Review – Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana

Some basic information about Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana
Consoles game is available for: Playstation 2
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Developer/Publisher: GUST/Nippon Ichi
US Release Date: June 2005

Never heard of the developer GUST?  You’re not alone.  This small group hasn’t been able to produce any of their games outside of Japan… well, that is until Nippon Ichi and their new found glory in America picked up their newest PS2 game, Atelier Iris, and brought the game overseas.  However, was it a wise move to bring the next installment of the long-running Atelier to the US shores, or should the series just stayed in Japan?

In Atelier Iris, you play the role of Klein Kiesling, a young alchemist.  Klein, apparently like most alchemists of his time, seeks to open the gates to the ruins of Avenberry, an ancient alchemical city that has long fallen from its grace.  Of course, you shouldn’t expect that the gates will just OPEN without any work, so you end up in the nearby town of Kavoc, where you find employment (by finding I mean you were half-forced into the job) as a Galgazit.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s just say that a Galgazit is basically a kind of mercenary helping out the townpeople, though it’s more deeply involved than that.

Anyway, from there on out the story plays like the typical RPG fare with some twists:  You meet a variety of pretty cliched party members and the story quickly evolves into a “save the world” plot, though some plot twists along the way do make the story a little more unique and interesting.  Really, though, the story has a bit of a “been there done that” feeling, but depending on an individual’s taste that may not be a bad thing.

The battle system in Atelier Iris is your typical turn-based RPG affair, with turns depending on the speed of your party and whatnot.  If you played any battle system like it before, you know what you are going to get from this game.  One not of worth, though, is that you can switch party members in and out of battle at any time, and it won’t even cost your turn, which is nice.

The overall difficulty of Atelier Iris is pretty easy, thought there might be a few boss battles that can be difficult.  So, if you’re looking for a challenging RPG, don’t look here.

One of the game’s biggest draws is the item creation system.  Using items and materials you find lying around, you can go to various shops and make new items.  It really is deeper than it sounds; you can go to different shops to make different items, use different stuff to make new items, and do quests for the shopkeepers to get new recipes.  What’s also interesting is that every new item created sparks a cutscene about the item between your party and the shop owner, and for the most part they are quite humorous.  However, there are many points where the system can get tedious, as some ingredients are really rare, or you have to make other items first, requiring you to run around the different towns getting the items.  Overall though, it’s a nice addition to the game, and almost always is rewarding.

In addition to the normal items you create, you can also obtain Mana items.  Unlike regular items, only Klein can create these items, and he does so not by using ingredients, but by using elements you can collect on the field.  By using these elements and the corresponding Mana, you can make these items, ranging from healing items to high powered attack items.  Usually these items are much more effective than the majority of regular items you get in battle, but since only Klein can make and use them, it makes it difficult to use them properly, especially since it’s hard to make a revival item that is NOT a Mana item, placing an extremely high priority on keeping him alive at all costs.

The graphics of Atelier Iris are nice, though don’t expect to push your PS2 to the limits.  The characters are sprite based on a typical background, and it’s all well-drawn.  The in-battle sprites are especially nice, with vividly moving characters and high quality (though I wouldn’t say remarkable) spell effects.

The music to Atelier Iris is a bit of a hit-or-miss.  While a lot of the tracks were stunning, some of the tracks were just average, though none of them managed to grate on the nerves.  For the most part, the music fit the atmosphere for the game, though the track for the volcano area was kind of… out of place… How do you fit metal into an RPG like this?  Oh well…

So, is Atelier Iris worth picking up?  If you’re a big RPG fan like myself, then yes, but if RPGs aren’t your life’s blood, then it’s a maybe.  The story and characters can be a bit cliche, but he item creation and other sidequests can keep you busy and make up for some of the game’s shortcomings.  It all depends on your personal tastes… Take what you see here and decide for yourself!

Sonic and the Black Knight

So, there I was in my local Walmart, browsing through the magazine section, when I saw this:

Hey! Dead Rising for the W- OH GOD WHY?!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Sonic… with a sword?!  I know Sega hasn’t been too keen on game designing decisions lately, but come on.  Thinking about the type of Sonic game most fans have wanted in recent years (typically a return to the good-ol’ Genesis days, but with that next generation quality mixed in), this is even worse than the shocks of a Were-Sonic and a turn-based RPG.

But, to give the game its benefit of the doubt, the storyline does justify the odd addition of swordplay to the Sonic franchise.  See, a sorceress from King Arthur’s time called Sonic into that, well, time, because King Arthur’s rule has become corrupt, thus making him the titular Black Knight.  So, Sonic goes, sword in hand, to end the Black Knight’s horrible rule.

Sonic and the Black Knight is the second Sonic game for the Wii, and also the second game in the “storybook” series that began with Sonic and the Secret Rings.  Well, that at least explains the kind of “out-there” story.  Also, I’ll admit I don’t know much about Sonic and the Secret Rings, so I’m not quite sure what to say as to the quality of this series, but I DID hear it was better than the Sonic game that came out on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.  However, that isn’t saying much…

Also, it’d be good to say that this news isn’t exactly new.  The game was announced back in July, but the first real information about the game came from the article in the new Nintendo Power issue.

So, will we expect this new steely Sonic game to fall flat on its face?  Probably.  But will we, just maybe, find a Sonic game that, though it may not be what core fans were waiting for, is just fun?  Well, guess we’ll find out next year.

Okamiden

A new Okami game!?  For the DS!?  And, no, it’s not another port, but a REAL sequel!?

I’m super excited.

The only image of it on the web right nows this scan.
The only image of it on the web right now’s this scan.

With 7-Eleven’s (?!?) big reveal, it announced Okamiden: Chisaki Taiyou, a new DS game that’s a sequel to the original PS2 and Wii title.  According to IGN, the beginning goes a little like this:

Okamiden follows the events of the original Okami by a few months, in a world now restored to peace. Issun, Amaterasu’ guide from the original, accompanies Chibiterasu to Sakuya, the girl who called Okami to the world in the original. Sakuya asks Chibiterasu for some form of help.

From the scan above, it looks like the sequel’s keeping the same awesome art style, which I’m glad for.  Hopefully it’ll keep the same fun paintbrush mechanics.  Also, I wonder if Chibiteratsu is the character’s real name…?  Probably not, but it’s still cute.

The game’s being developed by Capcom, but through all the excitement I’m still a little worried.  Since Clover’s now defunct, who knows how much (if any) of the original team is working on this game.  However, I (mostly) believe Capcom will do this game right.

Unfortunately, there isn’t really any information on the game yet, other than an alleged 2010 release date in Japan, but… apparently there’s going to be a playable demo at the Tokyo Game Show later this month, so now we going to have to sit on our hands and wait.

Other source: GameSpot