Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir offers a surprisingly varied and entertaining experience that captures some of the best aspects of the anime in its gameplay.
Games based on licensed properties don't have a great track record when it comes to quality. So it's easy to turn a skeptical eye to a game based on an animated series. However, Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir offers a surprisingly varied and entertaining experience that captures some of the best aspects of the anime in its gameplay. It's not without flaws, and it's fairly short to boot, but if you're a fan of both the Elric brothers and over-the-top transmutations, you'll find lots to like here.
The storyline of FMA2 has its roots in the initial episodes of the cartoon. However, their resolutions have been slightly shifted to feed into an all-new narrative arc. The brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric are once again the stars as they travel the world seeking news of the fabled Philosopher's Stone. On their journey, they continually encounter strange "crimson stones," alchemical amplifiers of great power and mysterious origins. Factor in the appearance of shadowy golems running amok in many a peaceful hamlet, as well as an enigmatic girl speaking in ciphers, and it's enough to get the Elrics interested. They set out to seek answers, backed by their state alchemist allies. There's a whole lot of story crammed into this game, with frequent dialogue-laden cutscenes interspersed into the action levels. It serves as a well-constructed original piece in the Fullmetal Alchemist world, and the gameplay is a similar fit.
Ed and Al are alchemists, so they're capable of transmuting objects into whatever they wish, provided the required elements are available. You'll control Ed, the older brother, whose metal "automail" arm and leg have earned him the name "Fullmetal Alchemist." Ed can fight unarmed with his fists and feet, combining strikes for additional damage, as well as turn his metal arm into a blade or summon earth spikes from the ground. Defensively, he can block, counterattack, or transmute a stone block to hide behind. His real strength is his alchemy, which he can use to transmute weapons. At any time, Ed can transmute a sword, a lance, or a hammer into his hands by simply clapping them together and yanking the weapon from the earth. And each of these has its own use. For example, the sword is great for quickly slashing at fast enemies, the long lance is useful in crowds, and the powerful hammer cannot be blocked, so it's perfect for smashing foes that try to turtle on you. Each of these weapons is situational enough that you'll find yourself quickly switching it on the fly to suit the enemies around you as you chain together powerful combo moves and dodge attacks. The only real pain about controlling Ed is his jump, which has a slight control delay on it and feels sluggish compared to all the fast-paced attacks and other goodies Ed can pull off.
Those goodies are found in the environment. Scattered around the various levels you'll see items outlined with a flashing circle. These items can be transmuted into specific tools, and an icon above the item shows what tool it'll turn into. The type of tool varies by room, but there's everything from bow-guns, to machine gun turrets, to gauntlets, to boomerangs, to vacuums (which gather up nearby enemies), to trash can lids that stun foes, to giant tanks you can use to both shoot and roll over enemies, to mechanical mice that explode, to throwable bombs, and much more. There are weapons you can pick up and equip; there are stationary items; there are weapons you can man and aim manually; and there are items like the tank, which you can actually roll around with. Piled on top of all the other things you can do in combat, these tools are really handy and are often very useful. And some of them are just plain amusing to use. The variety of articles you can transmute is very true to the spirit of the show, and it mixes up the action nicely.