Welcome back to the next instalment of the Arland saga in the long-running Atelier franchise. After the spin-off with Nelke & the Legendary Alchemist, we are back with the next instalment of the Arland Trilogy (tetralogy now). When this dropped into SwitchWatch I was one happy reviewer.
How does it stack against the rest of the Arland games? Let’s find out.
The Mysterious Book
The story follows Elmerulia Firxell (I will be referring to her as Lulua for the review as that is her name throughout), who is the daughter of the famous alchemist Rorona Firxell and the apprentice of the alchemist Piana. The biggest dream of Lulua is to be greater than her mother.
Living in the town of Arklys, located at the frontiers of the Arland Republic.
One day, Lulula comes across a book that only she can read, and discovers that she has powers. She then decides that she has to decipher all of the book; a decision that will lead her to discover the truth about the whole of Arland.
As usual, the story is captivating from the start. Lulua and her friends are all loveable from the get-go. However, the story here is a little darker, with not as many laughs out loud moments. It is still a great story and I loved it.
Atelier Lulua follows the same basic game layout of the rest of the mainline franchise – collect materials, fight monsters, make stuff, complete requests within the time limit, continue with the story.
Here are the first four main characters met on Lulua’s adventure;
Elmerulia Frixell (Lulua) – main protagonist and uses a staff
Eva Armster – Life long friend to Lulua and uses a Kendo Sword/Bazooka
Piana – Lulua’s teacher who uses a chakram type of weapon
Christoph Aurel Arland – Lulua helps him out in Arkley and he uses a sword
Along with old favourites as:
Rorolina Frixell – Lulua’s mother
Totooria Helmold – DLC
Merurulince Rede Arls – DLC
Having two main characters as DLC is shocking, this is just a way to get more money out of the fans.
With all of the Atelier games, Alchemy is the main focus, and Atelier Lulua is no exception. However, the mixing of recipes is more streamlined. This change makes alchemy more intuitive along with allowing for the properties the player is looking for to be much more easily attained.
After unlocking new recipes in the Book that only Lulua can read they will all be listed in the alchemy menu. For ease of mixing, there will be symbols next to the name. X, can not make, and O can make. I felt this was an excellent quality of life change.
While combining the items it is now easier to decide what elemental property the item will have thanks to the handy chart at the bottom, along with any properties, the new item will gain.
While collecting the materials needed to make items in the Atelier, the time that passes while out in the field seemed to move at a slower rate, making it possible to collect more and fight more. This was a massive welcomed change as some timed elements in the older games were brutal.
Fights are again another staple of the Atelier games. As usual in all JRPGs the battles are turn-based. Lulua can have up to four other characters with her in her party, three for attacking and two for support. The three in the front can be controlled, attack, skill, item (Alchemist only), swap and flee. The back row takes turns automatically. While attacking there is a possibility to break enemies that will stun them and miss a turn, this can also happen to Lulu’s party.
While travelling and interacting with the party members, it is possible to increase their relationship status, this will allow the party members to perform a chain attack. The higher the relationship, the more damage. It is also possible to swap characters from the back row to the front row. This will allow for different attacks and chain attacks to be performed along with different automatic attacks or abilities.
The battle system in Atelier Lulua is not overly in-depth, but it is deep enough to keep most JRPG fans engaged.
Missions and The Book
The Book that Lulua finds is the main progression of the story, it is also the main drive for pushing the story forward. Lulua needs to fill all the pages of the book, and there are a lot of pages to fill, enemies, items recipes, areas and so on, along with the riddles. The riddles are simple, but to fully complete the riddle it needs to be read in the Atelier, and this is a bit of a pain especially when out in the world. They do however, the riddles, give useful recipes.
The Book is what makes Lulua the alchemist she wants to become.
There are plenty of side missions to complete that are all timed, and these range from collecting items to kill enemies. These can be achieved naturally while completing the story. Once completed and handed in, a small reward is given.
Only Alchemists can use items within the world of Atelier, which makes some sense as they are the only ones to make them. Unlike other JRPGs, the items that the alchemists can use need to be equipped and taken in the materials bag. I forgot on many occasions about bringing a bomb with the right element to a fight. This does not make anything harder, just drags fights out a little.
Along with items Lulua can take with her there are side activities that use items, such as fishing and bug catching. To do these activities, the right bit of equipment needs to be made.
I enjoyed my time with Atelier Lulua. The quality of life changes are a nice welcome change, and the decreased time passing helps a lot while in the field. Along with the returning characters, this makes for one of the better Atelier games, and maybe my personal joint top with Totori’s story.
Atelier Lulua carries on the excellent music trends from the previous games; in fact, the tracks are better than in Atelier Rorona. Let me just say that it’s a fantastic soundtrack. With the happy, upbeat songs from Lulua’s theme with this sense of wonder and excitement and a hint of trepidation, to the Dungeon theme with its beautiful harp and mystical feelings.
As with the other games, legendary composers Kazuki Yanagawa, Daisuke Achiwa and Ken Nakagawa, lend their expertise to the musical journey.
The sound effects are great in all the Atelier games, and there is not much to add, except some of the sounds seem much more crisp and clear. With this being a new game the fidelity should be better. As the old saying goes if it is not broke, then why fix it?
The whole of the game is voice acted with some talented voice actors such as;
Miyuri Shimabukuro – Lulua – Relatively new to voice acting but outstanding
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka – Sword art online – Kirito
Kaori Nazuka – My Hero Academia – Mt. Lady
These are some of the great actors that bring the characters to life.
As usual, Gust has done an outstanding job with audio.
Visuals & Performance
Visually Atelier Lulua is bar far the best looking of the games so far on the Switch. In keeping with the previous games, the whole game is bright and colourful with lots to see and plenty of beautiful backdrops.
The amount of detail as a whole is greatly improved with much more vibrant textures. It is not perfect, and it is still possible to see where the assets texture wrap meets, as there are some massive, glaring lines that once you see them, you can not unsee. Everyone seems to have had a graphical upgrade, especially the returning characters.
As a whole package, the game looks lovely.
Performance wise the game runs smooth as can be and the visual novel aspect are perfect. While playing, there was no slowdown in neither handheld or docked. Again I played mostly in docked as the game was made for it.
At times some load screens seemed to linger a while, but nothing that would interfere with the immersion of the game.
Atelier Lulua is a full price game at 59.99 USD, £49.99 GBP. If you are a fan if this niche but long-running franchise you will not be worried about the price. If you are not overly familiar or this is the first time, make sure that you play the first three instalments of the Arland series, then definitely buy this as the stories are all interwoven.
As an Atelier fan, I do not see anything wrong with the price, as I am used to it. If not a massive fan, you could hold out for a sale or the DX version (this is not confirmed, but no doubt will happen) and this will have all the DLC included.
Physical – YES!
Looks and sounds brilliant
The quality of life changes
Interlinking stories and returning characters
Plenty of activities to keep anyone busy
Totori and Meruru are paywalled to play
It is expensive
Some questionable texture wrapping