Friday, September 07, 2012

Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

Atelier Meruru: Apprentice of Arland The Atelier Arland series reached its third instalment with the release of Atelier Meruru: the Apprentice of Arland. Being a big fan of the series since the inception of Atelier Rorona, there is no way I’m gonna miss this one. Though, it took me quite awhile before I could concentrate on this game mainly because previously I was still preoccupied with platinuming Tales of Grace F (on top of real life commitments, animu, dota etc). So far, I am probably halfway through the game, reaching the third year of Meruru’s task as the kingdom’s alchemist princess. And my impression toward the game has been good so far, though certain aspect of the game kinda gave me a mixed feeling. 

Title:Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland
Developer: GUST
Platform: PlayStation 3 (PS3)
Genre: jrpg
Release date: June 23 2011 (JPN) /May 31 2012 (NA)

Plot summary:

Merurulince Rede Arls is a 15-year old girl who is not just the princess of the small kingdom of Arls but also the apprentice of the legendary alchemist and adventurer Totooria Helmold, the main character of the first sequel. The story continues approximately one year after the end of Atelier Totori and tells us of Meruru's intent to develop the kingdom of Arls. Together with the friends she has and new ones she gets to know she tries everything to expand the kingdom so she will hopefully be able to achieve an even greater goal. During her adventure she gains the experience she needs to become an adult and to show Arland that she is worth being the apprentice of Totori.

There you have it. In Atelier Rorona, it’s about you trying to keep a workshop alive; in Atelier Totori you’re trying to be the greatest adventurer in the world; and now in Atelier Meruru, you’re a princess trying to use incorporate alchemy to develop and expand her kingdom. The story itself isn’t anywhere near your ordinary save-the-world jrpg cliché, and it didn’t need to be, because the game is all about item gathering, synthesizing, side quests, character events, ending, endings, and ENDINGS. 

What I really, really like about the game (and Atelier Arland series, in general) is the massive item and equipment customization via alchemy/synthesis. The synthesis system/mechanics in Meruru is a big improvement from Totori, which was also a big improvement from Rorona. The basic of the synthesis is still similar (basic items to be consumed, mana and days requirement, alchemy difficulty level), but the advance stuff like item cost level, trait inheritance/upgrade/selection and trait choice in general were better implemented in Meruru. Here, you can combine a low level traits to create the higher level trait, and should the cost is too high, there’s always an option to slap a few Cost+ trait in the ingredients, making synhesizing a bit less in a pain. There’s also a whole lot of new traits introduced in Atelier Meruru that made item customizing more interesting and exciting. Stuff like Melt, etc etc etc that you never see in Atelier Rorona or Totori. And, there’s also one really friggin imbalanced trait that you can put on your weapon – Rainbow Power that grants all 4 elements to attacks and increase damage dealt – but comes with an enormous cost of 50. Trying to make a really, really good weapon in Meruru is not easy, I would say. 

There’s also a whole lot of new synthesised item introduced in this game. Since the goal of this game is to develop the kingdom with alchemy, you had to create a lot of miscellaneous stuff used exclusively for quest – things like Dense Wood, Kingdom Flag, Animal Resonator, Living Shovel/Rope/Hoe etc, the list went on. So much that even until now, I haven’t even synthesised 50% of the total items that currently appeared in my synthesis list. At the same time, you also need to balance your synthesis time with creating your own items. You know, stuffs for battles like ingots and cloths for weapon/armors/accessories, healing items and bombs. On a side note, if Tera Bomb is the most badass bomb in Atelier Rorona, N/A and Himmelstern the most badass bomb in Atelier Totori, I wonder what the strongest bomb in Atelier Meruru is. I haven’t advance far enough into the story to experiment with the many new bombs that appeared in my synthesis list -___- 

OK, lets talk about the character for a bit. A lot of characters from Rorona and Totori returned, and there’s also quite a number of playable characters for you to choose from, some of which you’d never expect you’d be able to use. Totori returned as another useful alchemist in your party, so did Sterk, Gino, Gio, Mimi and “Rorona”. New playable characters include Lias, Keina and…Esty Dee!! That already made it 9 characters to choose from. Then you have the DLC character that you can use in battle – Rufus, Hanna (mmmmm) and…Pamela! 12 characters in total, that’s quite a lot considering you can only use 3 for your battle party. Now, lets talk about “Rorona”. Heavens knows I’m a big, big fan of Mai Kadowaki and Rorolina Frixel, but goddamit THIS Rorona totally turned me off. I really dislikes the idea/story of Rorona turning into some 6 years old kid with lost memories due to the Potion of Youth, so now instead of feasting myself with the adult Rorona that I always love, I had to endure watching the kid Rorona acting like a dumb kid (duh). Anything other than this current child Rorona is better, I really want to see how a grown up Rorona would looked like in Atelier Meruru : ( 
OK, rant over, but I really, really don’t enjoy watching this current child Rorona.

Battle-wise, Gio is probably the strongest character to use in battle, but he didn’t come early, and I personally don’t like him (because of his ending in Atelier Rorona, huhuhu), so alternatively, I would say Sterk, Esty or Mimi is the best offensive attacker to have. Sterk is just a pure damage dealer; Esty awesome with her AOE and double slice attack; while Mimi is useful for her insane speed and various stat-reducing skills. As for support, Keina is quite useful for normal battle because despite her low LP, her normal attack has huge AOE and can inflict sleep! Rorona also had obscenely large AOE normal attack, on top of being able to use item. No comment on Lias, Rorona and Gino because I haven’t use them enough to judge their combat abilities. On a side note, Rorona with Reverse Torque is an immense tanker! 

There's a lot more for me to say about the game, but I guess I'll save it for another post.  Oh yeah, platinuming this game doesn't seem so hard, though we need to play it twice.