Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru are JRPG titles that have been around for a number of years now. The Arland Trilogy as they are collectively known have made their way to Nintendo Switch, seemingly out of nowhere, and along with them, all the improvements that the PS Vita Plus versions of the games included.
Atelier Rorona, the original game in the Atelier Arland Trilogy has a special place in my heart since it was a game I had originally spent over 50 hours in back in the day. Rorolina Frixell, a workshop apprentice and alchemist, is tasked with saving her master’s place of residence and has to abide by the requirements given to her by the country’s regal leadership. Rorona teams up with a group of unlikely friends and has a limited period of time to get things done.
While the overarching set of tasks given to Rorona to save the workshop serves as a fairly straightforward plot device, much of Atelier Rorona’s story is found elsewhere in the game’s visual novel-esque segments. Exploring Arland’s wilds and the city itself will lead to numerous dialogue heavy scenes dripping with anime tropes and quality content. Jokes, character building and friendships abound as Rorona befriends numerous people in her quest to save Astrid Zexis’ workshop. While this might seem cliche and grating to some Western gamers, fans of JRPGs and anime will find much of Atelier Rorona’s story to be quite enjoyable.
The gameplay in Atelier Rorona is quite complex and requires a fair bit of explaining. Players will take on the role of Rorolina Frixell herself and will run around the town of Arland and explore the surrounding areas while trying to satisfy a set of specific requirements and get a grade from the monarch’s loyal knight Sterkenburg Cranach. The complexity lies in the fact that every action a player undertakes in Atelier Rorona costs them precious time. Adventuring out into the wilds for ingredients to synthesize a special item for example might take a hefty toll on the amount of time you have left to complete your tasks.
The game therefore boils down to time management, exploration, synthesizing new items and completing tasks assigned by the Monarchy. All of this seems simple enough on paper but in action, it’s far more complex than it seems. In fact, one of the game’s greatest fallacies lies with the fact that everything is time limited. The threat of running out of time and achieving one of the game’s bad endings is ever present and while this does provide a lot of replayability to the game since there’s multiple endings, some gamers may be entirely put off by this.
Battling enemies in Atelier Rorona is about as standard as it gets when it comes to JRPGs with a very familiar turn-based battle system in place that has since been updated from the original PS3 game to match the later games in the series. Of course, alchemy plays an important role in the game and mixing ingredients to use in battles is a necessity.
Graphically, Atelier Rorona does not stand up well to the test of time with environments looking quite dated now despite the visual refresh the game has gone through when it ended up on the PS Vita a few years back. The character designs however are still top notch with Kishida Mel’s artwork being as visually appealing as ever.
Overall, for newcomers to the franchise, Atelier Rorona set itself up as a great entry point and with the Nintendo Switch release being made available ahead of the franchise’s return to Arland with Atelier Lulua, gamers should pick this up if they are keen on getting into the series.
The sequel to Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori focuses on a different character altogether. Totori Helmond is the star of the show this time around and much of the game’s core mechanics have been refined and tweaked from Atelier Rorona.
In Atelier Totori, Totori encounters an older Rorona a few years after the events of the first game and begins to learn the art of alchemy from her in order to locate her missing mother. Throw in an adventurer’s guild along with the exploration of the land of Alanya and a recipe for a JRPG epic is in the works.
The time management aspects from Atelier Rorona are still present in Atelier Totori albeit, slightly different this time around. In Atelier Totori, players will be more pressed for time but won’t have the strict deadlines to worry about as in Atelier Rorona when Sterk would provide grades for completing tasks. The experience is therefore quite different yet still retaining an overarching deadline and the feeling of being pressed for time throughout.
Exploration in Atelier Totori is different to Atelier Rorona with travelling and exploring being far more straightforward and less convoluted than in the first game. The battle system is still the same standard fare and is enjoyable but far more so is the game’s actual story. Atelier Totori’s story is significantly more intriguing than Atelier Rorona’s and a range of factors influence this.
The returning characters from Atelier Rorona are older, Totori herself and her goals and the introduction of brand-new characters that are well designed and have interesting personalities keeps the title fresh and doesn’t disappoint.
Overall, Atelier Totori is a formidable sequel and being able to play this title on Nintendo Switch on the go has been an absolute joy.
The final game in the Arland Trilogy and arguably the best one in terms of gameplay s Atelier Meruru and follows the tale of Princess Merurulince Rede Arls. While that’s quite a mouthful, her regality is important in Atelier Meruru because she is tasked with making her kingdom succeed and become so much more than what it currently is.
Throughout Atelier Meruru, players will be able to accumulate development points. These development points will be used to further the growth of your kingdom by building new facilities. Players will be able to earn development points by interacting with people in Arls and fulfilling their requests. As with the previous Atelier games, multiple endings abound and there’s a lot of replayability to be found in this title.
The greatest change Meruru brings to the table also lies with the fact that the time management aspects have been relaxed somewhat. Giving players even more freedom to do what they want in the game despite having the overarching deadline for advancing their kingdom present as an end goal. Totori from the previous game also makes an appearance in Atelier Meruru and serves as your alchemy teacher this time around. The battle system has been revamped and is way more enjoyable in Atelier Meruru than in the previous two titles for a number of reasons involving the chemistry (Pun intended) between characters and the synthesis aspects of the game. Bear in mind though this is still standard JRPG fare with slight embellishments unique to the Atelier franchise.
The storyline of Atelier Meruru features new characters and their personalities are once again quite anime trope heavy. This however isn’t a bad thing and JRPG fans will enjoy the visual novel-esque segments if they enjoyed the previous two Atelier games in the Arland Trilogy. Newcomers should NOT play Atelier Meruru first because many key aspects and references to the game world will be missed out on should they dive into the most recent title first.
Atelier Meruru therefore finds itself in a bit of a predicament. It’s arguably the best game in the series but it requires players to have played the previous two titles to truly fully enjoy it. That’s not to say a newcomer can’t play the game and still enjoy it though. They’ll just miss out on a lot of the core substance that makes the kingdom building and character development shine in Atelier Meruru which involves returning characters.
Graphically, Kishida Mel’s designs are still ever present and as beautiful as ever. The same cannot be said for the environments though because once again, the game looks quite dated and cannot be compared to other titles from 2018 in the same genre. That said though, the soundtrack still holds up and so does the core JRPG gameplay.
Overall, the Arland Trilogy released on Nintendo Switch is something that was completely unexpected and quite surprising to see pop up on the Nintendo Switch eshop. The Atelier Arland series games had their spotlight many years ago with mixed reviews from Western and Eastern gamers alike but fans of the genre and of anime trope heavy stories will definitely enjoy them. Picking up the triple pack gives you a significant discount and since each of the three games have multiple endings and truckloads of replayability associated with them, JRPG fans will find quite a lot of enjoyment to be had. This coupled with the fact that the games are on a portable gaming console such as the Nintendo Switch makes the deal even sweeter since sitting down and grinding through a time management heavy JRPG on a home console can be quite an ask in our busy world. The Arland Trilogy on Nintendo Switch comes highly recommended should you want in excess of 150 hours of JRPG gaming goodness with lovely anime character designs and heartfelt stories revolving around friendship, alchemy and adventure with a side of humour to boot.