Ryu’s Musings – Mana Khemia: Student Alliance (PS Vita)

Posted on May 4th, 2013 by Ryu Sheng |

Mana Khemia Student Alliance LS

Deep in a quiet forest was a house where a boy and a black cat, known as a Mana, lived. The boy had no relatives, and the cat was his only friend, as close to family he had. The two had lived quietly together. But their quiet life ended with a sudden visit from an outsider. The man who came said he was a teacher at Al-Revis Academy, a school that taught alchemy. That was the beginning to his life with his friends at Al-Revis… and his introduction to Alchemy.

  • Mana Khemia takes place in a campus setting where players can participate in academic courses
  • Battles that resemble fast paced fighting games
  • Everything you find in the field is used to craft items with alchemy
  • Anime-style dating simulation combined with classic RPG
  • Over 20 main dungeons, 150 ways to customise character growth, and 34 different alchemic lectures to attend

Like with my Atelier Totori post i have to say that I’ve not finished this game. In fact I’ve just finished a 9 and a half hour session on it, and I’ve only just left the tutorial. However i feel I’ve played it enough to post my thoughts on the game, it’s problems, and it’s great bits.

I picked this up on the PSN Store for £7.99 and frankly I’m loving it, in some ways more than i am Final fantasy 7 which i also picked up.

This game is a port of a port, it started off on the PS2 originally, was ported over to the PSP and released on UMD, before finally being added to the PSN Store as a digital download for the Vita and PSP.

I’ve not played any of the series before, however it is by the same company that makes the Atelier series, and playing it i noticed a lot of similarities to Totori. The PSP port, apparently, was terrible, with long loading times being the biggest problem. These have thankfully being fixed by the digital release, and so far the loading times are negligible. We do get a few longer ones now and again, such as at launch and a few other occasions, but those are few and far between, and thus easy to forgive.

What isn’t so easy to forgive though is the terrible job done on the graphics of the game. The art assets are rendered in very low resolution, making them look blurry and fuzzy. This is also sadly true for the text, making it hard at times to read what’s being said. However it’s never unreadable, just annoying.

When your wandering around the school and surrounding areas the low quality of the assets are clearly visible. Frankly they look more like PS1 generation graphics rather than PS2.

art

As you can see above the art assets are horrific, look at the two things in the fore ground, so blurry and fuzzy as to be indistinguishable, as is the rest of the stuff. However the characters themselves are rendered pretty well and are easily identified and set apart. This carries over into the combat animations, which are all pretty high quality. Which to me says they did a crappy job on the port. While I’ve never played the original PS2 version of the game, i doubt they were this bad, or at least i hope so.

The game is essentially split into two elements, campus life and exploration. Your campus life is well, life at school. Building relationships, attending class, and learning alchemy. Your given tasks to do and set time frames to do it within, which is very much like the Atelier series. Even the synthesising system is a carbon copy of the atelier system

synth

There are enough differences to set it apart and make the system fun and different. yet it’s similar enough for you to pick up easily.

This is great since levelling up is tied to your synthesising. You can spend hours in the various dungeons racking up loads of AP (the EXP of the game), but it’s useless without investing time into the synth side of things. Since to level up you have to have synthesised certain things. Once you make them they have 1-3 attributes that you can spend your AP on, thus improving your character.

The way the system is tied together is pretty solid, neither aspect of the game can succeed without the other.

The combat, is again much like the Atelier series. You run around the map and you encounter blobs. If the blobs are blue there’s a chance you’ll beat them without actually fighting them. If they’re read, you hit your button when your close by them and if you hit them first you get the initiative in the combat. Unlike Atelier i found it rather easy to almost always get the initiative, which you do need since once you get into certain areas of the game those first hits can be crucial.

combat

The combat is again taken from Atelier, and pretty much every other J-RPG I’ve played. It’s flashy, fun and satisfying. Everything combat should be. also highly frustrating when you lose or get the floor wiped with your face, which does happen frequently. Even then, i didn’t mind losing because it was so much fun and comical to lose.

Like the Atelier Totori game this was done by NIS America, but unlike that game this one has an english dub, which at times is cringe worthy. Flay’s voice makes me want to throw my vita out the window it’s so bad. Yet as bad as his VA is, others in the game are great.

I do find myself wondering if NIS rewrote the script, since i found a lot of stuff coming out I’ve never heard in any J-RPG and certainly never in any anime. While I’m not a total fanatic about this, and admit i have enjoyed the game, part of me does wish they’d gone a more pure route.

What this game has that makes up for it’s flaws, is one killer story. After nine hours of game time I’m still getting the basics of the story down. Yet what’s been revealed so far is amazing, it makes your question whose the good guy and whose the bad guy. There’s loads of little twists already, and your left questioning who your character (Vayne) really is. The story draws you in and makes you care for a lot of the characters, however i do find Flay’s VA so annoying i can’t like him. Thankfully the game isn’t fully voiced, so you can get around them easily enough.

The question is though, is it worth buying? Honestly, in my opinion hell yes. On a time basis alone the fact I’ve played the game for over nine hours already makes it well worth the investment. Since I’m likely to keep playing it to completion it’s going to be well worth the small £7.99 investment in the game.

It’s a great time sink i think, and also a great way to get into the Atelier series if you’re wondering about investing the £35 needed for those games. Just always bear in mind the low quality graphics the game has.

Frankly, this game to me is a prime example of my earlier post, that flash graphics just aren’t need to make a game good, just a great story and great music.

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