Mana Khemia Hands-On

We head back to school to check out Nippon Ichi's upcoming academic role-playing game.

When most people think of school, yawn-inducing lectures, nightmares about tests, and unpleasant memories of homework come to mind. But what if your lectures were all field trips to exotic locations, your tests battles against unnatural creatures, and your homework alchemic fusions? Wouldn't that be more exciting?

The campus is large with plenty of places to explore.

For Vayne Aurelius, a freshman at the Al-Revis Academy of Alchemy, such a world is his reality. The young amnesiac lived in solitude with his Mana (a companion spirit of sort), Sulpher, until he was unexpectedly visited by a professor at the academy who invited him to study the ways of alchemy. After he arrives on campus and completes orientation, he makes quick friends with his classmate Jess. The two of them set out to explore the school together, but along the way, they're roped into an alchemy workshop group with the beast-girl Nikki by the wonderfully insane upperclassman Flay, who speaks in an exaggerated, superhero-like tone. He also refers to his workshop as "The Flay Cave" and conveniently leaves you to do his work because he's got other things to do.

Mana Khemia is, as publisher Nippon Ichi describes, an academic RPG. Besides all the usual RPG-style combat, there's a huge school campus simulation portion to experience. As such, it more resembles a game like Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 than one of the Atelier Iris games of which Mana Khemia seems to be a successor. Every week, you will enroll in a class of your choice, and that class will give you an assignment to complete.

The two classes we experienced were Basic Synthesis and Combat Basics. Basic Synthesis had us hunt down and find three items to mix together using alchemy. Combat Basics sent us out of the academy to fight a Platinum Puni boss and taught us how to upgrade items in the Athanor Room. Some classes are required, but all will award you a letter grade depending on your degree of success and the length of time that it takes you to complete a class. If you don't do well in your classes, you'll have to take more difficult makeup courses to continue your studies, but if you pass with no hiccups, you'll have more free time to pursue your own projects.

Be sure to strike first to get the drop on monsters.

As the title and setting suggest, alchemy plays a huge role in Mana Khemia. Throughout the game, you'll find or purchase ingredients that you blend together with a bit of magic in your workshop cauldron to create new items. But making items isn't entirely free-form because you have to first find the recipe before you can get started on it. Once you've assembled everything you need and are ready to begin, you can choose to either enlist the help of a party member who will add his or her own unique talents to the mix or pick positive (or negative) effects from a spinning roulette wheel. Either way, you've just created a new item!

When exploring locations outside the academy for items or assignments, it's only inevitable that you'll encounter monsters. On the map, they appear as amorphous blobs that roam around randomly, and combat begins either on contact with them or when you initiate it with an attack. Battles are turn-based affairs that feature a timeline with enemy and ally turns mapped out. Attacks and item uses are performed instantly, but spells or special attacks are scheduled in the future. In Mana Khemia, you don't actually earn experience points from combat that you use to gain levels but, rather, ability points that you spend upgrading your character's stats by purchasing enhancements on the various items you craft.

Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis is scheduled to come out later this month on March 31. Check back later on for our review of this unique school sim-slash-RPG.

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Discussion

41 comments
GunBladeHero
GunBladeHero

Nippon Ichi doesn't need a great graphics because their games simply rocks!!!

solidusScott
solidusScott

PS2 still has a little bit of gas (if your a rpg fan) left in the tank. I'm getting this later today.

yentar480
yentar480

Well worth the purchase. I reserved it at gamestop and it came with a collectors box, soundtrack and strategy guide...for 40 bucks!!

Cantius
Cantius

It's out now. I need it....>_>

Slash_out
Slash_out

Atelier irs 1 is the first "old school RPG" I played. And I loved it, I am totally hooked now. Please, keep them coming xD.

