Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

It’s a game for girls, by the way.

You can run around, call your dad the king a poopyhead, kick the shit out of monsters, make drugs and weapons, deliver pies, recruit supermodels in your party, unlock hidden content, bring back characters from the previous games, send homunculi to hunt for you, and even construct a hot spring. This is Atelier Meruru, the third and final installment in the Atelier series, and it’s a JRPG for the PS3 that focuses mainly on item creation. I got this on a whim when it was released up here because of the irresistibly cute artwork.

I didn’t know about the Atelier series until I got this game, but now I’m compelled to get the other two in the series. Of course, you don’t have to play Atelier Rorona or Atelier Totori to enjoy this game, but you’ll enjoy this one more if you do. Contrary to most JRPGs, your time will mostly be spent on collecting ingredients and developing the small kingdom of Arls instead of fighting and grinding your characters. It’s surprisingly good for a game I just happened to get, but then again, I’m a huge sucker for these things.

Release Date

  • Japan June 23, 2011
  • North America May 29, 2012
  • Europe May 25, 2012

Publisher

Gust / NIS America. Responsible for Ar Tonelico Series, Atelier Series, Disgaea Series, etc.

Story

Atelier Meruru is actually a very light-hearted game in terms of story and development. On the surface, it’s about a princess who got bored one day and decided to become an alchemist. That’s it.

That multicolored hair would give Hijiri Byakuren a run for her money.

However, in order to become an alchemist, Meruru has to fulfill her duty as a princess and help develop the kingdom inside and out. She has three years to do this, and Meruru undergoes a process of self-realization, understanding of responsibility, and growing into the woman she wants to become. It’s still a lighthearted story, though, so don’t expect to be pulling out the tissue box. If you complete Meruru’s goal by the third year, you will have two more to further develop the kingdom.

Artwork

Kishida Mel is the artist behind all of the character artwork in the Atelier series. A beautiful, yet ridiculously cute style that really brings out the life in the characters. I don’t think I’ve ever played a JRPG that was this adorable. Even in 3D form, the characters still retain her art style. (Though you’ll notice some pixelation in some of the texture maps.)

Early scene in the game where Keina, Meruru’s personal maid, helps Meruru out of her slightly dirty clothes.

Atelier Meruru is a game that heavily uses cut-scenes- a trait in most JRPGs. Sometimes, the scenes will develop into fully drawn-out visual novel-esque scenes, where there is a message box with character dialogue and voice acting. The game runs at a very fast pace, as there’s always stuff to get done, but these cut scenes can sometimes be unrelated. Yes, they’re nice and all, but seeing as how they’re unrelated to story and you can’t skip them, they can become annoying if you’re in the middle of getting something done.

Menus, dialogue boxes, and HUDs also look amazing and go hand in hand with everything else. It’s easy to navigate, a pleasure to use, and you are still given plenty of options, such as categorizing your items. (You’ll have to sort eventually, you really have a ton to deal with!)

Voice

Voice acting is an acquired taste. Simply, some like it, others do not. You can choose between an English or Japanese dub in the options section in the menu, or you can turn voice off altogether. English dubs get a lot of hate, and yes, I also poked fun at it, but it’s actually quite good. Not sure why, but it kinda grows on you after a while.

Was this game made for kids or something? Meh, I’m off to play Duke Nukem or Battlefield 3, later.

The voice acting actually grew on me. I disliked it at first, but then I couldn’t stop laughing during the funny scenes. I don’t know if it was because it was so bad, the background music or because it was genuinely funny, but whatever the case was… I enjoyed it. Oh shut up, I know what you’re thinking. But it’s just so cute…

Music

It’s amazing. The limited edition of Atelier Meruru came with a shirt, a mini artbook, the OST, and the game. The OST is a pretty big deal. Atelier Meruru’s music is composed by Kazuki Yanagawa and Daisuke Achiwa and others from TEAM Entertainment. You can find more information here, as well as a download link below. Pumped up metal complements the dangerous boss fights, while a strings arrange with flutes suits the sunny forests nicely. The music is dynamic and it helps to bring out the atmosphere that the characters are in, whether it be a humorous scene or a melancholic one.

Mimi (Right) always gets visibly flustered when there’s any mention of Totori (Left) in the game.

As you continue to advance through the game, some tracks switch to match character progress. The battle theme is the best example of this, starting early in the game with an instrumental version, and then switching to the vocal version.

Synthesis

And now, we get into the main point of the game, and that is item creation, or synthesis.

The grade of items improve as you progress through the game.

The process is simple, yet complex: You pick up raw materials during your travels, return to the workshop, and synthesize these raw materials to create something. You can then consume these items, sell them, use them in battle, or use them in another synthesis. However, these items all have a grade, quality, and some may or may not possess traits or effects. Traits are features that affect an item’s selling price, increase durability, decrease deterioration rate, or other features. Effects are usually in-battle traits that affect HP/MP/LP/ATK/DEF/SPD and other stats, as well as reviving a KO’d party member automatically or affect the rate of gradual HP/MP recovery. There is an endless combination of effects and traits that you can use, but at a limited cost. Synthesized items have a limited number of points (cost) that you can use to add traits and effects from their raw materials. Adding these features also raises your final item’s quality and grade depending on the trait.

