Atelier Arland series Deluxe Pack Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Gust Co. Ltd.

Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe

Release Date: December 4th, 2018

Price as of Article: $89.99 USD, £84.99 GBP ($34.99 USD/£34.99 GBP individually)

Game code provided by Koei Tecmo Europe for review

Story

History

The Atelier series are role-playing games developed by the Gust Corporation since 1997. They’ve been mainly on PlayStation consoles, but there have been a few ported to handheld systems. Until 2005, the Atelier series was only available in Japan, until Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana was released in the US and Europe, the first Trilogy in the stories of the Atelier series. Since its inception in 1997, there have been 33 Atelier titles released, with 20 of the titles being main games and the other 13 being spin-offs or crossover titles.

Fast forward to 2018, and so far, the Nintendo Switch has had four Atelier games released already: Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Painting and also the Atelier Arland series Deluxe Pack, which includes:

  • Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland,
  • Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland,
  • Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland.

With at least one more confirmed game in 2019, Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland, this is a continuation of the Arland series, set several years after Atelier Meruru.

Arland

The word “Atelier” is a French loan word which means “an artist’s workshop”

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of ArlandRorona

When starting the game, you are introduced to Arland, a city that is beginning to change and become more industrialised with the use of technology from a forgotten ancient civilisation. The introduction is narrated by our main character, Rorolina Frixell, or Rorona for short. She is being forced to work for Astrid Zexis, the master alchemist of Arland, to pay the debt that Rorona’s parents owe.

A knight of Arland, Sterkenburg Cranach, or Sterk for short, visits the Atelier in search of Astrid who is not available. He informs Rorona that the Atelier is to be shut down unless she can prove that the Atelier can function as part of the growing economy of the city. In order to do this, she must pass 12 examinations over the course of three years to assess the ability of the workshop. Once Astrid is told of this predicament, she changes the name of the shop to Atelier Rorona, and lets her pupil take on this challenge, and here is where Rorona’s story and the Arland stories begin.

Atelier Totori: The Adventure of Arlandtotori

This is the sequel to Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland and is set 5 years later. This game starts in Alanya, a small village outside of Arland, and follows the latest Alchemist Totooria Helmold, or Totori for short, who is the student of the now famed Rorona. After the events of the previous game, a new job has been born called “Adventurer”. Totori’s mother, Gisela Helmond, is one such adventurer and has stopped visiting home 2 years ago. Because of this, Totori wants to know more about her mother and her whereabouts. Totori and her childhood friend, Gino Knab, set off to become adventurers together.

Upon reaching Arland, you will find some familiar faces around the city. Totori and Gino both get their adventurer’s licences. The licences will only last 3 years unless there are enough points accumulated to rank up their current licence. If they don’t have enough, the licences will be revoked. Here begins Totori’s adventure to find her mother and become an adventurer, and the Arland stories continue.

Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

meruru

This is the next game in the Arland Series and follows on some time after the events of Atelier Totori: The Adventure of Arland. Here, you are introduced to the small kingdom of Arls that is far from the Republic of Arland. The Lord Dessier of Arls wishes to merge with Arland and become a republic in three years. Here, we meet Princess Merurulince Rede Arls, or Meruru for short. Unlike her father, she has no interest in politics and often sneaks out of the castle to pursue her interest in alchemy. Arls does not use alchemy, nor practice it. The town does have an alchemist, Totori, who Meruru visits to learn more about alchemy. Totori allows Meruru and her handmaiden, Keina Swaya, to go and collect ingredients. After which, the castle butler, Rufus Falken, makes Meruru return to the castle and face her father, who wants her to focus on her royal duties.

Meruru leaves and tells Totori of her plight and how her father is worried about her Royal duties. Totori says she will go and speak to her father on her behest to get his blessing to become an alchemist, as well as keep up her duties. When Totori comes back, Meruru is to return to the castle and Rufus is there to meet her as he has found a way to fulfil her Royal duties and learn alchemy. She is to help the people of Arls with alchemy.

