RPGs have experienced a recent resurgence in popularity, thanks to companies like Nippon Ichi. Thanks to titles like Disgaea, La Pucelle: Tactics and Phantom Brave, PS2 owners have been introduced to dozens of hours of gameplay and tons of unlockable secrets that foster replayablity. But much more impressive than these facts, Nippon Ichi has melded turn-based strategy/RPG gameplay with anime influenced visuals to fully engage players. However, their latest title, Atelier Iris, takes a departure from their usual formula, leaning more towards a traditional role playing game than anything else.
Atelier Iris revolves around Klein, a young alchemist looking to make a name for himself in the world. A capable magician who’s also self-confident and headstrong, Klein typically runs into people who discount his abilities or his talents based on his youthful appearance. One of these people is Lita, a likeminded fighter that’s parlayed her considerable brawling skills into being a Galgazit, or a bounty hunter of monsters. As time goes on, Klein and Lita form a team of hunters to track down beasts known as Growloons, seemingly harmless creatures that summon evil beasts.
Obviously, magic plays a large role in Atelier Iris. However, it’s the way the magic is handled that makes the spell casting system unique in the game. Klein will have to gather elements for magic by breaking objects, extracting them from monsters and acquiring items. These elements can then be processed and synthesized with other materials to form new items, weapons or spells. While you won’t have to depend on merchants for life restoring items, you will be able to use their services to synthesize even higher quality goods from your backpacks. Merchants also give you jobs, ranging from your standard delivery mission to elimination of monsters in a region. Fulfilling these tasks will earn you money or rewards for your team.
Interestingly, Atelier Iris also features a creative tutorial system narrated by one of the game characters. Headed by Popo, a magical creature known as a Mana, players are introduced to new features of the game as they progress through the title. But this isn’t the standard list of text that you find in other RPGs. Popo and the other game characters interact throughout the entire session, making fun of each other and even the features they’re explaining. It’s a break from the norm, but it’s very humorous to watch. Speaking of the “Mana,” these supernatural creatures aid Klein in his alchemy, creating items and spells. One of the more unique twists is that, as living beings, these creatures have their own personalities, and can be insulted or worked into a bad mood. To get them to produce their effects again, you’ll have to manage their attitudes and give them gifts that make them happy. It’s a different way to manage your party, and one that keeps you on your toes.
The anime influence from previous Nippon Ichi games is apparent with the character models; similarly, the amount of voice acting that you’d find in their other titles seems to be matched within Atelier Iris, although the characters seem to enjoy making fun of each other more. We’re looking forward to this new RPG when it hits shelves later this month; check back soon for a full review!
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