We’re trying something new here on MoeGamer for 2020: something I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to do for a while. How, exactly, to tackle a series of significant length — both in terms of number of games and the sheer amount of time it takes to play them?
I was initially prompted to think about this by Falcom’s Trails series, which I’d very much like to cover when (if?) it’s finished. Each of those games are upwards of a hundred hours, and their narratives are interlinked, so they’re not things you can easily analyse in isolation. Or rather, given that interlinked nature, they’re not things I want to analyse in isolation.
That’s not the only series I wanted to explore in depth, though. One that’s been steadily filling up my shelves for the past few years is Gust’s long-running Atelier series… and given that the series as a whole is subdivided into smaller trilogies and duologies, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to experiment with the format.
And thus, I welcome you to the first MoeGamer MegaFeature!
A MoeGamer MegaFeature is simply an extension of the Cover Game format we’ve been exploring for the last few years now. Essentially, it’s a string of several Cover Game features with a common theme — in this case, Atelier.
The plan is to take each of the Atelier subseries that have been released in the West and explore them in detail over the course of however long it takes to get through them. Each individual game will likely take at least a couple of articles — much like in regular Cover Game features, these will likely focus on specific aspects such as narrative, mechanics or presentation — and by the end of it all we’ll have possibly the most comprehensive analysis of the Atelier games on the whole Internet. Or possibly a huge mess. Hopefully the former.
This is a fairly mammoth undertaking, so it’s probably going to take a while. To put things in perspective, here are all the Atelier games that have been released in the West to date at the time of writing, all of which I intend to play through to completion and write about:
- Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana
- Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny
- Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm
- Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis (yes, this is an Atelier game)
- Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy (so is this)
- Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
- Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland
- Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland
- Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland
- Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk
- Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
- Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
- Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book
- Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Adventure
- Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings
- Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World
- Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout
- Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy
As I type this, as we set off on this journey, I’ve already covered the Arland subseries: Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru. So that makes things a little bit easier. (Although I’m probably going to cover them again in more detail, since analysing them with greater familiarity of the previous games will be an interesting exercise.) But that’s still fourteen games. Thankfully, Atelier games tend to be — for role-playing games, anyway — slightly on the shorter, smaller-scale side, so this isn’t quite as scary as might initially appear, but it’s still a lot to get through!
The reason I want to approach it like this, as a MegaFeature, rather than scattering Cover Game features throughout the next few years, is twofold. Firstly, I want to see if this MegaFeature thing works as a format and a means of organising a long-term project like this. And secondly, I think it’ll be really interesting to play through a long series like this and see, first-hand, how it evolves and changes over time — with all the previous installments absolutely fresh in my mind while I move on to the next. Oh, for those curious, I’ll be playing the most up-to-date versions of each subseries where variations exist; that mostly means we’ll be looking at the new “DX” versions for the Dusk series unless the Mysterious games happen to get remastered in the next few months!
We’ll be kicking off with some initial explorations of the first Atelier Iris game next week. and from there it’ll take as long as it takes — I’m making no promises or commitments at this point, but I’m going to see this through from start to finish, come hell or high water, so I hope you’ll support me on this epic journey.
For those who like a bit of variety, though, don’t worry; just because Atelier is the focus for the MegaFeature doesn’t mean there won’t be other stuff going on around here. The regular video series Atari A to Z, Final Fantasy Marathon and Warriors Wednesday will continue as normal, and surrounding them will be both one-shot articles on smaller games and the return of the ongoing “Delving Into” features, where I explore series such as Kirby and Castlevania a bit at a time, offering some more immediate thoughts along the way. I still need to beat Breath of the Wild, too, so Zelda Diaries will probably come back at some point too.
In other words, it’s mostly going to be business as usual around here; the only difference will be that the most large-scale, research-heavy features on the site will all be on a common topic for a while to come, rather than changing things up completely on a roughly monthly basis. That said, you might be surprised quite how different the various Atelier subseries are from one another — I’ve already been impressed by what a huge difference Eternal Mana is from the Arland games!
Anyway. Thank you in advance for your support and your understanding as I undertake this huge project. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this long-running series, and I’m absolutely confident the results of my efforts will be worthwhile — and hopefully enjoyable!
You can follow the MegaFeature as a whole on this page. The sections will gradually fill up as we make progress together, and we’ll end up with a massive load of stuff to read about Cute Girls (And A Few Cute Boys) Doing Alchemy. That sounds like fun to me!
See you next week for a first look at Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.
The MoeGamer Compendium, Volume 1 is now available! Grab a copy today for a beautiful physical edition of the Cover Game features originally published in 2016.
Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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