Thorntik
Thorntik

I will buy these games until the end of time!!! Completely under appreciated by most, and I feel they are truly some of the best 2D RPGs. Eagerly awaiting this one's release!!!

lew_0911
lew_0911

This should be interesting - though I'm still playing Atelier Iris 3 right now so I guess I'll have to wait some time before that alchemy craving comes back again.

Zeus-Guy
Zeus-Guy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Zeus-Guy
Zeus-Guy

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Jo-Que
Jo-Que

it doesn't mater if it turns out to be crap ^^ everything nippon ichi does must be bought >=D now just get disgaea 3 over to the ps2!

Steakface
Steakface

An automatic must-have! I cant get enough of these types of games and it looks like this one will be loaded with charm. I cant wait!

Mobel
Mobel

Another great RPG that i am really waiting like crazy to get.I always like the Atelier Iris series so i am really happy they are making a sequel:D

CasinoOutlaw247
CasinoOutlaw247

Looks like Nippon Ichi has done it again! and don't listen to all the haters your graphics are part of the charm and should NOT be changed! I'll be checking this one out as soon as it is released.

rejaay
rejaay

the lesser effort they put on the art the design, the more stuff they can add in. In my opinion, the longer the game the better. I cant wait for this game though, my expectations are remarkably high for it. DONT FAIL ME!!

glitchgeeman
glitchgeeman

Nice idea, but please Nippon Ichi, update your graphics! Don't get me wrong, I love the 2D sprites, but could you at least make them even more detailed and colorful? I mean look at Disgaea 3, it barely looks better than this and it's on the PS3. I love Nippon Ichi's storywriting and artistic design, but it kills me when they can't even keep up with the current technology.

_AbBaNdOn
_AbBaNdOn

I love NIS graphics but this game is getting two big fat thumbs down from me for interest. Atelier Iris didnt have the depth of Disgaea and when you mix that with the lame combat you get boring average crap games that you dont need to waste your time on.

danwarecritic
danwarecritic

This will be my first game from NIS. I hope it's good.

CloudXentar
CloudXentar

I love Nippon Ichi's 2d cute anime games. Loved all their other series and this one looks like a must have. Love the story of a student, character designs and battle system looks like a little remade version of Atelier Iris 3. This RPG is must.

bill-ra
bill-ra

I'll buy it . 2D or not , Nippon Ichi makes some great games . I have all of there stateside releases .

daizengar23
daizengar23

Cool 2D sprites never die.. I'm gonna get this. The gameplay and battle music is great!

kid_ranqe
kid_ranqe

I don't think I will be getting this game

jaykho213
jaykho213

@am1damaru - Sorry dude.. But it's not all about the graphics.. Japanese loves anime.. Oh! so your saying the other new RPG game in april Persona 3 FES is a 2D game? LOL

Shadow_Fire41
Shadow_Fire41

i like Atelier Iris and Persona but liked Persona more, this sounds good as ive been tracking it for a few months.

DinoKing
DinoKing

I Love NIS/Koei Games and I love the Atelier Iris series to. Now I just have to wait for Koei to bring it to Europe.

go-cizmek
go-cizmek

Doesn't look too good for a game. But since it's for the PS2 I might change my mind.

am1damaru
am1damaru

Did all creators of games for PS2 forget about what this console can generate? Now all new RPG are in 2D, what the hell? I don't say that's bad but it's like laughing from players ,,Ha ha PS2 can't display more" -_-'

jaykho213
jaykho213

I heard the battle gameplay is pretty awesome..

zenkax3
zenkax3

this game on sale or not?

Geistemeister
Geistemeister

Good for Nippon Ichi! Play PS2 - forget new-gen!

abuabed
abuabed

I'll be getting this game for sure, always loved NIS rpg's and will always do.

wjc04c
wjc04c

I'm getting my new PS2 games while I can; got this pre-ordered. looks nice.

k2sgamer
k2sgamer

I hope this really ends up better than the third enstallment

mxpowar
mxpowar

I'm glad they ditched the time-based dungeons from Atelier Iris 3; that was very annoying.