Princess Meruru rules over a rural kingdom but secretly wants to be an alchemist. Her father the king forbids it, but after some convincing, gives her a chance. If she can use her alchemy skills to improve the kingdom in three years, he’ll let her be a full-fledged alchemist. Help Meruru reach her dream in this RPG that has a strong emphasis of item synthesis and time management. It’s the third in a series of Atelier games on the PS3, but while fans will recognize familiar reoccurring characters, newcomers can play it just fine without any previous knowledge of the series.
Meruru can collect items in town and in the wilderness. Back at the workshop, she can combine these items using alchemy magic to create all sorts of things. Some help you in battle, like bombs and healing potions. Other items you can make can be given to other people in the game to increase your popularity in the kingdom and progress the story along. The more items you make, the higher alchemy level you’ll achieve. You’ll learn more alchemy recipes at higher levels. In the fields and forests and other areas, you may wander into enemies and a battle will ensue. Fights are turn-based and typical of any Japanese RPG.
Visit the castle to accept tasks to help improve the kingdom. Completing these tasks will increase the population of the kingdom, and your popularity will increase, too. New stores and characters may open up to help you in your quests. Completing these quests earns you points that you can use to construct new buildings in the city. You can also accept small jobs at the guild desk in the tavern to earn some extra cash and popularity.
The game places a heavy emphasis on time. Everything you do in the game takes time from the clock, even things like gathering and combining items, resting, even travelling by map! You’ll want to make sure you have everything you need before venturing forth, because needless backtracking can eat the days away. You have three years to make the kingdom a prosperous place, and there are multiple endings so you can replay again as you get better.
Really the only problems I had with this game are personal preferences. I really don’t like it when games give you a time pressure, as I like to play these kinds of games at a more leisurely pace. Plus, as you advance and things get more complicated, some of the goals and objectives are a little unclear. Still, Atelier Meruru turned out a lot better than what I thought it would be, and the graphics make the game look just like an anime cartoon. If you love Japanese style RPGs, you’ll definitely want to give this one a try.
Atelier Meruru is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptions of Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Partial Nudity, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol. In battle, characters smack cartoony enemies with weapons and magic, and they just disappear when defeated. Bad language is used very sparingly in the text; I didn’t even hear anything bad yet, to be honest. Some of the characters wear revealing clothes, and even the main heroine’s skirt is just a little too short. Other suggestive themes are more campy than anything, and you do visit a tavern to accept jobs. Even though most of the game is fully voiced, reading skill is still a must for all the text in the menus. Because of this and the complexity of the game, it’s best for teens and older players anyway, although I’m sure some pre-teens would be able to play just fine, too.