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Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy: When the Mana Breaks...
Company: NIS America

Unraveling the history behind the Mana Khemia/ Atelier Iris series is a bit like teasing apart the relationship between Final Fantasy Adventure and the Secret of Mana series. Although Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy is the second game in the Mana Khemia series, it is the fifth game in the Atelier Iris series. Okay, so maybe that wasn't as confusing as it sounded in my head and something that, in the long run, doesn't matter to most players - but at least it gave me an intro, so that has to count for something, right?

Mana Khemia 2 takes place fifteen years after the first game. The power of Mana is weakening, causing the once prestigious Al-Revis Academy to come plummeting down to the lower world. The teachers and students are able to get the school up and running, but the lack of alchemists causes the school's reputation to take a hit. In an effort to restore the school's status as a top-flight academy, the new chairman introduces new, non-magical courses like martial arts.

The main narrative follows one of two students, Roze and Ulrika, each with their own storyline. Roze is one of the academy's new, non-alchemist students and, due to a traumatic experience, shows disdain for all things alchemical. Ulrika is the exact opposite. She was given a mana egg as a child and wants to become a powerful alchemist so she can form a pact with the Mana once it hatches. Though the stories will intertwine at certain points, each offers a completely different adventure - so you'll need to play both characters' stories to get the full story.

Mana Khemia 2's structure doesn't deviate too far from the original. Events are still based around a school schedule; after every major story point, you'll go through a week of classes, followed by a "free week" if you get high marks in your classes. During free weeks, you can complete job and character events. These are great for leveling your characters, but also give you an opportunity to build up your relationship with party members, which will allow you to craft better items. As with the first game, item crafting is a major gameplay component. It allows you to create new armor and weapons as well as items that support your character's "Grow Books."

Grow Books are similar to Final Fantasy X's Sphere Grid; characters earn new skills by unlocking slots and distributing Ability Points to the abilities. The system is similar to the one used in the first game, but Mana Khemia 2 adds an additional layer by including Ether Levels. The better crafted an item, the higher its Ether Level (up to 100). If you want to access all of your character's skills, you'll need to spend extra time crafting items.

The newest addition to Fall of Alchemy is the combat system. Though still turn-based, combat is much faster and a little more complicated. During battle, you can swap out characters once a meter fills, offering the opportunity to unleash chain attacks and spread damage among all party members. As you inflict damage, a battle gauge builds up, opening up Unite Mode. Unite attacks are similar to Burst Mode attacks from the first game; they deal critical damage and reduce the amount of time before characters can tag in and out of battle. During Unite Mode you can also pull off co-op attacks or single-player "Finishing Bursts."

NIS America is readying Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy for a Fall release.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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