I feel as though I’ve been focused on serious topics as of late and haven’t really been keeping up with the games/movies I’ve finished recently. So today I’m going to give my thoughts on three games that are part of a series. The three games are Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland; Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland; and Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland. It may seem rather ambitious to do three games at once, but honestly they are similar enough that I don’t think there will be too much of an issue. The gameplay and tone in all three games are very similar, with really the only major differences being the story. To start it would probably be helpful to describe what these games are like, then hit the story elements, and my thoughts on the games.
This game is really divided into two major parts. The first part is alchemy. Alchemy is basically the mixing of ingredients to make something different. This may sound pretty easy, but can be a pretty complex system. You can make all kinds of items, food, metal for weapons, cloth for armor, bombs, healing potions, and more. Alchemy is used to make items for when you go adventuring, complete requests, and often to further the story along by making items to complete goals in the story. It is a simple system that allows for a lot of depth, particularly in later games in the series. It can be pretty overwhelming, but is also pretty fun.
The second major part is adventuring. This is where you go out to the various locations of the game to collect materials, fight monsters, and find treasure. All three games allow you to hold a party of three, with the only requirement that the title character is always in your party. There are also no random encounters, you can see the monsters on the map of an area and either avoid or engage them, although sometimes it is hard or impossible to avoid battles. The battles are turn-based, which means that you get to decide your action and take as much time as you’d like without getting attacked.
It should also be noted that these games work on a timed system. What I mean by that is that certain actions take up time. Doing an alchemy synthesis will take up a certain amount of time depending on what you make. Going to adventure will take time, fighting enemies will take time, gathering items will take time. Often times in the games there are certain requirements that are needed to be met by a certain time in the game. Failure to reach these requirements can result in a game over or a different ending depending on what the requirement is. So the game my largely be about alchemy and adventuring, but it is also about managing your time to get what you need to get done.
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland – In this game you play the role of the titular character, Rorona. Rorona is an apprentice at an alchemy workshop run by her lazy, yet intelligent master Astrid. Due to her master being lazy and not really trying too hard to make the citizen’s of Arland happy, the king orders that the workshop has three years to prove itself useful. Of course, Astrid pushes this responsibility on her young and rather absent-minded apprentice Rorona.
So you take the role of Rorona trying to learn alchemy in order to accomplish the tasks put forward by the kingdom of Arland. You don’t do this alone as you make friends who help you try to accomplish the goals set before you. Will you be able to make Rorona into a full-fledged alchemist and save her workshop?
Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland – A number of years have passed since Atelier Rorona. The kingdom of Arland is no more and is now the Arland Republic. Since there is no kingdom there are no longer knights in service of the king to protect the kingdom. Instead there are now adventures who are hired to do quests and protect the cities. In this game you play as Totori, who desires to become an adventurer to try to find her mother. Her mother was an adventurer but has been missing for two years.
There is a some big problems holding Totori back though. She isn’t very strong and feels she doesn’t have much of a chance to become an adventurer. However, she has learned something that may change all that. She has been taught alchemy by none other than Rorona. Of course this education wasn’t complete and you are introduced to Totori blowing up her workshop, yet again, while trying to do alchemy. Throw in the fact that most people of her village, including her father and sister, think her mother is already dead and well it seems like an uphill struggle.
However, your goal is to become an adventurer and see if you can find any clues to the whereabouts of your mother. Trying to develop your alchemy and your strength to become a great adventurer and hopefully be able to find the mother than you have been missing for so long. You don’t have to do this alone as you start out with your childhood friend Gino and meet friends some new and some old to help you on the journey.
Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland – This is the last game in the series. Again a number of years have passed and you are playing the role of Meruru. Meruru is the princess of the kingdom of Arls, a kingdom with close ties to Arland.
Meruru feels constrained by her life as a princess, but with the arrival of the famous alchemist Totori she becomes interested in learning alchemy herself. The king is not a big fan of this, but does reluctantly agree that she can do alchemy, under the condition that she has to use it to help develop the kingdom of Arls in preparation for their joining the Arland Republic.
So with permission to pursue alchemy Meruru sets off to try to use alchemy in order to grow and develop her kingdom. She gets the help of some of her own friends, but also many familiar faces from the nation of Arland. Will she be able to develop a kingdom worthy of joining the Arland Republic?
- The art style for these games are beautiful. They almost make you feel like you are in a storybook. The game presents bright colors and cel-shaded visuals that just exude character. In a generation of games that seems to desire realism or dark, harsh portrayals the Arland series is a welcome contrast.
- I for one am happy to see a game employ the turn-based model. So many RPG’s try to shift to action based or real-time modes and the result is that very few games employ the turn-based model of battle anymore. I wouldn’t want all my games to be turn-based battles, but I do like it better than a number of battle modes in recent RPGs.
- The music. If the visuals are upbeat and colorful, it is only fitting to say that the music complements that theme. There are a number of catchy tunes in this trilogy of games, and they just fit the theme of the games so well.
- The cast of characters are somewhat of a mixed bag. I wanted to stick this largely under the positives, but for some reason it just seemed to fit here better. Many of the characters are enjoyable and memorable, and with many of them recurring through the series it is fun to see how they change and don’t change. That said the characters aren’t super deep. This works well for a game like that, but it also means that well some characters just don’t work as well as others. Each game has at least one character who isn’t developed all that well or just doesn’t stick out as well.
- Let’s face it the plots in these games are not award-winning. They are mostly character development stories. You’re not setting out to save the world or destroy some ancient evil (granted you do get the chance to do these things in some of the games, but they’re not the main focus). It is an enjoyable ride, but you’ll probably find yourself remembering the characters more than you will the exciting events of their journey.
- The time restraints. In part I feel the Arland series is helped by the time restrains, because without them the game would be way too easy. It gives tension and a sense of urgency that honestly many games with more urgent plot lines lack. The down side to this is that well, if you misuse your time than you can really screw yourself up.
- Multiple endings. I’m on the fence when it comes to multiple endings. On one hand they’re fun to see and some of the alternate endings are pretty fun. However, at the same time some of the requirements for the endings are pretty tough to do without any guidance at all. They also don’t mean much when each game has a “true” ending.
- The DLC. I’m not one to normally complain about DLC for games. I think they can be fun, but sometimes they’re just meh. This is definitely one of those times. The DLC was typically either extra characters or extra music to replace some of the other music in-game. The character in some ways are worthless because so much of the game is gaining friendship or doing things with certain characters that adding random characters wouldn’t really help you too much, not to mention they are pretty expensive for what you’re getting. While the music for these games are good, I’d rather have the option to download the soundtrack than to replace music with music from other Atelier games.
- Another negative of these games is that there is some sexual innuendo. There isn’t that much and most of it isn’t really that bad, after all it is just rated Teen, but it just seems out of place in the games. It didn’t really hamper my ability to enjoy the games, but as I said they are a bit unexpected and something I thought should be mentioned. With the art and music style what it is, it just seemed odd when these moments did appear.
Overall, I enjoyed these games thoroughly. They were a lot of fun, and after finishing the last of the trilogy you couldn’t help but be a bit sad to leave the characters you had grown to know. They aren’t particularly deep thought provoking games, but they are enjoyable light fare with a overall positive message of pushing yourself to accomplish great things with the help of friends. The message may seem overly optimistic, but sometimes I think we need messages like that too. I would definitely recommend these games, particularly if you’re looking for a bit of an old school turn-based RPG that doesn’t take itself too seriously.