Mana Khemia Review - The Next Level

Game Profile

PlayStation 2
Release date:
March 31, 2008
Nippon Ichi

Mana Khemia

The latest alchemy RPG to hit our shores makes the grade.

Review by Andrew Calvin (Email)
April 2nd 2008

For some reason, I can't get enough of the fictional Japanese school experience: quirky festivals, bizarre relationships, goofy characters, and plenty of supernatural elements. Persona 3 used this to great--albeit perverse--effect, and so have many other manga, anime, and video games. Mana Khemia employs a more PG approach, taking the alchemy aspect from previously successful games in the series, such as Atelier Iris, and offering up a new academy-based adventure that sports faster and more exciting turn-based combat, but does little else to tinker with an already successful formula.

Mana Khemia offers plenty of humor, great looking 2D graphics, solid music, and a combat system that makes the turn-based approach a little more hands on.

His memory gone, prototypical hero Vayne joins Al-Revis Academy along with his skill-enabling mana Sulpher. There he joins Nikki the feisty cat girl, Pamela the teddy-bear wielding ghost, Anna the katana-wielding hothead, Roxis the snobbish perfectionist who harbors undying hatred for Vayne, Jess the shy teammate who is always blowing things up, and Flay, the brazen leader who's always sneaking up on everyone and getting them in to trouble. Though RPG fans have undoubtedly seen these character types before, it makes them no less interesting. Honestly, there is very little not to like about Mana Khemia. It doesn't break a lot of new ground in the genre, but it brings together the various elements-- combat, growth, alchemy, and story--really well. Though game progression is rather strict, in that you have weekly schedules composed of courses, exams, free time, and other events, there's still room to customize the experience and focus on the things you find interesting.

Earning top grades and passing each term are the main goals of Mana Khemia. The difficulty in earning those grades depends on the task. Sometimes you will have a brief amount of time to retrieve items, beat an enemy, or synthesize an item. Other times you will be freer to roam the campus or wilderness to farm for items or enhance characters. Free Time can be used for this, or it can be used to take on side jobs for money. It also lets you participate in character-specific events that are often funny and revealing about each character.

At school there's plenty to see and do. You can visit various areas to stock up on synthesis items, or hit the gossip shop to spread rumors and earn various party bonuses such as Fighter (Everyone's attack + 15). You can also assign party members to search the areas you have visited previously; they will report back with items found at each location. You can also head off campus where the bulk of the exploration takes place. Because time progresses from day to night, enemies will become much more difficult as evening sets in.

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