Review by threetimes

"More, or less, of the same"

If you liked the first Atelier Iris you"ll like this..more or less. I say this because in some respects the game has improved, in others it has taken a backwards step, or remained the same.

Atelier Iris 1 was a fun engaging game with a distinctive visual style, and an addictive central conceit revolving around gathering various coloured liquid called "mana" from readily available items found in the field or dropped by enemies, and finding and experimenting with "recipes" to create new items. This also involved amusing interactions with various shopkeepers who would help in this creative task. This new game could have built on this imaginative idea but while it uses the same basic system it kind of dumbs it down. The complex shopkeeper interactions are gone as are the pretty graphics. Non playable characters have few distinguishing features, and the sometimes tricky puzzles and geography of the first game have gone. The game even reuses certain locations from the first game in an exercise of cut and paste which renders them as bland and pointless. Monsters are also recycled though this is not so bad as the designs and characteristics retain their qualities.

The fighting is fun with three characters taking it in turns and if someone dies they are instantly replaced with another character and even if they are not revived before the end of the battle they still get some experience, There is an additional feature of being able to make a "break" attack that literally stops an enemy in its tracks enabling you to pummel it into submission thus racking up extra points of experience for characters and skills. The key feature of being able to synthesise weapons and items and armour works well, though is not quite as challenging as before. The story is ok, involving some neat twists and turns which help maintain a challenge when, for example, you cannot use a certain character. The humour is a bit forced and there is an odd dissonance in the section of the game where you invade a palace and kill lots of people in the process. This seemed quite a serious undertaking in what is presented as a relatively light hearted game.

The sound effects are good, as are the characters" voices, and the six playable characters, three male and three female, have decent voices which reflect their characters well. Unfortunately they, and the rest of the cast don"t have a lot to say that"s very interesting. The music is fine. Nothing jars and some tunes are quite catchy.

One really good feature is the menu which allows you to quickly review everything: weapons, accessories, equipment,monsters, recipes, skills, key items, mana items etc. An item that you get early on lets you review each location to see what treasure chests are available, so there is no danger of missing important items.

The game could have been so much better, and is seriously let down by the graphics which are dull and simplistic. It looks like a game from the ps1 era and at the start of the game is very off putting. However if you persevere and don"t object too much to recycling, the key elements of game play and synthesising make this an enjoyable venture back into the world of atelier iris.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 05/30/06

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