Fullmetal Alchemist: Dual Sympathy (DS) Review

It’s time for the only DS game on this list (plus the first DS game review on this blog!) and the only anime-based game (though I admit I was tempted to include Dragon Ball: Advance Adventure, but that’s still more of an action platformer in my eyes…) Fullmetal Alchemist: Duel Sympathy, which has to be one of the worst attempts to get a “DS” subtitle ever, is a decent scrolling beat ‘em up, but it is somewhat drowned by text boxes and mini-games… Let’s take a look!

Background:

Do I have to mention that all these screens come from an emulator? I mean, if I don’t have the technology to capture XBOX360 footage I sure as hell can’t hook my DS up my computer!

FMA DS was released on July 21st 2005 in Japan, roughly a year after the original anime series had aired, and then released on December 12th 2006 in the US, also shortly after the anime aired. Sadly it was released here in the UK on September 7th 2008 well over two years since the anime had its first airing in this country, so it lacked any of the admittedly limited momentum it had after its first airing. No idea why it took two years to get from American to here, but there you go…

It wasn’t by any stretch the first game based on Fullmetal Alchemist, and wouldn’t be the last either, but it was the only one I ever brought…

Gameplay:

Just ignore the cow-like statue. That’s unimportant.

The core gameplay is your standard scrolling beat ‘em up affair, with a single button for melee combos and some special moves based around the Alchemy seen in the series, which costs part of a regenerating bar on the top right of the screen. Some of these special moves require you to gather white blobs that get converted into “Flamel signs” (as they’re apparently called) that gather on the touch screen, eventually if you have enough you can do a big screen-clearing special attack. It’s perfectly fine, and sometimes quite satisfying as the look of all the sprites and backgrounds match the anime series well.

Where the problem with the game lies is everything else. The main story mode, a mode where you can only play as Edward Elric, is near-visual-novel levels of text-heavy, and a lot of the action is further broken up by mini-games involving the DS’ touch screen. Some can be fun, like drawing transmutation circles (at least the first two or three times…) or arm wrestling, but others like running from a tumbling ball Indiana Jones-style are less fun. The story is over quite quickly, especially given it covers the whole original anime series, and the only things you have post-Story is the ability to play through it again as one of five other characters or your choice of mini-game to replay. Oh and there’s a Game and Watch style alarm clock feature, for some reason…

Obviously there isn’t many clichés here as the focus was on re-enacting the anime as best they could (though admittedly Lust and Gluttony do fulfil the quota of scantily clad female and overweight enemy, respectively!)

Graphics and Sound:

I’m pretty sure Greed wasn’t bright blue, but there you go…

The graphics are good and do a good job of representing the series, with the sprites being nice and big (for a DS screen) and with plenty of movement frames.

The sound is good too, with a decent soundtrack and the original anime’s voice cast reprising their roles for the few cut scenes that have spoken dialogue, plus attack names and “oofs” and “ahhs” during gameplay, obviously…

Story:

Good question, I’d completely forgotten Shou Tucker had an extended role in the 2003 anime…

As mentioned the game adapts the original 2003 anime series, meaning about half way the story deviates from the then-still-ongoing manga and goes in its own… weird direction. Basically two brothers try and use Alchemy to bring their dead mother back to life but instead Edward loses an arm and a leg and Alphonse loses his entire body, his soul having to be grafted into a large suit of armour. The two then go on a journey to find the fabled “Philosophers Stone” that can restore their bodies, and come across State Alchemists and evil homunculi.

Basically I’m not going write a recap of the entire original FMA series, so that synopsis will have to do you…

Thoughts Then:

Edward whips out his big cannons! (That was supposed to sound rude, but then Edward’s a man so that doesn’t really make any sense….)

The excitement of weekly (yes weekly…) FMA episodes had ended two years before this game came out, so while I was happy to buy it I’ll admit it didn’t hold my attention. I enjoyed the retro 2D scrolling beat ‘em up sections, but I just wasn’t in the mood to read a hastily recapped version of a story that I thought had a “crap ending” that at that point I’d found out to be not the real ending anyway. It was fine, but I didn’t stick with it after that first completion.

Thoughts Now:

I wouldn’t go as far as to say this game was a Success, no…

In the world where we have the complete manga and a damn good anime adaptation of it in “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood” it’s odd to see the original anime’s version of the story again. It’s probably worth a re-watch at some point, but as for the game I did enjoy my second play through of it, but once again now I’ve gone through it I don’t really feel like playing it any more…

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