REVIEW: MANA KHEMIA: STUDENT ALLIANCEMarch 28, 2009 at 5:54 AM | Posted in Games, PSP Games | Leave a comment
In Gust’s catalog of RPGs that surround bland heroes with numerous love interests, Mana Khemia might be the least troubling. It’s very much in line with the Atelier Iris series, and Mana Khemia aims to stand
on its own not so much by daring innovations, but by setting itself at a magical academy instead of a fantasy kingdom or a far-off world of floating continents. It’s a promising mix of ideas that may impress fans of laid-back RPGs, but not if they try its PSP port, known as Mana Khemia: Student Alliance.
In the game’s mercifully brief introduction, a shy bumpkin named Vayne Aurelius is called to join the Al-Revis Academy, a turn of events that may have something to do with his talking pet cat and his famous alchemist father. Vayne makes friends with pink-haired classmate Jessica Philomele almost instantly, and the two are drafted by a gung-ho upperclassman to form an alchemy team with a rambunctious beast-girl. Mana Khemia then rides through a conventional array of plot devices and metaphysical RPG jabbering, made slightly more plausible than usual by the fact that magic and alchemy are propped up as world-defining concepts from the start. The game’s lineup of characters runs down today’s most popular otaku-aimed archetypes, including even a ghost girl who likes stuffed animals, but it all lands closer to some anime-filtered Harry Potter than the fetish-driven depths of Negima or The Familiar of Zero.
Mana Khemia makes decent use of its school setting, as Vayne and his comrades routinely get class assignments that send them on item hunts in forests and dungeons outside of the academy. Enemies are visible and easily avoided, and the battle system incorporates a lot of elements from Atelier Iris: special moves, character-boosting, and sidelined party members who support the main fighters. The visuals are the usual Gust hodgepodge of large, stiff sprites and static backgrounds, and the soundtrack slaps together all the guitar hooks and forgettable background numbers you’d expect from a currently airing anime series about an alchemist school. At least the voice acting is clear and competent, though Flay sounds even more fake than the writers intended.
Alchemy takes center stage, as most of the academy’s assignments involve synthesizing items or equipment, and getting the best results is a matter of spinning an alchemy circle and choosing the right partner. The game soon settles into a rhythm: go to classes, chase down ingredients, fight mostly pushover monsters, make new gear, and then uncover a plot thread or two. Like other Gust titles, the story rapidly goes from breezy to tragic, and the ending varies depending on which supporting character likes Vayne the best.
Sounds like it has potential, huh? Well, it’s never realized in the PSP version of Mana Khemia, because the game is amazingly sluggish, with some of the most insufferable loading I’ve ever seen in an RPG. The game pauses and loads extensively before every battle. It loads before any conversation that shows artwork of the characters. It loads before bringing up a status screen, and it has the gall to load as you move the cursor around that status screen. There’s a “Jump Start” feature that rips the UMD to your system’s memory, but it trims only some of the load times, and it’s inexcusable that players (some of whom might not have enough memory space) should have to do this if they want an acceptably playable game.
As small compensation for the loading, the PSP version of Mana Khemia gets a team-up mode that lets two players fight in battles together, but it too is plagued by the access times. It hardly makes this port a prettier option than buying the PlayStation 2 game. And that’s what anyone interested in Mana Khemia should do: hunt it down for the PS2. Like most NIS America releases, the original Mana Khemia: Alchemist of Al-Revis is now out of print, but it’s better to spend time scouring GameStops or to pay a little extra on eBay than to settle for a slow, inferior version of the game. Mana Khemia is worth trying if you like your RPGs easy and cute.
Here’s The Download Link!!!:
Mana Khemia USA