With the Atelier MegaFeature continuing apace, the next game on the list is Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis — a title which, despite not actually having “Atelier” in the title, is officially the ninth mainline installment in the series.
Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis is full of wonderful characters, and you get plenty of time to hang out with them thanks to the game’s school-based setting. And for those who enjoy either New Game Plus replays or save-scumming, there’s a different ending for each one of them, too.
Today I thought we’d look at the rather charming Nicole Mimi Tithel, or Nikki for short. She is, to put it mildly, a rather striking character who will almost certainly leave quite the impression!
In contrast to a lot of RPGs which use obviously non-human races as an unsubtle allegory for real-world racism, the world of most Atelier games tends to be one where people have already embraced complete tolerance and inclusion of those who are a bit “different” in one way or another to themselves. It’s one of the things that makes the series as a whole so “comfy”, as a lot of people describe it, and Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis is a great example.
Nikki is some sort of “beast person”. We last saw people going by this description in Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm, where a significant subplot saw the inhabitants of human city Zey Meruze gradually getting used to the presence of these non-humans thanks to the positive interactions that protagonists Edge, Iris and Nell had with them.
While the beast people in Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm clearly pushed their bestial aspects to the forefront, Nikki is a softer take on the trope, being more obviously “humanoid” and just complementing that with big hair, fluffy ears, a tail and paws instead of feet. And no-one makes a big deal of this; people like Nikki — and other species of beast people — are fully integrated into the society depicted throughout the game, without anyone ever drawing attention to their unique characteristics or discriminating against them because of it. Progressiveness!
Nikki is obviously based on a big cat; she has a certain degree of “lion” about her, particularly in the tail department, and her big hair resembles the mane of a male lion — even though she is very clearly female. She exhibits her cat-like nature in her behaviour, too; she’s mostly lazy, but she enjoys positive attention any time she gets it, and when she sets her mind to something, she pursues it with dogged (or, I guess, “catted”) determination.
If you choose to pursue Nikki’s side story in Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, we get the opportunity to learn a bit more about her and her culture. Specifically, we learn that people from Nikki’s tribe are seemingly encouraged to be polygamous and/or promiscuous in order to have a large number of children; as such, part of Nikki’s “mission” for herself while at the Al-Revis Academy is to find herself at least one suitable husband that she can take home and vigorously procreate with.
She’s not stupid, mind; she knows that she needs to wait until her education is over before she starts taking the idea of raising a family seriously, so at the time the game’s narrative takes place, her pursuit of her “mission” mostly manifests itself as a strong degree of flirtatiousness — and, naturally, a string of broken hearts left behind her.
She’s also a keen singer, and it doesn’t take long for her to discover that her fine set of pipes is a great way of getting adoring attention from possible husband candidates. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t count on is the fact that some people take “fandom” a little too far, and thus much of the rest of her personal story involves her attempting to fend off the unwanted attentions of a “fan club” that is a little too enthusiastic about their pursuit of her.
Outside of her school life, Nikki uses her strong degree of charisma and personal magnetism to attract various bestial enemies to her side in order to call on them later; many of her special abilities involve collecting the “hearts” and “thoughts” of various breeds of enemies and then using them in various quantities to summon these friends for various purposes. The moustachioed kobolds, for example, will happily be called into action to steal some items, while a flock of harpies will gleefully fly in for a vicious group attack that delays the enemy turn somewhat.
During the group’s various activities, Nikki flip-flops between being a voice of common sense and practicality, and wanting to have a bit of fun. Her isolated childhood means that she grew up without knowing a lot about the world at large, but she has a good head on her shoulders and is capable of coming up with good suggestions when she feels like it. She’s one of the first Mana-less characters to make a pact as part of the main story, and her relationship with the rather timid Mana of Tree that ensues demonstrates the kindly nature beneath her rather rambunctious outer layer.
While Nikki is one of the least overtly “feminine” of Gust’s long line of Beautiful Girls — with only really Noin from Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny rivalling her in the tomboy stakes — she’s still a delight to have around. And as you get to know her, she clearly demonstrates that her desire to raise a family isn’t just about seeking sexual gratification for herself; she has clear maternal instincts, and will almost certainly make a wonderful mother for any children she does end up having.
Whether or not those children are with Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis’ main protagonist Vayne, however? Well, I guess that’s going to be largely up to you, isn’t it?
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