Following closely in the footsteps of its predecessor Atelier Iris, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis refines the item synthesis process into the leveling scheme, completely abandoning traditional experience gained systems. Light-hearted and quirky, this game never delves into serious themes which could have led to its downfall. Instead it relies upon tongue-in-cheek visuals and over-the-top voice acting to cover the meager graphics and story. Hidden beneath this fluff is a seriously fun combat system and even more addictive item synthesis that should have RPG fans clamoring for a look.
A lonely orphan by the name of Vayne is offered the chance of a lifetime by gaining admittance to the famed Al-Revis academy. Navigating from class to class, Vayne must complete assignments with his colorful lab-mates before time runs out or suffer poor marks and be subjected to harder remedial assignments. Along the way he gains more allies and friends as he delves deeper into his own past.
The crux of the game centers on the item synthesis. Instead of the traditional experience leveling scheme, you are powered up by the items that you equip and which are only made through alchemic means. By either gathering recipes or enough materials to muck with different combinations of items, further power enhancing item slots are opened up within your personal Grow Book. Rather than troublesome to negotiate, the Grow Book and item synthesis are addictive and fun to use, constantly generating powerful items and unlocking even more powerful attacks. Al-Revis serves as the basic hub of the game as you radiate outward completing assignments for different classes, most require going into new dungeons to collect recipes or ingredients to synthesize new and interesting items and upgrades. At the end of the day you always end up in your groups’ lab, turning in assignments or picking up odd jobs to gain additional materials. Having the layout this way almost made the game smaller than it actually was, as you are given a way to warp back any time, and if you are defeated within a dungeon you just end up in the campus infirmary with no consequences.
In the dungeons, you gather alchemy materials from the zone or from visible, avoidable enemies. Once in combat with a monster, the game switches to a standard turn-based system with fighting order visible in the top left. By consecutively attacking the same monster it is possible to knock them back in the order, giving a little bit of strategy to how you proceed. Mid-way through the game you are given extra team members who may be switched in for dying members or to execute a person specific combination to annihilate the enemies. This addition adds to the already easy (though fun) combat and makes the fighting virtually impossible to lose, unless it is night. Given a timer that has no relation to the world timer each dungeon goes through a day/night cycle where the night routine becomes significantly more difficult. While a nice idea, your assignment schedule has nothing to do with days or night, making nights simply an annoyance you can avoid by standing in one place until the day returns.
The graphics are based on two-dimensional Sprites that are colorful and vibrant but don’t achieve the retro feel that they are going for. Music is cute at first but quickly wears out its welcome, especially returning to the academy night after night. Voice acting is superb, and is aptly suited to the almost non-sensical plot and dialog.
Mana Khemia is not going to win any awards, but it does accomplish maintaining a fun experience without become too serious or too hard, making it a good offing for most RPGers new or old.