Oftentimes, you will be asked to deliver items to someone with a specific trait or quality. It’s a little tricky to do, but if you do it right, you can decrease the number of items required and save yourself time, money, and MP. Atelier Meruru’s synthesis system is the means of which you also create battle weapons, healing items, and equipment for your party.

Kudos to Gust for turning an otherwise mundane system into the main focus of a game and actually turn it into something entertaining. It’s very elaborate and it pretty much eats other JRPGs’ item creation systems for breakfast. It’s a lot of fun seeing how the stuff you made turn out in battle. It’s very rewarding and it keeps you engaged even when you’re not playing the game.

Combat

This video shows item creation and the battle system.

Atelier Meruru runs on a turn-based combat system. It’s nothing spectacular like LMBS, (Real-time battle system used in the Tales of Series.) but it has all of the basic elements you would expect out of a JRPG. I heard it was an improvement over Totori’s and Rorona’s battle systems. Even so, you won’t spend most of your time in Atelier Meruru fighting.

Members in your party can attack, defend, and use skills. Only Meruru, and the other alchemists can use items. Later on in the game, members in your party can preform specials during a critical state. Every attack move a character makes in battle will consume LP, and every skill a character uses will consume MP. Regular attacks, skills, items and specials will move you further down the timeline on the right. The timeline shows whose turn it will be. When guarding, you can choose where to position yourself in the timeline. This is useful for strategizing, such as filling the gauge next to the character icon on the bottom. When it fills up, your team can combine to preform powerful attacks.

Keina trying on some of Meruru’s clothes.

Different items, attacks, skills, and specials all have different attack ranges that can attack one or more enemies.

Time

Atelier Meruru runs on a time system. You are to improve the kingdom over the course of three years. You have a goal to fulfill, but everything you do consumes time. Fighting, gathering, traveling, synthesizing, and of course, sleeping- all consume time. As you progress more into the game, you may find the need to micromanage your priorities wisely. Some may like this, but some may not. I feel that this is a good system to encourage the player to make decisions, because in the end, you’re doing things because you want to. In Atelier Meruru, you can also accept requests, which increase Meruru’s popularity and income. Usually these requests involve gathering raw materials or defeating enemies. In the future, you can accept more complicated requests. Not doing requests for a long time or taking too long to fulfill them or even cancelling them will cause Meruru’s popularity to drop. As the game progresses, you can unlock Pamela’s Store, which can help you save some time in the long run in exchange for money.

You can also see improvements in areas you’ve helped develop after a period of time. The environment changes, and usually, new, higher quality, and rare items become available.

Replay

There is New Game+ and DLC available from the PSN Store. You can purchase additional playable characters and extra soundtracks, as well as others goodies. As of today, there is some more DLC yet to be released.

Summary

Atelier Meruru is a fun little lighthearted game. It revolves around the main character, Merurulince Rede Arls, whose goals are to develop the kingdom of Arls, synthesize items, and kick enemies to the curb. It has a pretty good combat system, though you won’t be spending most of your time fighting. Everything is timed, but you can choose to only do the stuff you want to do, which helps keep the game at a relaxed pace. It’s not exactly a difficult game, and the learning curve isn’t difficult either, but it’s quite a niche title. Only pick this up if you like excessively cute girls and don’t require a deep, soul crushing story to move along. There’s a few lesbian undertones and innuendo, but nothing excessive like in Hyperdimension Neptunia. (Apparently it’s cool to pick on Neptunia!) There’s plenty of replay value and of course, there’s New Game+, so you can expect to keep coming back to this. I originally picked this up to keep me busy until the release of Tales of Xillia, (If it ever gets released here in the US) so honestly, my expectations for this game were quite low.

Consider me blown away!

My PSN is GreenVirus76. I started on NG+ already.

Edit: Download link is at Sonix’s Blog. It’s password protected, so see the post for details. This is a first for me, forgetting the download link and all… My memory is failing me.

4 thoughts on “Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

  1. Pingback: Anime Expo 2012 Cosplay + Thoughts « Tsundere Works' Moé Blog
  2. More lovely Atelier fun.

    This game, Meruru, is the most like Atelier Iris 3. If you like Meruru, do yourself a favor and check out Iris, it’s closer to this than Totori or Rorona.

    Rorona and Totori are also wonderful games in their own rights, and Meruru wouldn’t exist without Rorona coming first, so you owe her some time!

    I’m sad that Astrid stunted my favorite character so…

    • I’ll most likely be checking out all of the others you’ve suggested. I just finished my 3rd run of Meruru and there’s still plenty to do! At the risk of mentioning a spoiler, I’ll just say that there’s a good ending to the entire Rorona ordeal.

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