As reliably as the moon falls and the sun rises, Atelier games will come out every year. What started as a meek little JRPG on the Sega Saturn has grown into a massive franchise that has evolved across countless consoles and numerous remakes. We’ll see a few different Atelier games come out in quick succession over the next few months, too, which is sure to be a treat for all the big alchemy fans in the building.
Atelier Nelke is set to drop in March, with Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland dropping in the Spring. However, Atelier Lulua is special because it’s the fourth entry in the long-dormant Atelier Arland trilogy, which started back on PlayStation 3 back in 2009, but if you’re late to the party and haven’t experienced the first 3D entries in the Atelier series, then Gust has got you covered with a port of the entire Arland trilogy to Nintendo Switch, PS4 and PC.
The Deluxe Pack is a bundle of three separate games, each making up the Arland trilogy. There’s Atelier Rorona, followed by Atelier Totori, and finally capped off by Atelier Meruru. Despite being three parts of an interconnected trilogy, you won’t be lost at sea if you jump in with Totori or Meruru first. The games have character crossovers and light references to the events of previous entries, but the overall narratives are standalone enough that they can all be enjoyed independently of each other.
In Atelier Rorona, the young alchemist-in-training Rorona is forced to take over the work of her lazy master and their alchemy shop when the town threatens to foreclose on them if they don’t get off their butts and do some alchemy. It’s a simple set-up that gives a good excuse for the timed crafting quests the game throws at you, but it’s also just enough narrative groundwork to allow the cast of fun characters to interact, build off of each other, and grow. Rorona is a simple character, but she has a great design and plenty of hilarious moments.
In Atelier Totori, you play as amateur alchemist Totori, whose goal is to become a master alchemist, earn her Adventurer license, and set out to track down her Adventurer mother that mysteriously disappeared six years ago. She butts heads with her older sister, who is vehemently against having Totori follow in their mother’s footsteps. The narrative is a bit more involved and has a hefty amount of more serious and emotional scenes than the cheery, aimless story of Rorona. Unfortunately, Totori isn’t as enjoyable a protagonist as Rorona to begin with, though she does get plenty of satisfying growth and development eventually.
Finally, Meruru is a bit of shift, and easily features my favorite protagonist in the trilogy. Meruru is the princess of a kingdom set to be absorbed by a larger kingdom in five years. She’s brash, silly and ditzy, but is also relentlessly motivated to practice alchemy and become a master alchemist. While Rorona and Totori were meek and reserved characters who mostly had their things together, Meruru is a clueless mess who isn’t afraid to call her dad a poopyhead, and I love her so much for it. She’s accompanied by a great cast of characters, but Totori and Rorona also join her on her journey into alchemy. The details of each of their games play some part in the overall narrative of Atelier Meruru, so certain events might fly over your head a bit if you haven’t played either of those games first.
While the characters and stories of the three games are different, what you do in them is practically identical. Traditional JRPG combat and the Atelier’s brand of gathering and crafting are still here, but both systems are significantly simplified compared to later Atelier releases. Alchemy in this game features none of the puzzle-esque systems of future Atelier games, and instead simply sees you picking recipes and ingredients from menus and hammering away at the A button. Combat is equally simple, and while there’s a variety of enemies and bosses to encounter for those who enjoy the action aspect of the game more than the alchemy, the games lack a lot of the interesting systems and abilities that made combat in later games so enjoyable.
Thankfully, performance on Switch is also consistent across the three games, and consistently solid, to boot. These were early PS3 games, so they aren’t exactly graphical workhorses. While character models are crisp and sharp, environments are oh-so-simple, allowing the Nintendo Switch to run these games without even a hint of stuttering.
The Atelier series is formed around the mundane yet entrancing act of repeatedly gathering materials, alchemizing items, and stomping hordes of monsters. They’re repetitive, simple experiences that are ideal for portable enjoyment, so putting this trilogy on the Switch is an incredible move, and much appreciated by a fan like me. While Atelier Meruru is my favorite of the trilogy, each of the games in this pack is cute and fun enough to warrant a purchase, especially if you’re an established fan of the franchise who hasn’t gotten a chance to try the Arland trilogy out yet.