Mana Khemia has elements of several styles of Japanese RPG:
- The game is primarily a school sim, where the characters are students attending classes and socializing with other students
- The characters progress through the game's alchemy system, unlocking new skills and stat upgrades through their Grow Books
- Although the enemies in battle may be random, monsters are visible on-screen when navigating the area and can be avoided
- The battle system is a mixed-turn-based system
The game's structure and attending classes is covered on the Walkthrough page, with more detail in the individual chapters.
Unlike most RPGs, characters do not progress through combat. Instead, characters must learn new alchemy recipes and synthesize new items to unlock new abilities and stat improvements in their Grow Books. This is an important thing to remember, as battle gives no benefits outside the items received through the individual battles and the quests, assignments, and events that might be involved.
In other words, when exploring the Off Campus areas, it's a far better strategy to avoid any and all battles that aren't directly involved in the current quest or assignment. Learning to run through an area without getting into a battle is of vital importance in completing assignments in a timely manner, especially early in the game when the characters may not be capable of handling several battles in a row.
At first glance, the battle system is fairly standard, and will often lead players familiar with Japanese RPGs to cling to familiar playing styles (running into battles rather than away from them, for instance). There are some unusual features to the game's battle system, though.
On the top-left of the screen is a series of cards that represent the turns for the individual characters, delayed spell effects, and the enemies. The cards move from left to right as each action occurs, and each character's turn comes up when their card reaches the right side of the stack. Once the character completes an action, their card will be inserted further back in the stack (how far back depends on the action they took).
Spells can be cast which have delayed effects, represented by one or more spell cards being inserted into the stack in the place where they will come into play. The most common of these early on will be Healing Echo, which inserts a healing card into the stack for a certain number of turns. This will heal one of the characters in the party every time it comes up in the stack.
You can also select Guard on the character's turn and select a later position in the stack at which you'd like that character to take their turn.
An enemy can be stunned or otherwise pushed back in the card stack to prevent them from taking their turn.
Once more than three characters are in the party, a Support row opens up. Only three of the characters in the party will be active in the battle, but up to three more characters can move in and out of the Support row to replace them during the battle. Support row characters can come in during an attack to add damage to an attack, or when defending to take (or block) damage for an active character. In either case, the character from the support row replaces the active character, and a timer starts on the character that entered the support row during which that character can not be active in the battle.
Characters in the support row regenerate their SP, so it's a good idea to drop casters and healers into the support row not only to save them from taking damage, but also to restore their SP so they can rejoin the battle with their full potential.
Additionally, you can swap out every character in your support row in a single attack by selecting the characters (with or ) and swapping them in (by pressing ) when the prompt appears on screen. If all of the characters in the support row are available and you can switch between them quickly enough while the previous character attacks, it is possible to bring them in, one after another, for one large combined attack (as long as the enemy survives until the last character attacks).