The Atelier series is a decently popular JRPG series that has spanned 22 platforms with a whopping 37 titles in the series. It’s no surprise to see the series make its way to the Nintendo Switch. The previous entry to the series, Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings as well as its offshoot, Nelke & The Legendary Alchemist weren’t too well received. That hasn’t stopped Koei Tecmo however, as they continue to publish the series on the system. In January they rereleased the first game in the Arland series, and now they’ve published a brand new entry into the series called Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland. Could this latest entry possibly turn things around?
This game is a direct sequel to Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland, which focused on the daughter of Rorona. Lulua is an aspiring alchemist, who stumbles upon an alchemy book that no one else but her can seem to read. She sets out on a quest to gather the ingredients from this book, and discover just what secrets lie hidden within its pages. Admittedly the story is not this game’s strong suit. There’s too many overused tropes, bland characters, and tacked on sub-plots that really derails any interest in the narrative. There are some redeemable qualities to the story depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re here for a well-structured plot with great pacing and a proper execution then you may be disappointed. But if you want a slice of life adventure that focuses on quirky characters then you may be satisfied with what the game has to offer.
The core gameplay consists primarily of your standard RPG fare. You’ll explore tons of areas with unique items and monsters scattered about as you try to fill up the pages of the Alchemyriddle book. These areas focus more on exploration than puzzle solving. Beyond fighting enemies, the only other interaction you have with these environments is collecting ingredients by ways of fishing, catching bugs, etc. Speaking of enemies, the game takes an old school approach when you encounter them, shifting the view into a turn-based combat scenario. This is exactly what you’d expect, although there’s an Interrupt mechanic that will allow a character to act outside of their normal turn. This skill takes a few round to charge up, but does add a slight strategic element to the combat system.
Character formation adds another level of strategy to the game’s combat. Only three of your party members can actively fight per battle, but you can also bring along two others as support characters. They will contribute passive abilities that have an impact on the fight at hand. Trying out different party formations is part of this game’s appeal and it gives you an opportunity to try out different characters instead of sticking with a few for the entire game. You’re even able to swap the positions of the various characters, so you can maximize the effectives of the passive skills during combat, giving you every reason to try out every character the game has to offer.
Obviously crafting plays a huge role in this game, and it’s expanded much farther than just the story. You have the option to equip several items that you create throughout the game, and each one can offer a variety of stat boosts. What’s so good about crafting is the quality at which it’s executed, as there are a ton of small quality of life improvements that make it such an enjoyable feature – from the robust sorting features that make navigating your long list of ingredients a breeze, to the sheer amount of crafting options. The only real limit you have for boosting the stats of an item is the number of ingredients you have for that recipe. The crafting system is also balanced out so that the more complex crafting features won’t overwhelm first-time players. You can easily get by with crafting the most basic items, and by the time you reach some real troublesome bosses in the game you’ll have spent enough time in the game to be ready to craft the more difficult items.
Perhaps the best aspect of this game is the execution in its graphic design. This game has a very cute, brightly colored, art style that matches the game’s characters and story structure perfectly. There are hardly any environments that even look slightly grim in detail with even the darker levels shining with color. The environments are all unique, making each area of the game diverse in style. While the level design is roughly the same for each area, the visuals are what keep them from feeling too identical. Not to mention there are some smaller details that make each area feel more alive, such as a day and night cycle.
Another amazing aspect of the design is the music. It has such wonderful and charming themes that perfectly fit the overall look of the game. Besides the cute charm of the music, it’s all so well composed that using headphones while playing in handheld mode is an absolute must.
While Atelier Lulua is far from perfect, it does offer up some fun gameplay mechanics. Fans of crafting items will especially enjoy the adventure. It’s lacking a grand story and some of the areas you’ll end up exploring feel uninspired. There are plenty of JRPGs on the Switch, but very few of them offer up a detailed crafting system like the one found here and if that’s your jam you’ll find a lot to like here.
Atelier Lulua ~The Scion Of Arland~ Review
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland is a massive improvement over the other entries of the Atelier series on the Switch. The colorful visuals, exceptional crafting system, and gameplay enhancements make this a fun and rewarding experience in its own right. However, the overly simplistic story, uninspired level designs, and other minor issues keep it from reaching greatness. This is the perfect introduction to the Atelier series and a good place to jump in.