A very odd entry in the already odd Atelier series by Gust, Atelier Annie concentrates on developing a resort with alchemy. Combat is far too simplistic, yet complicated and fairly uninspired. In fact, there are many things that Atelier Annie does wrong, though the one thing it does right will often keep you coming back: the sim aspect. It’s strange that only this one new concept helps keep things together, so it would be hard to recommend this for fans of the Atelier series.
Available For: Nintendo DS
Publisher(s): Gust, NIS America, Koei
Release Date: 2009
Archetype(s): Anime, RPG, Sim
You ever play that game that you’re not entirely sure why you like playing it because you acknowledge it does so many things wrong, but you keep playing it? Or perhaps a game that totally breaks tradition, still clinging to the coattails of past titles in the series, and you’re not entirely certain if you would call it a gaiden or a full on bastardization of the series? Atelier Annie is both of these.
I’m very tempted to say this game is terrible and you simply shouldn’t play it, but not only would that not do justice to just how bad the game is, it also wouldn’t properly explain why I’m still playing it and…somehow…actually enjoying myself. Let’s start from the beginning. The game starts off with Annie, not quite an alchemist, being shipped off to a developing island that’s meant to be a resort slapped together by alchemists in some kind of competition.
Annie is meant to be trained as an ever improving alchemist and participate in the competition. Okay, strange…but the Atelier Iris series is known for having bizarre twists, characters, and interactions, so nothing too horrible yet. Then the game starts. The first few times I played this game, I had to put it down after playing only a few minutes at a time because it’s…well…for lack of a better word, full on anime retarded.
Look, there are some animes that I like, but there are a lot that I don’t because either A) they try to hard, B) they’re not even remotely interesting, C) they’re super sugary hyper to the point of being vile, and/or D) they absolutely do not make sense and make no effort to do so. Atelier Annie is sort of a combination of A and C. They try WAY too hard to make you laugh, often going for constant slapstick and stupid statements, even for the more “serious” characters in the game.
The plot doesn’t really get any better either. It doesn’t have any major twists, curveballs, or anything even remotely interesting happening. The characters overall range between annoying to mediocre to just plain unlikeable with Annie often bouncing between each of these features. Again, if it were just based on these features alone, I’d be hard-pressed to recommend this game to anyone…yet I’m still playing it.
Battles are a joke, too. There are back and front lines, which I shouldn’t really have to explain. The enemy can jump back and forth between lines as well. You really only have the one basic attack and one main skill per line. It’s true that you get more skills as you level up, but that takes a while and they’re not major game changers like in the Atelier Iris games. For the most part, you’re just going to hold down the Y button to auto-battle.
But in the event you want to use different tactics or select a different enemy, it gets stupid. See, instead of just pressing right or left and a different enemy is targetted, instead you press an arrow key and a different tile is targetted…even if there’s no enemy there. Furthermore, the tile control system is fairly unintuitive, so getting your targets lined up if you’re not just doing auto-battle is sloppy at best.
Gathering ingredients is a joke, too. All you do is select where you want to go (basin, quarry, etc.), then travel there, which takes up a set number of days (this will be important later), then you have ONE screen where you find ingredients, and all you do is mash the A button over and over at these little question marks until they disappear. Sometimes you’ll get a random encounter. That’s about it.
Oh, and days pass as you do this as well. See, the whole “days passing” thing is relevant because you’re often on deadlines for different missions, so you have to ensure you get stuff done in a timely manner while still providing exactly what the client wants. Days even pass while you’re using alchemy, which is especially strange. The only good news in that department is your alchemy skill and rank improve as you make stuff, so eventually this gets better and with less failures.
Again, the purpose of the contest is to develop the island, which is where the surprisingly positive aspect of the game comes into play. In fact, it’s positive enough that this, I believe, is the only reason I’m still playing it. See, this is where the sim aspect comes into play. Alchemy is trivial at best and certainly not as interesting as in the Atelier Iris games. However, resort development and winning contests within the time limit as well as time management on the whole and improving sales…now, that’s fun.
There are many places you can buy, such as a beach, hotel, market, theatre, and so on. Once bought, you have to help develop them. This is done two ways. Firstly, you have to go there, introduce yourself, and take on various missions (usually alchemy related) in order to bring additional fame to the place. Once they’ve received enough fame, you can renew the place and make it go up a rank, which immediately boosts sales, adds new missions, and allows for tougher and more rewarding minigames.
The problem is it takes LOTS of money to buy places and LOTS of money to renew them. This insane amount of cash is handled by Pepe, your fairy master. Anytime you receive prize money from contests or sales money from the resort, he keeps track of the finances. Sadly, you’re not allowed to tap into this money for your personal use, nor are you allowed to add to it. Still, the very idea that you would even have that amount to be able to effectively contribute is laughable at best (your first prize money amount is 10 million, for example).
This is where the game truly shines. While it fails in nearly every other aspect, the idea of allocating allies as clerks, each with their own strengths and weaknesses in management, and continuously improving the island by performing missions and paying special attention to detail to each area…that’s some fun stuff. When I went into this game, I was strongly hoping it would simply be a portable version of Atelier Iris, and while that’s not what I got, what I received instead was a brilliantly constructed sim game that I can recommend.
So if hyper retarded anime is something you actually like or you can at least ignore and you’re looking for a sim game of a very different variety, I would recommend checking this out. If you’re looking for another Atelier Iris, you’re best to look at either the Ar Tonelico games or just at other Atelier Iris titles.