Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (US Review) (Nintendo DS) Review

By Phil Beveridge 27.01.2007

Wouldn't it be great to be an alchemist? For example, you could take a piece of lead and turn it into gold just by changing the structure of the compound. But if it's such a complicated and exact science, then why is there a kid named Ed Elric going round trying to bring back people from the dead using it? And why is his brother just an empty suit of armour who can talk? Anime creators will think of anything these days... but if it's popular, why not make a game out of it?

Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy follows the story of Ed and Al Elric, two alchemists who search for a way to transform their bodies back to normal after an 'accident', which involved trying to bring their dead mother back to life. The only thing that can restore Al's human body (at the minute, he's just a soul in an empty suit of armour), as well as Ed's lost arm and leg, is to find the legendary Philosopher's Stone, the holy grail of alchemy, enabling them to turn any object into anything else without the need for equivalent exchange, and even bringing people back from the grave.

The game itself is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, based upon the events throughout the 51 episodes of the popular Fullmetal Alchemist anime series. It follows the same standard conventions of any other game in this genre, with extra attacks based on the abilities of the characters. Pressing a button on the touch screen lets you use alchemy to transmute (create) objects such as cannons to attack the enemy, or a stone wall to defend yourself. In addition, you pick up all the abilities of people you meet along the way during the main story mode, giving you a wide range of attacks and abilities. But you'll probably just find yourself button-mashing most of it anyway, seeing as it is a generic fighting game. What makes a good fighting game is if it pushes the boundaries of what is already there, but this doesn't even begin to do that.

Screenshot for Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (US Review) on Nintendo DS

The first thing that needs to be mentioned is the actual story, and it's something that bugged me every single minute I spent playing this game. As I've said, the game spans 51 episodes of the series, which is about 20 hours non-stop if you were watching it, yet you can complete the main story mode in about a 4-hour sitting. The story is very choppy, often skipping and summarising multiple episode story arcs in a few lines of text. Unfortunately, that means unless you're a fan of the anime and you already know the plotline, you'll be left thinking "Why am I here?", or finding Ed being friends with a complete stranger, and you don't know who he is because he was introduced in the part of the storyline that was missed out. Most of the time you'll be playing this game, you'll be lost, bewildered, and confused if you don't know the entire series off by heart. Maybe this would have been better as more of a side-story to the main series plot, much like the FMA movie, 'The Conqueror of Shamballa', rather than try to shove everything onto one cartridge.

Screenshot for Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (US Review) on Nintendo DS

And even though the story is very choppy and confusing, they've made that the bulk of the game. They seem to have just picked out the most action-packed parts of the series, but you'll still find just as much dialogue and plot summaries as there is action sequences, if not more, and you'll find yourself tapping away through dozens of pages of dialogue just so you can get to the actual game. Still, the in-between bits aren't all bad, with character dialogue and pictures being taken straight from the anime on the top screen during the dialogue bits, and some video-like animation at times. A nice touch would have been to include some actual video into the game itself, seeing as it's already there to use... but I guess they didn't think of that. So, you'll be button-mashing to get through the story, and button-mashing to get through the action. This game could get real boring real fast.

The fighting sections are half-decent, but like I said before, it doesn't really add anything new to the genre, with the classic 'kill all enemies on screen, then move to the next area' format still being perfectly intact. The extra abilities are there if you want to use them, but half the time you won't need them, and button-mashing will probably do the job better anyway. The graphics are the best thing in this game - that doesn't necessarily mean that they're great, just better than the other aspects. FMA: Dual Sympathy uses some good-looking 2D sprite graphics, with some detailed background in places. But in other places, you'll see the same grey stone corridors over and over again. Or maybe yet another time, just with a slight blue tint to it.

Screenshot for Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (US Review) on Nintendo DS

The sound effects are also there in the game, but don't expect anything interesting. It's a fighting game, so you'll just be hearing the same few 'Yah!'s and 'Oof!'s over and over again during the fighting portions of the game. Expect pretty standard background music in both the story and action sections, with a slightly more dramatic one for a boss battle. There's even some voice acting taken from the English releases of the anime series dispersed on select lines of the text during parts of the story, but that still doesn't make up for not having full video elements in the game. Or the fact that the story is utter trash.

The worst part is, it dawned on me while playing that this game would play exactly the same on a GBA. The game hardly ever uses the touch screen, apart from the special attacks which could easily be stuck on the shoulder buttons which don't do anything. The graphics, the sound, everything about this game could be done exactly the same with Nintendo's older hardware, so it seems like it's only on the DS to gain a little extra cash. It's true that they do try and stick the odd touch-screen minigame in there to break things up, but that doesn't mean it deserves to be on the DS.

You know how it's just expected now in the world of video games that every single TV and movie-licensed game is a load of rubbish, and is only made for the sole benefit of profit? Unfortunately, this game fits into that description perfectly, when, in theory, it could have been so much more. If the story was rewritten into a standalone plot away from the main anime series, if the graphics were improved from GBA standards, and if features like multiplayer elements were introduced, then this would have been a good game. But it isn't. With no replay value at all, it's not worth anyone purchasing this game, unless you're a big fan of the series and want to add it to your collection of merchandise.

Screenshot for Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (US Review) on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

I expected so much more from this game, being an anime fan myself... but I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Rather than a fully fledged good game, it has that 'cartoon-licence' feeling to it, which almost guarantees a game to be poor. If you're a big fan of the series, by all means buy it and add it to your fan collection. But if you're not obsessed with Edward Elric and co., then steer well clear.

Developer

Square Enix

Publisher

Bandai

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date TBA   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date TBA   

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