After completing the first task given to her by Rufus, she talks to her father who gives her his blessing, with a condition: that alchemy is used to develop the Kingdom and if the population of Arls is less than 30,000 in 3 years’ time, she will have failed her Royal duties and has to give up alchemy. If she succeeds, she is allowed to carry on learning alchemy. This is where Meruru’s story begins and another chapter in the Arland series.

My Thoughts

For me, being a long time fan of the Atelier series and having played most of them, these three games always struck a sort of chord with me. It’s three coming-of-age stories with all the struggles that that brings, all with different backgrounds and perspectives but one thing in common: the student becoming a master and passing on their knowledge to the next line of Alchemists. Okay, so we can’t use alchemy in the real world – if only, that would be amazing – but this still resonates with me here. For example, you go to any job and will start off knowing nothing; you learn more and more, make mistakes, learn from them, put in the time and effort, until one day you are the person teaching the new people how to do that job.

Atelier map

The stories are in no way remotely real, but translating it into my own life has sort of made sense to me. More so as when I first played these, I was in the middle of my own coming-of-age story, leaving home, getting a new job, lots to learn, and wanting to be the best and be a teacher… I made it that far too. For me, even being a fantasy RPG, it is still grounded in real life, and I will forever hold these dear for this reason.

Gameplay

For the sake of this review, for anything that happens universally in the games, I will use Totori as an example, as she was my favourite of the three protagonists.

The Similarities

Within the whole of the Atelier series, the main emphasis is on creating items using Synthesis (Alchemy), and everything is done within a time limit. Doing anything relating to alchemy will move the time along, be it a day or a set amount of time. For instance, travelling from one area to another area will cost one or two days if it is next to your starting point. The amount of days it takes to travel is dependent on the distance. When fighting or harvesting ingredients, it also costs a set amount of time. While harvesting, Totori will only be able to hold 60 items, which includes any items you take with you from the Atelier. This is almost as important as making items.

Atelier harvesting basket

Along with the items, there is a massive emphasis on the relationships with Totori and her companions. In fact, I would say it is more of a slice-of-life game than anything else. Each character is distinct in terms of looks, personality, and fighting styles. Amazingly, each character is well fleshed out and feels like a whole person who you can relate to and get invested in.

While playing, there will be plenty of fully voiced cutscenes. Each time you meet a new important character you could be in for a long – ten minute plus – chat, so make sure you are sitting comfortably. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the chats as you get to learn about the characters, the world, and protagonists. After every major in-game event, talking to one of the important characters that you have met will most likely start another cutscene. These cutscenes are done in two ways: firstly, with the use of the in-game engine and models; secondly, and more often, in the style of a visual novel, where you get 2D drawings of the character talking on the screen. I would not recommend playing these games if you do not have the time or you just want to waste half an hour or so.

Rorona talk

Fight and Level Up

Each of the Atelier games will have you fighting a multitude of enemies and bosses. The fights work in an Active Time Battle style, where each character attacks when it is their turn. Characters can attack, use skills, defend, and run with only the Alchemist being able to use items. When out in the world, you can take two characters with Totori. When you enter an area, you will be able to run around a 3D environment. The battles are not random, but rather, you can see the monsters in the area. If you get too close and a monster sees you, they will chase and follow you. When you are close to a monster, you can press Y and Totori will swing her staff, if this hits, you will automatically have the first attack.

When in battle, the two companions have a help meter under their icon. This fills by a set amount each time they attack or get attacked. It goes up to level 3. This meter is used for two things: as long as there is at least one level built up – which is quite  fast to build up – you can hit L or R when an enemy targets Totori to select a companion to take the hit for her or press B and let Totori take the hit. Considering she is has a weak defence, it is always a good strategy to have someone with a good defence to help, especially in boss fights. Also, it can be used for a follow up an attack after Totori attacks. These follow up attacks are stronger than normal attacks, and the higher the meter, the stronger they get.

rorona fight

Totori has a number of items at her disposal to help heal, remove de-buffs, or even to cause damage or status effects to enemies. Of course, as long as you have the time, you should make these. As Totori is an alchemist, she can handle these items along with any other alchemists you may meet.

