Full Metal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy
Reviewed June 2007 by Edwin Kee
Release Date: December, 2006
Genre: Action Role-Playing
I, for one, have not watched Full Metal Alchemist TV or movie titles prior to picking up this game. I certainly hope that all you anime lovers won't crucify me for this obvious oversight, as I thought this game review would be starkly different, offering a fresh perspective on a game based on a 51-episode anime. What is this game actually about? It’s about beat 'em up at the heart of things, although you don't necessarily depend on your limbs at all times to deal damage.
To kick things off, Full Metal Alchemist follows the story of Ed and Al who tried to bring their dead mother back to life by delving into alchemy, but unfortunately their attempt went awry as Al lost his physical body in the process, with Ed sacrificing his arm to bring his brother's soul back into a metal body. The game takes off as both brothers attempt to find a way to bring their mother back no matter what the price is. Sounds like a pretty touching story, eh?
Gameplay is pretty simple – you progress through scenario after scenario, where the beginning is always punctuated by a pretty long cutscene complete with artwork from the anime series itself. Certain crucial parts of the cutscenes are peppered with voice acting, although the quality isn't Oscar material, it is enough to get the story flowing.
In the story mode, you play the character of Ed all the way, with Al acting as your backup when it comes to beating baddies up. Of course, should the situation get overwhelming, you can always use the power of alchemy to summon a wall (defense) or bring out a cannon (offense) that packs more than a decent punch to obliterate the competition. Touchscreen use is minimized in this game, as you will probably find accessing both weapons much easier using either thumb instead of the stylus. On occasion, you will need to open up doors and portals by tracing a rune, something even a 5-year old can do.
Once you have completed the story mode in Normal mode, you will unlock the Hard mode. You can then play through the game with more baddies thrown toward your way, or try out the Character mode where a character any other than Ed is available. This mode also does away with all the cutscenes (a relief that most of us will find) as well as the majority of minigames.
Speaking of minigames, these pop up along the course of the game, but they aren't engaging to say the least. New Super Mario Bros' set of minigames is still the standard to uphold to. In fact, these minigames were created just to fill up more space on the cart and they end up being a less than exciting touch-based minigame set. The only one that has a semblance of a sense of imagination is the arm wrestling game, but you had better plaster a screen protector on before going at it with full force. Still that’s cool to play!
The enemy AI isn't much to shout about, and you ought to be able to breeze through all the levels after finding out the pattern of each individual. The bosses are a little bit trickier though, as they require some smarts instead of plain old button mashing. Often, a window of opportunity opens up where you can then deal the killing blow, but I'll leave that to you to figure out. The game itself isn't that challenging, as you ought to be able to breeze through the normal mode in three hours or so.
As with any fighting type of games, the controls inside Full Metal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy are quite solid and precise, a must-have for a good fight game. Your character goes wherever you direct him to go, and the alchemy powers are summoned at even the slightest touch with either thumb. Don't bother taking the stylus out though as the action will be far too furious to be of any use. As mentioned, the touchscreen capability does not deserve an honorable mention since it felt more tacked on than anything else. In fact, the minigames that utilize the touchscreen don’t add much to the game playability and value as whole.
The graphics in Full Metal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy isn’t revolutionary, but they sure get the job done when it comes to conveying the spirit of a cartoon. Unfortunately, I believe that the graphics displayed here can be reproduced on the GBA as well, but I guess most of the space on the cart has been taken up for the video and audio segments. It would have been nice to see a wider variety of enemies grace the screen instead of the same old goons over and over again.
Sound in the game is rudimentary, with the obvious sound effects thrown in for good measure. The use of voice acting in the cutscenes will sound familiar to the series fans but won’t do much for the strangers of the TV show. The soundtrack is decent but not catchy enough to ring in your ears after you are done with the game.
Full Metal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy is a pretty ordinary beat 'em up game dressed in an anime suit, as it no doubt wants to please the fans of the popular TV show and movie. Gamers who aren’t familiar with the series might find the story a bit difficult the follow. But the game is interesting enough to make you want to pick up all 51 episodes of the anime to watch the entire story. Fans might not appreciate the way the story flows, with the game ending all too soon and giving you a sense of underachievement. This title looks more of a rental than anything else, but it is a good introduction to those who have not yet seen the anime.
- Saving only occurs at the end of each episode, so make sure you have enough time to sit through one episode's worth of gameplay lest you waste your time turning off the DS.
- Unlock the Sound Library voices by completing the Character mode.
- Gallery images can be unlocked by completing the indicated task in the corresponding picture.