"Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland" Video Game Review (PS3)
Publisher: Gust and NIS America
Atelier Meruru:The Apprentice of Arland is a Japanese role playing game and it’s third and final title of the Arland series, which has involved three specific female protagonists who use alchemy and face specific conflicts. To be perfectly honest I never heard of the Atelier series until now and the way it was originally presented to me didn’t leave much of a good impression. However, I was in for a huge shock when I started playing this game and discovered one heck of an interesting experience.
- Play as Meruru and help the Kingdom of Aris grow.
- Use alchemy in order to create new items and equipment that will help you on your journey
- Fight fierce enemies and bosses who shall stand in your way from taking over more territory
- Explore beautiful environments that contain many materials that will help you with your alchemy
The story of Atelier Meruru:The Apprentice of Arland is all about the princess of Aris named Meruru, who has the dream of one day becoming a great alchemist. Sadly, Meruru’s father, the king, is against her wishes and demands that she follows her duty as the princess instead of deciding on something foolish like alchemy. Meruru is able to get through to her father to the point where he makes her a deal: if she can use her alchemy and help expand the kingdom to the point where it has 30,000 people within three years, then he will accept her dream. With the help of her loyal servant Rufus, Meruru goes out to the world outside the castle walls and uses her alchemy skills in order to make her kingdom a better place for its citizens.
Atelier Meruru has a very simple plot that is taken to better heights thanks to the cast of characters that are within the game. The only main problem with them as that they’re really only comedic and lack depth, besides having a certain characteristic in their personalities that make them stand out. It’s a shame because a lot of the characters in the game are very interesting, yet they don’t have too many secrets to share and their primary purpose is to make the story a lot more fun. You will be able to find hidden character scenarios throughout the plot in order to understand the main cast much more, which definitely helps a lot. The story itself does go beyond the 30,000 population goal and it’s really up to you on how you play the game. Depending on what you do the kingdom will either remember what you’ve done for them, or not remember a single action that you did in the course of playing. There are many different unique endings and even when I got up to 79,000 people, I still got what was considered one of the worst endings because I wasn’t able to expand the kingdom far enough. In the end the story is pure, light-hearted entertainment that really tries its best at making you smile.
In order to buy items though, you will need money that is obtained from either killing monsters or through the use of the “request board” that offers jobs that range from killing certain monsters to making or finding specific items. When you complete a quest your “popularity bar” goes up and your citizens will begin to like and write about you in a positive way. Every month or so, a newspaper is released that discusses your successes; sometimes, it makes absurd gossip claims about Meruru killing specific monsters for fun or wasting money. You definitely don’t want your popularity going down, as that will interfere with your success rate on making materials through the alchemy system. The alchemy system involves using a cauldron at your workshop and performing different recipes that require all sorts of items like lumber, grass, and eventually even jewels depending on what you’re trying to make.
The last big detail to bring up here for the gameplay is the turned based battle system that is used for fighting the monsters you will encounter. You
can only have three party members at a time, who normally have three options: Attack,
skills, and block. Attacking is already pretty cool because some party members are allowed to attack more than one enemy due to the weapon they’ve mastered (dual blades, gun attacks, etc). Skills range from raising the defense of your
party, to attacking all the enemies on the field, to hitting a single enemy with a massive explosion. What makes the battles special though is that Meruru
and two other characters who join you are able to use a basket that can
contain different healing and attack items that you can make using
alchemy. The healing items go from potions to pies, while the attack items go
as far as destructive bombs and magical swords that can perform amazing damage. If your characters’
gauges on the screen are high enough, you can press the L1 or R1 buttons to triger a follow-up attack in addition to your normal attack. Eventually, the characters will
gain “special attacks”
after gaining a specific high level. Special attacks can turn around a tough fight and some of them are absolutely crazy to look at; one
character can use a huge lightning blade while another summons an army
of “Chim Rangers”. The only big issue that you have to be careful about when it comes to battling is that only Meruru can create healing items in the game; the local shops only supply the materials you need for them. The only other way to heal is through the use of your bed at the workshop.
There is one big critical flaw with all of this that really makes the
experience much more tedious than fun. The game runs on a timer and almost every action you perform takes a day or more. When you create or gather items and travel out of town, it takes time. Normally I would be fine with this, yet the clock tends to go so fast at times that you will find yourself spending a lot of time not really accomplishing much if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. The developers already give you a bed to
skip lots of time, so it seems rather silly to make such a realistic
system that might overwhelm players rather than deliver the enjoyable experience of
accomplishing the many tasks that are given to you.
If there is one positive note about the time system, it’s that it does add tons of replay value since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to 100% the game without a clear guide or taking lots of notes.
Graphics: The graphics in Atelier Meruru are very well done and definitely beautiful. The characters themselves are designed well, and the environments later in the game can be absolutely stunning. Throughout the cutscenes you will only usually see character portraits and I can’t recall ever seeing one character who wasn’t drawn wonderfully.
There are no proper words to describe what I’ve heard out of the soundtrack in this title. At first this game starts with just generic music and then…I started hearing the strings of instruments and sound that made my ears feel amazed as I progressed into each new environment. I feel like I owe this game an apology because I was not expecting such a great soundtrack coming out of this series. Bravo.
Overall: Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland is without a doubt one of the most unique gems hiding within the PS3 library. At first glance it looks like a game aimed directly at girls, but underneath this game is a very fun and challenging adventure that puts your mind to the test on how you will defeat the next boss and solve the next problem with your citizens. The characters themselves don’t have masterpiece backstories, but they are entertaining enough that this doesn’t much matter. The soundtrack and the graphics are high quality and I was absolutely stunned at how beautiful both were. The only huge flaw with this title is that the time system is just too fast; it should have definitely been slowed down a bit in order for people to more fully experience what they are playing. All in all, Atelier Meruru:The Apprentice of Arland proves to JRPG fans that girl power is pretty dang awesome.