Once the fight is finished, you will get experience points, money, and occasionally an alchemic item, as well. Once a character hits the required number of experience points, he or she will gain a level, subsequently getting stronger with level specific stats increasing as well as unlocking skills – this is vital to surviving in any role-playing game, not just this one.

first attack

Items: Make, Make, Make, Fail, Make 

Being a game designed around making items by combining other components, this will take up a lot of the game time, so it is a good thing that it is a fairly simple process and it is quick as to not get too boring and laborious.

Alchemy Grimoire

An unsigned extract from an alchemic Grimoire on how to become an Alchemist.

The Differences

Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland

Atelier Rorona is the basis for this review, as this was the first in the series, so everything that is the same is from this game that transfers to the others. There are a few differences in Totori and Meruru games that will be outlined below.

Atelier Totori: The Adventure of Arland

The main difference here is the Licence System. As Totori’s main objective is to level up her licence and to find her mother, there is an emphasis on this, right out of the gate. As Totori is only granted a provisional license, she needs to rank up every three years or it will be revoked forever. The four main ways to get licence points to rank up are:

Battle – fighting and killing monsters

Quest – handing in quests and better quality items

Explore – Exploring new areas

Library – Creating items and learning recipes

There will be a set of goals in each for the four categories to achieve in order to get bonus points for each level and a better overall rank, aim for them – they make life so much easier for you.

atelier arland series gathering

Totori also added the LP system. This is a fatigue-based life point system, where each character has a set amount of LP that depletes each time the party moves on the world map. Once a party member hits 0 LP, they become fatigued so they are weaker in attack and defence. This can be healed with items or by staying in town for a few days. The LP system is also in Atelier Meruru.

Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

This entry sees a refinement of the battle system, by introducing the Cost Turn Battle System. The character’s speed and the “wait” – or WT as it is displayed in the game – that each action has assigned to it will affect the next turn in the attack queue. So if a character does a big attack, that character’s next attack could be pushed back to the bottom of the queue and even be overtaken by others who attack after them.

meruru alchemy

Along with the wait system, the Assist System has been set around two of Meruru’s skills: Power Item and Potentialize. If there has been two offence assists, Meruru can use another item with increased power. After the use of a Power Item, a Co-ordinated Attack can be done, this allows both of Meruru’s companions to attack at once, and then allowing a further follow up from Meruru, and the use of a third item that has its power increased more than a Power Item.

During synthesis, two traits may be combined to create a more powerful multifaceted trait. You lose the ability to choose these traits again and it is more costly.

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Audio

Within all the games, the music and audio – as well as voice acting – is of a high standard. I love the way Totori’s voice actor Cassandra Lee Morris says “Barrel!” – it is the only time you will find this word cute.

The music goes from light and playful in the over world to a more tense and high-octane feel. For me, Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland’s sound track is the best out of the three games. Here are a few tracks to listen too:

Atelier Meruru

 

I love Danger!

 

Astral Blader

 

I have listened to the whole soundtrack of the games. If you enjoy listening to game soundtracks, these have to be listened to. In fact, if you just like good music, spend some time listening to them.

Visuals & Performance

Visually, there was a leap from Atelier Rorona, to Atelier Totori. This would have been an extra year of experience from 2009 to 2010. The textures, character models, and environments have all been improved and looked more polished. There is a vast improvement from Rorona to Totori, but from Totori to Meruru there was almost no improvement – maybe just slightly more polish on the character models. All three games look good for being almost 10 years old.

From a performance perspective, each game played well in both handheld and docked modes, with no slowdown in either mode. I have no complaints.

Value

Coming in at $89.99 USD or £84.99 GBP for the deluxe pack featuring all 3 games, or $34.99 USD/ £34.99 GBP individually, these games are not cheap. Buying them as a Deluxe pack will save you $14.98 USD or £19.99 GBP, but even with these savings, it is still expensive. I think these games will only really be for the fans of the Atelier series.

For other great RPGs, check out our reviews of Saturday Morning RPG and Pokemon Let’s Go on the SwitchWatch website or our YouTube review of Onimusha Warlords.

Pros

P

Well developed characters

P

Compelling stories

P

Decent play time

P

Alchemy

P

Fully voice-acted

Cons

P

Pricey

P

Too much dialogue

P

Time management

P

Long introductions