In the past, I have written some initial impressions or full reviews of video games from Japan. Of course, most of what I covered is ones related to Anime such as the Idolmaster games and Pokémon. Now I’m going to do something slightly different and share my thoughts about a pretty obscure game called Atelier Meruru. (Image Source)
Believe it or not, I never heard of this game until now because it’s not popular in the west. However in Japan, the Atelier franchise is rather popular. Compared to the typical Japanese RPG of a male hero saving the world and defeating evil as seen in many Final Fantasy and Tales of games, Gust came up with a rather interesting idea for a role-playing game. They focused mainly on female leads collecting items and synthesizing them together through alchemy to make stuff such as weapons, food, you name it. While I have tried one of the older games (Atelier Ellie), it was kind of hard to get into not because of my limited Japanese knowledge, but for its primitiveness as you can’t do any exploration and all the ingredients are collected automatically. Thankfully, the Arland trilogy brought some type of exploration to the mix, which improved especially in the second game, Atelier Totori and refined in this game.
In this game, you play as a princess named Merurulince Rede Aris (Meruru for short) who wants to become an alchemist. In addition, she has to use alchemy in some way to develop the kingdom of Arls to a prosperous one. Believe it or not, when I played through this game, it felt like I was watching an Iyashikei Slice of Life show. Not much happens in the game as it does not follow a defined linear story line and what ending you earn depends on what you do in the 5 years. From time to time, you get to experience some events involving various characters you have met throughout the game.
As for the game play mechanics itself, the battling and exploration takes a back seat as quests, developing the kingdom and making items is the focus on the game. From the Adventurer Guild, you can accept quests to increase popularity needed for development and to earn money. On the other hand, development tasks are various goals you have to meet in order to earn points needed to develop new facilities and other things. These tasks usually involve hunting certain/all monsters, collecting ingredients or making new items.
On the other hand, the battling system is a turn based one and it’s pretty easy to get used to. While other members can’t use items you make, Meruru and Totori can use them to heal others or as a weapon. As you would expect, you fight mostly cute monsters (yes, you can even beat a horses and rabbits up).
Lastly, the synthesizing system is rather complex as you can make many items containing different traits and qualities depending on what items you use. This obviously gives you a wide variety of ways to make each item. As mentioned earlier, these items can be used to make other items, for development or in battle.
After experiencing several hours of game play, Atelier Meruru is a fun game that does item crafting better than bread making in Shining Hearts (yes, I gone there). Besides the game play, the art style looks rather pretty and basically all the females in this game look cute. Even the older ones who look like teenagers! This is the reason I wanted to play this game and got a copy of Atelier Totori Plus on the Playstation Vita. Aside of that, definitely try it out if you are into slice of life, visual novels, and making items.