Alchemy goes magical in this magical academy outing from the makers of Atelier Iris. Quite an impressive array of new features are available, though many slow both the game and character development down. All the same, if you’re a fan of any of the Atelier games, it may still be worth checking out.
Available For: PS2 (reviewed), PSP
Publisher(s): NIS America
Release Date: 2008
Rating: Everyone 10+
Archetype: Adventure, Platformer, RPG
Though it’s not explicitly stated, it should be known that this game should count as part of the Atelier series. If you don’t know what that is, there’s a lot here you probably won’t get, so you really ought to play them. In any case, I remember playing the original Atelier Iris. It’s kind of an oldschool RPG type with a lot of depth/innovation. Clearly, though, each Atelier game had trademark flaws…
– Voice quality issues. Sometimes sounds would skip, get cut off, or have weird errors.
– Loading in the form of noticeable delays for JUST ABOUT ANYTHING…even though the games are 99% sprites.
– Almost obligatory ANNOYING voices, sometimes just in the form of a few enemies here and there while other times in the form of MAIN CHARACTERS. Ugh.
Despite this, Atelier Iris 1 and 2 are excellent titles. The third is just okay, but that’s because of a weird timed dungeon thingy that just…isn’t necessary. That said, they’re excellent titles and definitely worth looking into if you like more oldschool style RPGs with a twist. In other words, Mana Khemia has quite a bit to answer for. Did they fall short of the mark or succeed with flying colors?
It’s hard to say that this is the best of the series, but what the hell…it’s still an excellent title for a number of reasons. First, let’s analyze the game on a technical level. Did it succeed in wiping clean the errors of the past?
– Absolutely no voice quality issues. There are a few annoyances here and there as far as voice acting, but I’d have to say at least 90% of it is spot on.
– The delays are there, but it’s a lot better.
Ah, but with the virtual ending of those problems comes new ones. How so? Well, remember, the previous entries in the Atelier series had completely pre-rendered backgrounds that, to a degree, kinda looked slapped together. Now, the good thing about this is they loaded quick and didn’t cause delays, slowdown, etc. MK opted instead to have a standard, fixed camera angle with ye olde 3/4 isometric, but have the backgrounds still very spritey, but 3D.
Yeah, it’s a nice touch, but it can lead to slowdown in some areas, especially when there’s a lot of objects that are breakable, enemies roaming about, etc. Now, that’s truly the only new problem I can think of. Much like the other Atelier games, you can/should/are expected to make various things via alchemy.
If you switch around certain ingredients in a recipe, you can make something entirely new. You can also upgrade/downgrade the end result by having people help you make it, using better/worse base ingredients, and using good/bad synthesis types when using alchemy. Sound confusing? It’s not really, I’m just running a bunch of stuff together is all.
The good/bad thing about all this alchemy is the grow book. I know a way they could’ve made this work but still pandered to oldschool RPGers, but I’ll get to that in a little bit. When you create certain things via alchemy, pathways within the grow book are opened. To a degree, the interface LOOKS a lot like FFX’s sphere grid…but it operates based on making things via alchemy. You use AP gained through combat to acquire various skills based on areas opened up in the grow book for each person, which is an admirable way of developing your characters.
Unfortunately, it’s the ONLY way to develop your characters. See, you don’t get exp/level through combat…only AP and money. One way they could’ve resolved this is by including both the grow book, which is a good idea, with ye olde exp/levelling up…just sayin’. Anyway, beyond that, yes you can buy various pieces of armor, equipment, etc., but it’s a MUCH better idea to try to make stuff instead and only buy armor and such when you have money and just need to use them as ingredients.
The missions concept was brought over from Atelier Iris 3 and so was the timed dungeons. Ah, BUT…it’s not done in a dumb way. No, this time it’s simple day/night progression. As it gets later, enemies get tougher. There…not too bad, eh? Also in the game, since you’re in alchemy school, you have assignments which directly pertain to the plot.
Further, besides doing missions during free time, you can also do something somewhat similar to private actions a la the Star Ocean series which helps you understand individual characters better, etc. All in all, this isn’t a bad game and should definitely be part of your collection if you like the Atelier games.