Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (PS2)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, September 19, 2005

Graphics: 9.00
Sound: 9.00
Gameplay: 9.00
Replays: 9.00

PS2 owners have been flooded with a sea of great strategy RPGs in recent months. So, it’s nice to change the pace and settle into a more traditional RPG. But while the battle system, Atelier Iris is far from traditional. Its alchemy system is involving and fun, and while everyone might not get into it, those that do will come away very pleased.

Atelier is very anime inspired, and its opening cinema even resembles a scene you might see in traditional Japanese anime. And with the exception of the world map, the game is drop dead gorgeous. Character designs definitely have an anime look to them, and all of the major characters have enough personality to keep the player interested. When exploring towns and dungeons, the characters have a semi super-deformed feel to them, but still maintain a high level of detail. In battle, they are extremely detailed and are full size, similar to what’s been seen in other RPGs. These models (and also the background) are very high resolution, and it’s quite impressive. The only downside would have to be that the world map isn’t as detailed, with slightly blurry environments. But this is definitely not a major issue.

NIS has done a great job with the sound in the game. The first bonus would have to be that the entire Japanese vocal score is included with subtitles, so if the American voices bug you (or you just prefer the Japanese ones), you can keep them. However, the English dub is very well done, and the actors (for the most part) show a good sense of emotion. The writing has many witty parts and you may actually laugh out loud at some moments. The game just has a sense of light-heartedness that many people can enjoy. Background music fits this, and is also well done.

Players step into the shoes of Klein Kiesling, grandson of a legendary alchemist. After he is attacked by a large hawk and runs out of magic to use, he is rescued by a young girl named Lita. Lita is a monster hunter in the nearby town, and there the adventure begins. Throughout the game players will meet a colorful cast of characters.

The battle system initially may seem like the kind you see in traditional RPGs. But it does have some subtle differences. This would definitely have to be the alchemy system. Magic doesn’t take MP, instead individual magic (and even items) must be synthesized using alchemy. Magic must be made by having the correct amount of each element (fire, dark, water etc). These can be gained by having Klein extract elements in the environment (using that particular action on the action dial). Different objects in each area will get you different elements, so it is important to continuously do it in order to keep getting more magic. Other than that, the battle system is fairly standard. Some attacks take multiple turns to cast and be cancelled, while others are short and allow for multiple turns. Your characters also have special skills they can use that take up MP, and each of these skills can be leveled up using points gained after that particular character has leveled up.

Another great element is how item shops work in the game. They have a limited stock of each item, but using synthesis, you can restock their shop or even allow them to carry new items. Basically, items you collect throughout your adventure are ingredients, and certain ingredients can be combined together to form new items. You can do this at any shop, and once a new item is created, that item will be available for purchase in the store. This is a fairly deep system, and there are a lot of possibilities. There is also a collection system, where you are rewarded for discovering new items. These elements aren’t going to appeal to everyone, but those who delve into it will find the system to be very rewarding.

Magic must be made using mana, who are essentially spirits. These spirits will stay with you throughout your journey, at a cost. You must keep them healthy as well as give them gifts to help them like you. This is made easier by special items that are specific to each mana (for example, giving a dark item to the dark mana will make it very happy). So this is almost like keeping a virtual pet, only it’s not as demanding. Just make sure you keep manas cared for, and there will be no problems.

If there’s one issue people may have with the game, it’s that the story takes a little while to get going. Also, not everyone may be thrilled with the idea of all the work behind having to synthesize items and magic. But those willing to invest the time will discover an excellent (albeit slightly light hearted) romp that is memorable. Kudos to NIS for allowing us to experience the game, and here’s hoping we get the sequel in the future.

Overall Rating: 9.00

Leave a Reply