the same as the Intimate Attack, but instead of performing Tag-Team Attacks, you perform Tag-Team Defense. Like before, you need two fully active Reserve party members. Before getting attacked by an enemy, quickly switch the first character in to take damage. After that, you will have a small window of time to quickly rotate to the second character and press Triangle to activate the Intimate Defense. Intimate Defense offers useful support effects such as healing the Vanguard’s SP and temporarily reducing all damage taken from enemies’ attack. Like Intimate Attack, using Intimate Defense consumes the Unite Bar.
Customization and Other Features
This game’s synthesis system is more complicated than the first game. The concept of collecting recipe cards and ingredients are still there. However, Ether Level (or essentially, the level of the item) plays a bigger part in this game. Once the synthesis starts, the Ether Level of an item is set at 50. At this point, you have to choose the ‘correlating elements’ from the Alchemy Wheel to power up your item. For instance, if your ingredient is a fire element, you will have to pick the red orb from the wheel to gain the Ether Level increase.
Also, at the beginning of each synthesis session, you will be able to choose who you want to help you in each session. Each assistant has different support abilities. For example, Lily has a passive ability that will instantly add 7 Ether Levels to any ingredients that are water element.
Obviously, the goal is to build up the highest possible Ether Level, but this is not to be misunderstood that Ether Level of 0 is crap. At Level 0, some items (especially equipments) gain special unique abilities that are even more useful than Ether Level 100 items.
Finally, the game features the ‘Reverse Synthesis’ system (or what I normally called the ‘Synthesis Troubleshoot Wizard’ before I know its official name), which allows the game to automatically prompt you to create some of the ingredients you are missing from the recipe cards. This is exactly like Ar Tonelico’s system and it makes creating a huge list of items a lot less painful and tedious.
A new feature to this game is the Bazaar. During Free Time, you will be able to sell some of the items you created through the Bazaar. This will make the sold items available for sale in normal shops.
Selling items through the Bazaar takes up one Free Time period, so it is best to focus only on components that are difficult or complicated to mass produce.
The Grow Book is back, and this time it looks a lot more like a book. You will be given a list of item cards that you have already synthesized. Each card contains a 3-items list of parameter boost, skills, various augments, or a combination of the aforementioned three that you can unlock for your characters by distributing APs, gained from battle. The third item on the list can be unlocked only if you have created that item with an Ether Level of 100.
HP and SP growth, this time however, are not tied to the growth book. I don’t think the game explained this anywhere, but this is what I knew from my research at GameFAQs’s [Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy] Message Boards.
The growth of HP and SP for each character is dictated by the total amount of AP that your character accumulated from battle. This means that after that character attained a certain amount of AP, he or she will gain a boost in his or her max HP and SP. You cannot directly see how much AP your character has accumulated and neither can you know how much longer until your characters get the next HP / SP boost. All you can do is keep fighting.
Replacing the Gossip Shop is the Title System. Each character has a set number of titles they can unlock through Grow Book completion. These titles give you special passive abilities such as slightly weaken the monsters during the night, or allow your character to react in battle faster after using an item.
During your Free Time, you can do Character Story to deepen the main character’s relationship with the other workshop members.
Unlike the first game, you can complete the Character Story for all of your party members. However, right before you leave the workshop for the final battle, you will be given a chance to talk to your party members. The FIRST character you talked to will determine the character that you share the ending with. You can also opt to just leave the workshop and go fight right away, in which case you will get another ending.
Combining the two characters’ storyline and one true ending after the extra chapter, there are a total of 11 endings for this game. Therefore, make a separate save file right here before you leave for the final battle if you want to collect all the endings without having to play through the game 10+ times.
In case you guys are wondering, I got Lily + Whim ending on my first run. I also completed Yun and Puniyo Character Stories, but I missed the last story for Et because I’ve used too much period for Bazaar.
The game fixed almost all the stuffs that bugged me from the first game. But sadly, among those improvements, they’ve created something else that bugged me instead.
