In the west, the first taste of GUST’s Atelier series that we got was the Atelier Iris series, which were turned-based RPGs with a typical ‘good vs. evil’ story and an in-depth item creation system. However, after the Iris series, the Atelier games returned to their roots: Relatively open-ended games that rarely have the player saving the world. Instead, you run an atelier over a period of time, and… that’s about it. The Atelier series is a bit more about the characters and item creation than anything else. Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island is the Western gamer’s first taste at a true Atelier game…
…which is why I’m thankful that people seem to forget or dismiss it in favor of the Atelier PS3’s Arland series.
Atelier Annie’s story is pretty threadbare: As the remarkably lazy granddaughter of a famous alchemist, you must spend three years on Sera Island, helping to build an island resort, and maybe even accomplish something in your life… and that’s about it. Everything else is in interactions with your party members; the more your take them with you, the more friendship they build up, and you learn more about them. The problem with this is that the characters aren’t interesting… while I don’t have much of a problem with tropes, I was frankly disinterested and bored with the cast. Without getting into any spoilers, almost all of your party members are who you expect, and any kind of ‘plot twist’ they have can be seen from a mile away. For this being the meat of any kind of story, it’s a bit of a letdown.
As a means of progression, you’re given assignments to make certain items and whatnot. The assignments are pretty easy… at first. However, after a bit the assignments get vague, leaving you to wonder how you are supposed to get a Gold. There’s also resort management, which largely results in building new places and bringing new items to them to raise popularity. It provides something to do in between the assignments.
The biggest problem with Atelier Annie is time management… it’s so hard to do! Getting to almost any location takes multiple days, and walking on the single screen available to gather ingredients takes far too much time… it could take multiple days to just get to the exact location. Synthesizing items also tends to take too many days, and you can spend a month in the atelier trying to make just the right item. Couple this issue with the VERY stringent requirements to get anything but the bad ending, and it leads to a somewhat stressful and unrewarding first playthrough. While replays tend to be a bit easier, after a lackluster experience the first time why play through again?