Atelier games deserve a video game genre all to themselves. In the time it has taken for me to finish up this review there has been another 2 entries in the series with another new one on the way. Atelier Meruru is the closing chapter in the Arland trilogy. The first game, Atelier Rorona – The Alchemist of Arland DX totally blew me away (check out my review of it here) but the second Atelier Totori – The Adventurer of Arland DX left me a little disappointed (check out my review of it here) It’s time to see if the trilogy ends with an A Grade fusion or a failed lump of coal.
If you’ve somehow never played an Atelier game then Atelier Meruru still has all the necessary tutorials to get you started. It’s essentially a JRPG where you’ll be exploring, collecting, battling and mostly in menus crafting away to fulfil requests and progress the story. While you spend your time doing all of these tasks you’ll be managing your usage of time as the days and months flow by and trigger events as enough time passes. Atelier Meruru continues to use the Arland game’s time mechanic and it works in a way that doesn’t punish the player but rather instils a sense of urgency in various trivial tasks, every action uses time and you need to manage it like a resource. The story and setting continues along the timelines of the Arland games with this games protagonist as the Princess Meruru.
It has taken me an age to finish up this review as the story to Meruru just really isn’t that great. It’s hard to sympathise with a Princess of a kingdom that wants to study alchemy. When she’s not busy training in alchemy by Totori she’ll be busy trying to become the best Princess she can be. A large amount of your enjoyment will depend on how annoying you found Totori in the last game as it follows similar tropes. Meruru’s tasks are less about learning new skills and more focused on getting her recognised by her subjects, for a kingdom that by all means doesn’t appear to be struggling. Meruru isn’t annoyingly bratty or entitled, it’s just her character is disappointingly dull despite the ridiculous outfit design and the supporting cast feels very watered down.
The biggest problem with Atelier Meruru isn’t just the story though, the biggest issue is the framerate. Some areas of the game are just ungodly bad and traversing them is ludicrously clunky border lining on unplayable. Sadly despite being a PS3 original game ported to the Switch with extras it seems there wasn’t much optimisation. Atelier Meruru can really chug to Blue Reflection levels of unplayable on the Switch, both in handheld and docked. It runs fine in the hub areas and the map screen but some of the more visually appealing areas completely slow the gameplay to a grind. The menus and text all function perfectly well and you can still speed up the game and combat by clicking in the left analogue stick. This doesn’t help when everything chugs but it does make it somewhat playable.
As with the previous Atelier Arland games, the music is really enjoyable. The amount of voice acting is impressive and performances are good enough, nothing outstanding but nothing to distract either. The sounds and attacks are mostly from the previous 2 titles and there isn’t anything frustrating or super enjoyable. The audio for Atelier Meruru is simply fine, there’s no one track that stood out and all of it sort of blends into an average soup. Thankfully the crafting menus remain the same and when you get into the swing of it you’ll be knocking out items by the dozen and waiting to hear the, “It’s done!” in either the Japanese or English dub.
I went into Atelier Meruru immediately after Atelier Totori and really wanted to love it. I was looking forward to everything being tied together nicely and all the crafting to be refined to perfection. Unfortunately the poor performance and lack of interest in seeing the Princess happy resulted in a game that was mostly a slog to playthrough. I can’t say I’m a big fan of how they brought back Rorona characters into the game and it never really feels like it’s trying anything new. The crafting is still fun and the combat is still serviceable but with nothing really new to speak of Atelier Meruru lacks a spark to make it great.
5/10 – A painfully generic pie
Code provided by Koei Tecmo Europe Ltd. Check out their games here
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