- While it was great the game combined the Athanor and the Workshop into the same place, I miss being able to customize the Ether Effects (aka passive equipment innate abilities) on my equipments. In the first game, you can create equipments in a manner similar to when you are trying to create a certain Persona with a specific ability; you have to come up with some sort of a ‘hierarchy’ to inherit certain effect from the basic ingredients to your final product (but unlike SMT’s shenanigan, you get to directly choose which effect you want to inherit). Because of that, you have more freedom of passive ability customization and it makes giving Common Skills to characters a lot easier.
In this game, that system was removed and instead, you are given a set of Ether Effects that item can get upon leveling its Ether Level to a certain level. Not to say that the system is bad, but I really prefer the range of customization the first game offered.
- Once again, the story suffered slow pacing. Everything was thrown in your face in the last chapters. And since I’ve only played Raze’s storyline, the last chapter (not the Extra Chapter) involves Ulrika crossing paths with Raze, and that confuses me even more because the conclusion of ANOTHER story that I have yet to play was also thrown at me as well.
- Overall, I don’t like the feeling of Unite Mode. It sounds like a great concept, but its execution seems to somewhat escaped me. Also, the mode ends VERY fast. Unlike Burst Mode where the Burst Gauge reduces majorly only when a party member dies, Unite Gauge reduces every time your party member gets hit.
- Intimate skills are great ideas, but it destroys Unite Mode even further. Introduction of these skills give you more options to do during Unite Mode. Yet using either of these almost always ends the Unite Mode, unless used right after entering the mode.
- The new Finisher system was probably the worst change for this game. Unlike the first game where you can store the Finisher Gauge and use it whenever you want (granted you’ve entered Burst Mode), you are forced to instantly use a Finisher once the Finisher Gauge is filled. While I like how you only have to use Tag-Team Combos to fill up the gauge instead of randomizing a condition to fulfill, I want to be able to save my special super attack for the precise moment or for the harder battles.
You can opt to cancel that option, but that will cost you about three or four bars of the Finisher Bar.
- The support abilities of the cast are not really useful and memorable, at least for Raze’s party. Most of them are simply ailment attacks, elemental attacks, or just damage reduction with no memorable effects. In the first game, almost all the Switch Abilities are very useful and memorable, such as Pamela’s Bear Shift that completely nullifies an attack for a party member, Anna’s Ready-at-Will that instantly gives Anna a turn right after switching, Flay’s Armor Break that reduces enemy’s defense, or Jessica’s Cheer Healing that heals your party after she takes damage. These abilities add a lot of depth to the first game’s battle strategies.
Some might argue that the really useful abilities are all converted to the form of ‘Intimate Defense’ skills, but that gets me back to my previous point about [having too many stuffs to do but too little time in Unite Mode].
- The HP / SP growth system is just bad. Not only it is tedious, the game didn’t even explain it. It’s bad. Period.
- While the art in this game is not ‘ugly’, I really prefer the art style from the first game. What’s more is the first game’s Opening Movie is 100% animated, while this one is a mash up of various character portraits and seemingly a random CG of a dragon.
Overall Impression (so far)
Despite this game being the one I actually wanted to play more than the first Mana Khemia, I did not get the “WOW!” that I did from playing the first game. This game is not bad and it is fun. It just did not amaze me like the first game did.
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being ‘awesome’, so far this game gets a 7 from me.
The game was fun and I enjoyed it. I just did not enjoy it as much as I did in the first game. This game fixed the minor annoying stuffs from the first Mana Khemia, but at the same time, it also creates new problems. With the exception of not being allowed to store your Finisher and the HP / SP Growth system, new features like Unite Mode and Intimate Skills aren’t really bad. They just give you too many new options with too little time to play around with it in battle. The depths of the battle strategy that the first game had were also made shallow. Switch Support Abilities, which were almost the factor that determines victory and defeat, were nerfed down to mere flashy attacks with mediocre effects.
The score above is obviously not yet finalized as I have yet truly completed the game; it is just the impression that I have for the game right now.
I heard that once you get to the extra chapter, all the 10 characters will be completely unlocked and you can form any party that you like. Plus, I have yet completed the Grow Books for my characters, so it is very possible that there are still some other useful abilities that I have yet unlocked.
From the aforementioned, I have to say that the remaining half of the game seems very promising, and I really hope that one day, once I get to play that part, I will be able to give this game a score as high as the first.
So that’s it for my half review. I hope you guys enjoyed reading it, and I’ll see you again next time.