Mana Khemia: Student Alliance ReviewAaron Caldwell
Nippon Ichi Software has developed or at least produced several of my favorite games of the past ten years. From Disgaea to Prinny and Cross Edge, NIS has never failed me. That is until now. You see for years Gust Corporation would make great games such as Atelier Iris and Mana Khemia, and NIS would localize them to America. This has worked very well for the two. However, Mana Khemia was a game made for the ps2 and as such does not port well to the PSP. In the following I will dissect what went wrong.
The previous paragraph would give you the idea that I thought this game rubbish. However, it is just the opposite. I absolutely love this game. The flaw that is too big to look the other way is the loading times. The game is pretty much run from a menu. When you are on the map of the campus and you want to choose where to go. "OH GOD!! IT'S A LOADING SCREEN!! Didn't I have one of those just six seconds ago... Oh lord... it's still going?" Familiarize yourself with that phrase as you will be repeating it often. Now let us talk about the game, shall we?
The game is a continuation of the Atelier Iris series, if you have never played go get it now, which has to do with the world of Alchemy. This is not alchemy such as seen in Full-metal Alchemist where you just slap your hands together and there you go. No, this game is very tedious in how you do alchemy. You not only have to locate items that you need to make certain items, but you also have to find the scroll that holds the recipe. You could have every item you need to make the most awesome sword of smiting, but if no scroll no go. I really loved this about the game. It gave you reason to go out exploring and entering into battles, which you really don't have to as all leveling is done through a chart (ala Final Fantasy XII).
However, the coolest thing in the game is the fact that you are a student. I know you are saying "What? I don't want nothin' 'bout no book learnin'." Well, calm down. It is just the main setting of the game. You play a student at the school of alchemy, who is extremely adept at alchemy. The only problem is he didn't even know it existed until a couple days before joining the school. That's all I am going to say about that as anymore would really spoil it for you. The story is quite engrossing. The school system is split up into terms where you have to get a certain amount of stars. It has this cool little grading feature, which by the way you really can't fail. You choose the class you want to take and attend. This is where you will get your missions. How well you do on your mission decides what grade you get and by extension how many stars you get (A=4 B=3 and so on) You only get two classes a week, so you will want to do your best, because if you get over the amount of stars you need it goes towards the next term thereby building up free time to just have fun. However, if you don't get enough stars you get detention. Detention is just an extra class where you make up your mistakes. I thought this made mess-ups forgivable without being TOO forgiving.
While the story is not epic by any measure, It does the best it can with the setting it is given. Where this game shines is in the graphics. I love a game that is hand drawn. Legend of Mana was one of the peaks of my gaming life. The graphics here are wonderful. Hand drawn graphics tend to add vibrancy to a game whether dark in nature or not. With all this being said, the shortcomings of this port outweigh the good portions by a tremendous margin. The loading times are horrendous and if you don't appreciate the alchemy part of the game it will get old very fast. If you want to play this game I would say bypass the PSP port and go straight for the ps2 version as it has better load times. While the game is great, I would not recommend this port.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.