Ah yes, a new year, which means a new entry in the Atelier franchise. In fact, with the exception of just a couple of years, there has a new game in the long-running series every year since 1997! I have seen the games a handful of times, but I admit that I have never really been interested in the games based on the Anime like the design of them. I’ve talked to a few different fans of the series though and they were very supportive of the series and what it has to offer. It says a lot to me that developers Gust has been put so many of these games out, so I finally decided to see what these games were all about and tried Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland.
Fairly quick into the game, Lulua comes across a book that only she can read while only appearing blank to everyone else that sees it. The basis of the adventure is what came off to me as pointless. Lulua is an alchemist in training, her mother is supposed to be this grand master alchemist and yet the adventure Lulua embarks on her journey to do something that her Mom could’ve done with no issues. It’s not to say that the story is bad though. The game comes with multiple heartfelt moments that make you care for the characters, I just felt like the story came second to the synthesizing. What makes the game unique is that there is no main antagonist or anything to worry about. The entire game is based on Lulua just trying to become a better Alchemist. I will be honest, I am not a massive fan of the story in Atelier.
As Lulua is an Alchemist in training, the major brunt of the game comes down to her synthesizing items. When you are out in the world, the main focus is to gather materials to synthesize new items. You can also get new materials by fighting monsters, of course, the stronger the enemy, the better the materials. Fans of the series can rest assured that you will have all the time in the world to explore with making new items as there is no time limit to finish the game as there has been in past Atelier games. I will be honest, if this is your first time playing an Atelier game, don’t pay too much mind to the tutorial. I tried to hyper-focus on every single detail in the tutorial and I felt like all it did was confuse me more than anything. You are able to get new materials easily, so the best way to learn the synthesizing is to just experiment around. I don’t claim to have mastered it, not by any means, but as you play, it will make more sense in time.
Graphically speaking, the game looks fantastic! The characters have a unique and colourful anime-like design that makes it difficult to confuse them. The world itself also has a burst of lush colourful designs that make the game very aesthetically pleasing to look at.
Oddly enough, I really want to talk about the sounds of the game, which is something I usually don’t go too much into detail over in my reviews. I am not going to beat around the bush and just say that I found the voices to be very annoying. It has nothing to do with it being Japanese and having to read the English subtitles. That is usually my preferred method of watching anime. I just found all the voice acting in the game to not be great and I was distracted from the game as the voices did not seem to match well with the animation. Thankfully, they did people like me a major solid by having the ability to turn off all the voices in the game. Considering that is what I had when I was playing games like Chrono Trigger growing up, this is by far my most preferred method of playing JRPGS. This also gave me the ability to listen to music more. The soundtrack is, for the most part, very upbeat as I would expect from this game. It seems like the music always has an accurate feel for the moment at hand.
The best part of the game is the one thing that I found the game doesn’t focus enough on, and that is the combat system. These days, we don’t see turn-based combat so much, with most developers switching over to open world combat (ala Final Fantasy 15, The Witcher 3) and as a massive fan of that style of combat, I was delighted to see it in Atelier. For fans of the combat system in Final Fantasy 10, this is how it plays out in this game. You can have 3 characters out in the battle at one time, with the ability to switch out characters if you so, please. The difference between Final Fantasy 10 and Atelier though is that you can use the characters that are not in the battle in a strategic way still by using combination attacks, and more importantly, they can interrupt the enemies attacks! Utilizing these different combinations and interruptions will be the key to seeing you destroy the enemy. It’s just a massive shame though that the combat in Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland seems like it is the least important part of the game.
I can understand why people would love Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland. The game seems to be light-hearted for the most part with a world of well designed and likeable characters. It is playable if you didn’t play the original trilogy, however, I feel as if you will not get the same “Wow!” factor that returning players will have when they see old favourite characters. Personally speaking, I wish there was some more focus on the fighting as they seem to pull it off well, but I know that it is not necessarily what the game series is known for. If you are looking for a JRPG that is doing something a little bit different than the normal, that perhaps Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland is the game for you.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*