The long-running Atelier series from publisher Koei Tecmo and developer Gust has been a consistent source of charming, good-spirited wholesomeness that overflows with cuteness. While there have been many sub-series with their own unique characters, it’s been rare for an Atelier series to get more than three releases, and that’s just what happened with Atelier Lulua. Set years after the last game in the Arland series, which debuted roughly ten years ago, Lulua is primed to please both old and new fans of the series. Does the latest game hold up well? Read on to find out!
The visuals in Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland are pretty much what you’d expect from a franchise that has seen a major release basically every year for over two decades. While there aren’t many changes or improvements, the Atelier charm is here in full force, and be ready for tons of cute.
Character models, face animations and expressions, environments, and of course monsters – everything is oozing in a ridiculous cuteness it sort of makes it a complete package. The games have always come off as JRPGs but with girls as the star, and Lulua has that same girlish charm.
I’m by no means a stickler for bleeding edge graphics, but if you’re expecting crazy details or intricate cutscenes, you’re not getting that in this game. Atelier has always been about a down to earth story focused on a small set of characters, so the focus is on nailing that series’ simple visual charm.
The Atelier series has been primarily centered on the item-synthesis process of alchemy, and Lulua naturally follows this without skipping a beat. From the get-go, you’re once again thrust into managing your master’s atelier workshop after they leave for work, and you get crafting right away.
The typical gameplay loop in Lulua consists of getting some kind of quest or objective, going to gather materials to synthesize something, fighting some monsters, and returning to craft the item. Once you get into the rhythm, it’s quite addicting to go out, farm for materials, fight some baddies, and then come home to unwind and make things.
There are some new changes to battles, most notably the Interrupt ability, which lets characters use their special Interrupt Skill and a pre-equipped item, outside their normal turn. Once the gauge is full after dishing out some attacks, you can activate this skill and use the pre-equipped item without consuming it, giving you a pretty big advantage.
The overall makeup of your party has changed a bit too, as previous games have used parties of six, made up of three pairs, each with an attacker and a supporter. Now, there are three standalone attackers and two support characters. I felt like this changeup helped battles flow a bit quicker, and I was breezing through monsters at that point.
There are also unique skills you can use to hit enemy weaknesses, like the Range Shift skill from Eva, which expands her area of attack for a few turns. These skills can also help you unlock the secrets behind the Alchemy Riddle, an ongoing cipher like system you have to unlock to get more knowledge from the mysterious book that only Lulua can read.
Overall, the game is mostly an extremely comfy experience that you can just sit back and enjoy. Coming from this, if you’re used to JRPGs where you have to grind endlessly to beat the next difficult boss – that isn’t really the case here. It’s not that the game has no challenge, it can just be effortless if you’re used to JRPGs. The book cipher puzzles can also be a bit too easy.
As this is sort of a return to form for the series after the previous spinoff game, it can feel a bit same-y for returning players. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the game is overall a great and rewarding experience. There are the aforementioned changes but aside from that, this is simply more cute and fun Atelier adventuring. There’s less time management stuff as well.
The story in Atelier Lulua follows the new protagonist, Elmerulia, who mostly goes by the less awkward name Lulua. She’s the daughter of the famous alchemist Rorona, and the apprentice of the alchemist Piana. Lulua’s biggest wish is to surpass her mom, despite living in a small town on the frontiers of the Arland Republic. This is a story of growth for Lulua, as she has much to improve.
The easy way to describe Lulua is the scrappy youngster with a chip on her shoulders, forever trying to impress her colleagues and of course – her mom. She gets frustrated easily and can have moments of doubt, but quickly buckles down and tries to continue on. Despite her lack of experience, she discovers a mysterious book that only she can read, and it holds many secrets.
Deciphering the book is a core part of the game, as most of your adventures and goals are focused on finding clues to unlocking each section’s cipher. These can range from going to certain areas, collecting certain items, using various skills, and fighting certain monsters. The book not only reveals new alchemy recipes, but also secrets behind the entirety of Arland itself.
As this is the fourth entry in the Arland sub-series and a sequel to Atelier Meruru, you’re probably wondering if you can just hop into this release, let alone the Atelier series in general – as there are a ton of games. I’d say with each game having its own story and this one focusing on Rorona’s daughter, you can jump right in and not need much exposition.
The soundtrack in Atelier Lulua is, as expected, overflowing with cuteness and happy feelings. There is an insurmountable amount of charm and good spirit in this soundtrack I think it would warm even the blackest of hearts, but perhaps some people are beyond saving. It really is just an amazingly cute and so well done, like the previous Atelier games.
The variety of instruments in the soundtrack is actually quite nice, despite the majority of songs focusing on nailing that absurdly cute feeling and atmosphere. I’d say the soundtrack matches the innocence and sort of bumbling nature of Lulua herself, and it had me bopping my head through all the locales and events. The world themes in particular were quite awesome.
The voice acting in Atelier Lulua is a constant thing, and its various characters are voiced by some talented Japanese folks. There is no English dub, so if you’re not into Japanese women going nuts over frivolous things like what ingredients to use in a new recipe, you might not be able to withstand the levels of cute in this game.
Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland is a return to form after the previous game, Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists, experimented with town management alongside some alchemy mechanics. Some fans were not into that game, and that’s fine, but Atelier Lulua is more of the same cuteness and fun the series has been known for, with some welcome changes.
If you’re looking for a laid back, cute and comfy Japanese RPG with an overwhelming amount of cuteness, you should consider picking up Atelier Lulua. If you’re not into super cute anime girls voiced by also cute Japanese voice actors, I’m not sure what else can fill that hole in your heart. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more alchemy to do.