There is a series of game which I adore (besides Harvest Moon) that I will play every time they come out, and that is the Atelier series. I first played the series with Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana on PS2 which I just picked up on a whim and instantly fell in love. There’s a soft spot in my heart for games where you can make your own items, and the Atelier series wants you to do just that. In many places, only ingredients and recipes can be purchased from shops, so you better want to make items because otherwise you’re literally not going to get any better equipment.
The game is based around a school for Alchemy and some of its pupils, mainly Vayne. You’ll be attending subjects, doing alchemy assignments and generally trying to keep your workshop from closing down and yourself from flunking out. There’s a lot to manage all at once, which is something that comes into play a lot in later Atelier games, starting with Annie.
There are a few systems in the game I’m not fond of though. Levelling up doesn’t happen the traditional way, through battle. Instead you use your “Grow Book” and the skill/stat matrix inside to level up, but you can only do that once you’ve made certain recipes, which comes back to grinding, which may be hard if you’re underlevelled. You see the problem. I also hate being locked out of levelling systems early on.
When not at school you’ll be out and about in the world looking for ingredients. This can be done in some of the games many dungeons and other monster infested areas. Beat them down and you’ll be rewarded with more ingredients (and AP points for the Grow Book) to make more items. Dungeons also have hidden recipes which you need to explore to find, but you can’t spend too much time exploring because of two reasons: time is limited and is constantly moving, and at night, monsters become faster, more aggressive and harder, so being out at night is tantamount to suicide.
Playing this game on PSP means that the wait times are pretty awful. Between battles, between areas, between cutscenes, all of those mean you’ll be enjoying a good wait as things load. Apparently this wasn’t the same on the original PS2 copy, and this is available on the Vita via US PSN as well, but in Australia, as always we get pretty shafted for PSN content, so we have to suffer with the PSP copy and its terribly slow load times.
All up this game was good fun. I didn’t get as far into it as I would’ve liked (I broke my rules on RPGs for this game) so I only got through the first couple of weeks, just until it looks like it might start opening up, but it shows a good bit of promise.
I wish I had more to say about this game other than that the loadtimes suck and it’s based on a series I love, and it’s got an awesome grind which is as much a labour of love as it is a love of labour. Still, I’d definitely like to spend more time with it.
Tomorrow there’s a rumour that my wife will be picking the game for the day, so we’ll see how that goes.