TGS 2003Full Metal Alchemist Impressions

We check out Square Enix's upcoming action RPG for the PlayStation 2.


Full Metal Alchemist is one of the most surprisingly promising games on display at Square Enix's Tokyo Game Show booth. The action RPG, which is based on a popular Japanese comic, lets you play as Edward Elric, a budding alchemist who has had a run of bad luck that has left him with a mechanical arm and his brother Alphonse with a total mechanical makeover. Unable to sort the mess out by himself, Edward sets out to look for the philosopher's stone, which should help him set everything right. The demo version of the game in Square Enix's TGS booth offered a sample of what expect from the unusual game.

The third-person game is an action RPG that features some unique gameplay elements. You take direct control of Edward, but you also have the ability issue orders to Alphonse, who's along for the ride. Using the two brothers together is important to progress through the game's various levels.

The demo we played started out on a train and introduced us to the main characters. Following a combination of real-time cutscenes as well as animated sequences provided by the staff behind the upcomng Japanese animated cartoon, we were finally able to take control of Edward. The controls in the game seemed pretty accessible. The game lets you run, jump, and attack with your staff, as well as issue commands to Alphonse when he's around. As you defeat enemies, you'll earn experience and eventually gain additional experience levels, which enhance Edward's abilities.

The graphics in the game looked quite good and retained the look of the comic and animated series. Edward and Alphonse were the best-looking members of the cast, robotic elements notwithstanding. Of the two, Edward looked a bit better, thanks to a flowing cloak and a bit more animation, though the Alphonse doesn't seem to have as much animation simply because he isn't as spry as his mostly-flesh-and-blood brother is. The enemies in the game looked fine, albeit a bit bland. The environments we saw looked good. The train area was broken up into indoor and outdoor sequences that all looked solid enough. The game's frame rate seemed smooth and worked well with the animation.

Full Metal Alchemist is looking pretty good and should please Japanese fans of the series when it ships this fall. The action RPG elements feel right and the gameplay seems solid. However, given the game's strong association with a comic series that most Americans haven't seen, the game's chances for a stateside release don't seem especially good. Square Enix has made no mention of a US version.

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