Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel E3 2004 Hands-On Impressions

We try out an English version of Square Enix's upcoming action RPG based on the popular anime.

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Square Enix's Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel is a new action RPG based on a manga and anime series of the same name. The storyline focuses on two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who attempt to revive their dead mother with forbidden, arcane rites. Something goes awry, though (something always does), and the boys pay a terrible price. Alphonse loses his entire body, and Edward loses his left leg and right arm in an attempt to save his brother's soul. Thankfully, Edward gets replacement limbs and Alphonse binds his soul to a hulking suit of armor. The pair then sets out to find the Philosopher's Stone, the one magical item that can restore their bodies. The game's storyline is built on this setup, but it is totally original and will be set between episodes nine and 10 of the third manga.

The gameplay fundamentals of Fullmetal Alchemist are pretty familiar for any action RPG fan. You'll play as Edward, and you've got a basic sword attack that you can string into combos; you can also jump and so on. Sound typical? Perhaps, until you factor in the game's totally weird alchemy system. Edward can use his alchemical powers to transmute just about any freestanding object in the environment into a completely different--and more-functional--item. You never know if a tree will turn into a big sword or if a bench will turn into a machine gun turret. We even turned a mailbox into a pogo stick and hopped high over our enemies' heads. This alchemy system really turns the game into a wacky playground, since you run around transmuting everything you can find to see what comes of it. We were told that the game will have about 50 objects that can be transmuted, so there ought to be a lot to play with.

Alphonse will be fighting alongside you as well, and you can give him basic commands to guard you, attack enemies, and so on. Some of the transmuted items you find will actually be usable by Alphonse instead of Edward. Additionally, you can call Al over to pick up whatever new toy you've made for him. Edward and Alphonse have separate life meters, and both will gain experience and level up independently. Furthermore, you'll have to keep an eye on Al's life meter, and you must heal him with items, when necessary, to keep him alive.

The game has a whimsical graphical style that, from what we saw, evokes the anime series pretty well. In addition to the existing character base, Fullmetal Alchemist artist Hiromu Arakawa has designed several new characters specifically for the game. Bones, the animation studio that creates the anime series, has also done about 30 minutes of original animation just for the game (which you'll see as cutscenes interspersed throughout it).

So far, it looks like Fullmetal Alchemist is shaping up quite nicely. The game is a big hit in Japan, and the team is hoping that American fans (especially those of anime and manga) will respond similarly. The game is undergoing some slight balancing changes to make it more challenging, but it should otherwise arrive intact when it hits stores later this year. Look for more on Fullmetal Alchemist and the Broken Angel soon.

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