Review by SpiralSage
"I torture the Earth Mana."
The Atelier Series is not well known in States, but in Japan it's fairly popular(or at least I would think so with now 7 games been made). Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is the sixth game in the series and has now been released over to the States thanks to the published known as NIS. Unlike other Atelier games, Eternal Mana is like the black sheep of the family when it comes to almost anything once you try to compare it to the earlier games. It isn't Texted based like a Dating sim and there is a lot of outside exploration, walking through towns and even solving puzzles is new to the Atelier franchise. This is where the game shines in this respect; it brings a few older Atelier gameplay elements but also invents new ones while they're at it making it a fresh new experience for gamers who have played through the series. Sadly, this seems to be a double-edged sword; these "new" elements and Eternal Mana's art style are far "outdated" in this day and age, most people who haven't played the other parts of the series will only see the PSone style graphics and the standard Turn based Battle system.
The story starts of with Klien, a young Alchemist running away from unknown assailants. He meets a mysterious girl and soon they both set off on a journey where they will begin to uncover the secrets of an technologically advanced race who were mysteriously wiped out by an unknown cause. Insert a typical badguy searching for unlimited power, A womanizer, a female knight, and a Catgirl who talks like someone out of Digi Charat and you basically get the gist of the story. The main thing I found a bit displeasing about the story was the fact that it feels as though random plot elements where just thrown together. In the end, the game felt rushed and had no real purpose.
Unlike other Atelier games, Eternal Mana has a lot of exploration. While the games itself has few areas to trek to, dungeons and towns are fun to go through since there are certain Platformer elements that make the experience enjoyable. For instance, Klien can Jump to get higher up on certain buildings, accessing new shops and people as he goes. Later on, Klien receives new abilities that further his exploration, like being able to shoot fireballs that can destroy certain blocks that are in his path, or a barrier that allows him to walk over lava and electric floors. This was one of the coolest things about the game actually, there were so many places you could go to and check out thanks to these platforming abilities.
Since Klien is an alchemist, you can be sure that alchemy is a great deal important in this game. You see, there are certain Mana Items that are spread throughout the world and once Klien gets them, he can start synthesizing Mana Items. Mana Items can be made by the help of two thing; Mana, energy that is basically found in almost all inanimate objects which can be absorbed thanks to Klien's cane and Mana Spirits, little helpers who use Mana to actually create the Mana items. Mana can be found anywhere, see a bomb on the floor? Use your staff to turn it into Fire Elements,you can do this with almost any object that you see and it's pretty fun to do. Mana Spirits are also spread across the land, and with their help, they can make sure you can items. Every now an then, you'll need to give your Mana Spirits gifts so they'll like you and actually work for you. There's a bunch of elements and that obviously means there's a bunch of Mana items Klien can recieve.
Eternal Mana's battle system is basically Standard Turn Based. Three people fight and whoever is the fastest character on screen attacks first. There was also something very cool about the battle system though; let's say three of your party members die. Do you think you'll get a game over? No! Instead, the two other characters will jump out to replace their fallen comrades! Every character has a certain set of abilities that can be leveled up, Klien can level up an ability that allows him to absorb the Mana from dead enemies he slays while Lita can level up her powerful Kick attacks. Another thing that's worth while to mention is the fact that some skills take more than one turn to complete; certain boss moves can take up to three turns to activate, luckily during this time, your characters can try to skill break their adversary , allowing the skill to be broken before it can be cast.
The best thing Eternal Mana has to offer is the Shop Synthesizing system. Not only can Klien make Items using Alchemy, but he can also find ingredients across the world which he can put together to make crazy things, from Food to Vacuum cleaners! Every town has at least two shopkeepers you can synthesize with. The great thing about these shopkeepers is the fact that the more you synthesize with them, the more you get to know them. Most of them will later confess their secrets to you as long as you keep them happy by synthesizing better items for them. There's also a Store Rating, so the better the people of the towns love your items, the more business the shopkeepers receive. In all honesty, this was probably the best thing about this game. The game itself can be beaten in around 30 hours, but synthesizing new items and showing off items to an Item collector could take up to 60 more hours! Whether you're looking for a nice short RPG or an RPG that takes considerable time to actually collect everything, this game is here to treat.
Another great thing about this game is the music it has to offer, there are simple melodies, sad sonnets, and some crazy boss battles music that feels like it was ripped out of a X Japan CD. Another great thing is the fact that the game can be heard in Japanese and English. While I won't rant about how horrible the game's dub is, I will mention there is this glitch that makes you have to turn the language back into Japanese whenever you load the game. A bit frustrating, but nothing too horrible.
While I did find this game enjoyable,most of the game consists of backtracking, horrible plotlines that eventually go nowhere, and a semi-fun battle system. While the game's synthesizing gameplay is totally spectacular, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed in the end. Is it really worth the 50 bucks? Probably not, but you won't find it any cheaper unless more copies are released.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 07/12/05
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