Reviewed by Thomas
- Developer: KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD.
- Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA
- Release Date: 21/5/2019
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99
- Review code provided by KOEI TECMO
Atelier is one of the longer running JRPG series with over twenty titles. Developed by Gust Corporation back in 1997, the series is still going strong. The Atelier franchise has also had a huge impact on handheld gaming making it ideal for the Nintendo Switch. With so many entries following a similar formula, how does the latest Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ hold up?
The Alchemist of Arland
In the fourth installment of the Arland series and you step into the shoes of Lulua, the daughter of a famous alchemist. Not to be overshadowed by Rorona, her mother, our young alchemist sets out to make a name for herself. Success seems stacked in Lulua’s favor when you consider her mother is one of the greatest alchemists of all time and she has a designated mentor to boot. If that weren’t enough, she finds a magical tome, or rather it finds her. Lulua dubs the book the Alchemyriddle and only she is able to read its pages. The other alchemists treat the book coolly with subtle curiosity but don’t dwell on it long. The magical book however gives Lulua a huge leg up as it seems to suggest a solution every time a problem presents itself.
The story itself is well done and each character is charming. Though I’ve played other Atelier games, Lulua felt like a magical fairy-tale and had me hooked. It was a pleasure to unlock another chapter of the mysterious book to learn more about Arland and the inhabitants. The story is so well crafted that the side quests are neatly interwoven within the main narrative. There are several different characters Lulua interacts with and their stories add to the overall experience.
The Adventurer of Arland
Atelier Lulua takes from the tried and true formula of other Atelier games. There are essentially parts to the gameplay. Explore, fight, craft. At the onset of the game there are relatively few areas to visit and the world unfurls with dozens of locales the more you play. Each area has set items and visible enemies to discover. As you explore and defeat foes and pick items you can aim to uncover an area 100% of the way. Exploring isn’t as simple as just picking a flower though. Some areas require more advanced tools like bombs or fishing rods to retrieve each item. I found myself going back and forth quite a bit. Unlocking some areas require you to reach specific points in the story or to chase side-quests. The ancient Alchemyriddle provides clues and rewards diligent adventurers.
The combat is styled after classic JRPG turn-based battle. During your time in Arland you’ll gather quite a large party and only five will fight at a time. Three characters at the forefront who directly engage the enemies with two providing backup. The two teammates in the back use an automatic skill like fighting or healing based on the actions of the front line. There are also bonuses by having certain party set ups. This made the combat unique and engaging since it was fun having members switch roles. For a good portion of the game Lulua was second string offering an occasional flying kick or bomb toss. Any alchemist in the party can interrupt the flow of combat to use an bomb or salve you have previously created. Alchemists are also the only ones who can use items as a command in battle.
Finally is crafting. You wouldn’t be much of an alchemist if you just ran around exploring and fighting all day. You’ll spend a lot of time in a traveling atelier modeled after gypsy wagons. Here you’ll concoct all manner of items. Simply toss some of your loot into a giant cauldron and stir. Who knew a beehive and coal could turn into a thundering cannon with a giant spoon and mixing bowl? Though the alchemy portion of Atelier Lulua wasn’t as in depth of some of the other titles, it was engaging enough where I never tired of the mechanic. It can take patience and research to get the best combination for an item since there are various effects and traits which can be passed from one item to another during the crafting process. Finding the balance of a powerful item or one of high quality was often a challenge.
Keeping your wares stocked and searching for the highest quality ingredients makes the cycle of explore, fight, craft ever revolving. Using those three mechanics as the cogs to drive the story made for a fun affair which never grew stale.
The Apprentice of Arland
I love the art style of the Atelier games and The Scion of Arland is no different. The colors are very vibrant and the world feels alive. Despite all the dangers that lurk on each map, it’s hard not to stop and take in the beauty. The music is whimsical and changes based on your location or activity. Sometimes it would start to wear out its welcome but not often and usually if I were doing the same thing for too long. There is a night/day cycle with weather effects which is nice when exploring. Since you’ll likely revisit a lot of areas it’s nice to see them under different circumstances.
The Scion of Arland
I didn’t run into any technical bugs. I did notice while playing in handheld it drained my battery quicker and heated up my Nintendo Switch more than other games. Other than those minor issues, Atelier Lulua ran well and was fun to play docked or handheld. Save points could be easily accessed on the world map or at the atelier so on-the-go playing was never a problem.
Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ is a shining example of what a long running series can accomplish. Lulua embraces its roots and pays homage to its predecessors making each encounter memorable and exciting. Running in to some of the great alchemists who shaped Arland was enjoyable and added to an already fluid world. The story stands on its own so newcomers won’t have to have played the previous Arland games to share in the fun. With the simplified alchemy process, Atelier Lulua is a great entry point for a longstanding series.
- Engaging Story
- Well Balanced
- Wonderful Characters
- Occasional Repetitive Music
- Battery Woes