|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gust||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: NIS America||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Mar. 10, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
Admittedly, I never checked out the original PS2 title Mana Khemia: Alchemist of Al-Revis until I started playing this title. I needed to check it out on the original system because I like to compare games, especially when they are ports to other systems and it has only been a year since the release on the PS2. Usually this means that a game has progressed or there are added bonuses for those rushing out to pick up the newer version of the game. However, I recommend halting that rapid trip to the store to pick up this particular title.
Mana Khemia: Student Alliances story revolves mostly around a character named Vayne Aurelius. Vayne lives in the park with his talking cat Sulpher, and he is invited to attend a school of alchemy. Once arriving at the school, he befriends the usual ragtag group of characters in an RPG: Jess - an ambitious alchemist with pink hair, Nikki - an overly excitable cat girl, and the macho man with a giant sword - Flay. You begin things by accepting quests. Since this is in a classroom setting youd think your teachers would dole out assignments, but this isnt the case, as you will be accepting assignments from the front desk and returning to the faculty lounge or front office once your quest is complete.
Student Alliances quests are used to earn credits for the semester. Much like most guild-style RPGs, the quests you go on will have you gathering specific items, killing specific monsters, and even synthesizing items since this is a game about alchemy. When not taking on class required credit quests, you will have the option to do other quests in order to find out more about the characters in the game. Since they also follow the traditional hazy back-story motif of other RPGs, this will be a highlight for some. In fact, I would say this is one of the most compelling aspects of the game along with the sexual innuendos. Mana Khemia: Student Alliance is so full of sexual innuendos that I am really surprised this was rated Everyone 10+. They are almost as bad as the old Disney movies. You know the ones with SEX written in the clouds or Aladdin asking Jasmine to take her clothes off. The main difference is you dont have to pause the game or turn the volume up to hear them; they are blatantly displayed.
The battle system and progression of the characters is were the main troubles with the game begin. While simplistic with the turn-based system in combat, it seems a little pointless to lock the active party members to just three, considering there are only four characters in the game. This means there is almost always a character that is lower on the totem pole as far as the progression goes. Of course, the option of swapping the characters out does help, but most of the time it becomes pointless to even think about doing this unless you are trying to add an effect to an attack or make it more powerful. I do have to point out one good thing about the battles in the game; they are not random, which is good for avoiding unnecessary damage to your party. Even if your party is hurt, you can teleport back to the school for items and various other things to help on your quest, but this also proves problematic, but I will get to that in a moment. In addition to the regular battle system, you and a friend can team up to battle certain monsters as long as they have a copy of the game too. This is a great way to get items that you wont be able to acquire without a friend to help you out.