Category Archives: Cover Games

The major, feature-length articles of MoeGamer. Each month, a single game or series gets the Cover Game treatment and is explored over the course of at least four articles.

Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy – Back to School

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After the Atelier Iris subseries marked a period of dabbling with a more “traditional” RPG-style structure, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis demonstrated a clearly defined shift back towards Atelier’s roots. And Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy continues that trend.

Indeed, while the three Atelier Iris games are largely unrelated to one another — aside from some long-term lore connections between Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana and Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny — Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy returns to the series’ original model of installments in the same subseries standing by themselves as self-contained narratives, but unfolding in the same world about 5-10 years later.

As the title suggests, time has not been especially kind to the world of Mana Khemia, but that’s part of what makes what’s going on here so interesting. Let’s take a first look!

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The Music of Atelier, Vol. 4: Mana Khemia – Alchemists of Al-Revis

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As has become MegaFeature tradition, now we’ve finished exploring Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis from mechanical and narrative perspectives, it’s time to celebrate the sterling work of Gust’s sound team with a look at its soundtrack.

Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis is the second game in the Atelier series to make use of pre-recorded streamed music rather than real-time synthesised, sequenced music. We were already starting to get a strong feel for the distinct audible aesthetic lead composers Ken Nakagawa and Daisuke Achiwa were aiming for with the series in Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm, but Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis and its sequel further codify many of the musical conventions of the series.

These conventions would remain in place as Atelier bid farewell to the PlayStation 2 and jumped to the next generation with the Arland trilogy. So let’s dive into some highlights from Mana Khemia’s score!

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Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis – Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

 

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The two Mana Khemia games are sometimes unofficially regarded as a continuation of the Atelier Iris trilogy.

It’s fairly easy to see why: the overall presentation is very similar to Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm in particular; the setting, in which human alchemists cooperate with elemental beings known as Mana to Do Alchemy, fits right in with its immediate predecessors; and thematically, there’s a lot in common, too.

Specifically, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis follows the mould of its precursors by contemplating how alchemy, an inherently neutral power by itself, can be used for both good and ill depending on the individual. But this time around, the whole thing is on a rather more personal scale than the world-saving narratives of Atelier Iris. So let’s explore further!

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Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis – A Learning Experience

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Turn-based, menu-driven RPGs for computer and console — particularly the latter — are, for the most part, well past being simple adaptations of tabletop gaming rules.

The freedom afforded them by the digital medium means that they can get highly creative and abstract with all of their core mechanics without being limited by physical components, complexity of calculations or even any sort of rational plausibility. This not only applies to combat mechanics, as we saw in the previous part of this feature, but also to character progression.

While past Atelier games kept things relatively conventional in this regard, following the “experience points and levels” system, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis features a very distinct way of powering up your characters that fits in very well with its core themes and other mechanics. So let’s take a closer look at that today.

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Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis – School of Hard Knocks

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At first glance, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis might appear to be very mechanically similar to its immediate predecessor in the Atelier series, Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm.

But it doesn’t take long for it to distinguish itself in a variety of different ways. We’ve already seen how the alchemy mechanics are quite a bit different from anything we’ve seen in the series before — and we’ll subsequently see how they form the foundation of the Arland series’ alchemy systems — so today we’ll be taking a closer look at combat.

Although Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis arguably places a stronger emphasis on the alchemy side of things than its predecessors in the Atelier Iris series, it has an immensely satisfying and enjoyable combat system that is a ton of fun to engage with. So let’s explore it further!

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Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis – The Ninth Atelier

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With the ninth installment in the mainline Atelier series, Gust took the curious decision to temporarily drop the “Atelier [x]” naming convention and instead start a new subseries.

Except it’s not quite that simple; the two Mana Khemia games actually have a fair bit in common with the Atelier Iris subseries in terms of presentation, mechanics, tone and themes, leading some people to consider them an unofficial part of the Atelier Iris “trilogy”.

Ultimately it doesn’t really matter too much; Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis certainly stands by itself as a solid title in the franchise as a whole, so let’s begin with a general overview of what it’s all about.

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The Music of Atelier, Vol. 3: Atelier Iris 3 – Grand Phantasm

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It’s time to once again return to the wonderful world of Atelier music, this time with a look at Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm’s soundtrack.

Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm was a noteworthy installment in the series from a musical perspective, because it marked the point where Gust’s sound team switched from using synthesised, sequenced music to streamed prerecorded music. This allowed them considerably more flexibility to put together more elaborate compositions and make use of more realistic sounds.

So turn up the volume and let’s have a good listen to find out exactly what that means!

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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm – Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm initially doesn’t appear to have many direct connections to its two predecessors — aside from the presence of the Mana spirits, that is.

There doesn’t seem to be a widely accepted “official word” on exactly why this is, so it’s largely up to interpretation. Some commentators online believe that the game was originally intended to show Iris Blanchimont’s alchemy training, placing the game in between Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny and Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana in chronological terms — but either that was never a thing, or it was changed at the last minute. Because, as the game makes clear, the Iris in Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm is not Iris Blanchimont — she’s Iris Fortner.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter all that much; Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm very much has its own story to tell, and has a well-realised narrative setting in which to explore that story. So let’s do just that!

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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm – A Dazzling Place I Never Knew

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While Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana and Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny are both structured around a protagonist’s ongoing journey, Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm has a structure somewhat more akin to “traditional” Atelier games.

In other words, that means that the game is primarily based around a single “hub” location that plays host to the alchemist protagonist’s workshop, and pretty much everything you do involves heading out from that hub location to go and do specific things for one reason or another.

In the case of Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm, those “things” will be quests and missions in the various Alterworlds that surround the city of Zey Meruze. So let’s take a look at the game’s overall structure, and how exploration works in general.

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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm – Bursting Into Battle

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As we’ve seen so far, each game in the Atelier Iris series reinvents its core mechanics quite significantly from its predecessor; this was a rather experimental period for Gust.

In this article, we’re going to take a specific look at the combat and progression mechanics in Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm, including the elements carried across from prior installments and some all-new considerations for this specific title.

Strap on your Mushroom Armour, rev up your Pyre Blade and get ready to fight — we’re going in. Watch out for the Punis!

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