Mana Khemia 2 is set around 15 years after the first game, where Manas and alchemy are declining, and Al-Revis is in a verge of collapsing. Raze is a young man working as a servant in the Valendorf House, who has an adept sword training and doesn't have any interest in alchemy, whereas Ulrika is a young girl from the countryside who doesn't have any knowledge of alchemy, but enrolls into Al-Revis because of her Mana Egg. Raze's path deals with his past and is more serious, while Ulrika's path deals with the origins of Mana and is more comical.
Wait, first game?
You don't have to play the first game to understand the story of this one. In fact, this game makes little to no mention of the events of the first game at all, so don't worry about it. Just like how in school, it's not like you know the life of your seniors inside and out. Oh, there'll be a lot of school analogies in this one.
Mana Khemia 2 takes place in a school setting, and the gameplay reflects that. The combat follows a fairly simple turn-based system, allowing you to see the upcoming turns as the wheel rotates, which allows the player to plan ahead. Despite the simplicity, there are multiple layers to the combat; examples include manipulating the wheel by adding delayed attacks inside, or special combination attacks that require usage of the "Unite" gauge you see at the top left of the image shown. This ensures combat is never mundane. Most notably, players can "analyze" the creatures they fight, thus recording their strength and weaknesses for future reference. Outside of combat, the alchemy system in this game is sure to take up a large chunk of your playtime. Without spoiling too much of the fun, the alchemy system is an enjoyable minigame that, while necessary for 100% completion of the game, also plays a direct role in the growth of your characters, as the game forgoes a level up system in favour of an upgrade system with relation to the items crafted with alchemy. The game isn't too long, especially compared to the other games I reviewed, maybe totaling in about 30 hours of play time. In addition, the game is fairly easy, and there is no way to turn up the difficulty. That being said, the wholesome idea of teaming together with your school buddies to beat up baddies is something I find very heartwarming and enjoyable.
The story of Mana Khemia 2 is exactly what you'd expect it to be. Just think of your school life with more drama, and it's magical with monsters. This might not seem like much to you, but this adds a whole new level of relatability to the game. We've all been students before, regardless of whether or not we enjoyed school life we know exactly what it's like. And now we're playing the roles of students, who make friends and get in fights. However, this is not what causes this game to have a high rating. Rather, it is the amazing depth and enjoyability of the characters. There are a total of 10 characters in the game which are split into 2 separate storylines with 5 characters on each side. Regardless of which character you choose to take as your main character (you'll have to play both eventually, anyway), you can bond with all your party members through character sidequests, all of which are fun, quirky, humorous, and sometimes sad. Because remember: You're in school, but you're playing a game. And all the characters are here to have fun, and so are you. And when the game ends, you feel nostalgia. Because graduation was a bittersweet feeling.
To tell the truth, there isn't much going for the game in the way of graphics. The CG (Character Generator, in other words, the character design as a still image) for the characters look nice, but otherwise, the game adopts a simple chibi style. This is, unfortunately, a fairly low point, as at this point, many games have made good use of the technology they were given and went for a 3D style, while Mana Khemia 2 stuck with 2.5D style graphics. However, the aesthetic is colourful and light, which exuberates the light-heartedness of the game. The combat animations are surprisingly smooth, flashy and are always a joy to watch. The expressions of the characters are entertaining to look at, and all of them are designed in a way that fits their character the best, while still maintaining a school-like appearance. Still, for the time it was created, it could have been so much more.
I'll be completely honest with you, I'd give this an 11 if I could. The music fits absolutely seamlessly with the story and the design of the game. The scholarly music when in school, the sound of adventure when you leave compounds, the sense of rush heading into battle, the sense of triumph upon accomplishing something, and all of this is being done alongside your friends. Speaking of friends, each character has a distinct character theme that fits them perfectly. I feel more nostalgia from this game than I have from any other game, and I only played this game in 2010. The only complaint I could possibly conjure up from this perfection is the fact that some of the songs might be too over the top for the situation, but I feel that's the whole joy of it. In a school setting, you're doing something with your friends, you're going to have the most fun you possibly can. With that said, I give you the default battle theme.
Ultimately, Mana Khemia 2 is a relaxing game meant for players to relax and chill, and be immersed back into a false school life. The game might have a few somewhat prevalent flaws, but the pros outweigh the cons. What sets Mana Khemia 2 apart from quite a decent number of other JRPGs is the light-hearted school setting, the story is relaxing and happy, and even if the humour is cringeworthy, the jokes still cause you to have a light chuckle because of the calmness and festivity of everything. While the graphics are nothing special, they serve its purpose in showcasing the quirky atmosphere of school life. The game might seem unappealing to veterans of the genre, but I would implore them to give the game a chance, as despite the simplicity of the game, sometimes, you just need something to kick back, relax and enjoy.