Category Archives: Atelier Iris

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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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm – A Step Forward

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In 2006, a year after Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, Gust released Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm in Japan; it would be another year after that before Western players would get their hands on it.

Atelier games are a fixture in developer Gust’s calendar; each of the duologies and trilogies that make up the complete franchise have enjoyed annual installments, and indeed the first Atelier Iris’ release in Japan in 2004 marked the beginning of a streak of yearly releases for the series as a whole that lasted until 2017. The company, of course, made up for the lack of an Atelier game in 2018 by releasing three in 2019, but, well, that’s a story for another day.

What’s kind of remarkable is that despite this non-stop release schedule, each Atelier game, even within the same subseries, feels noticeably distinct from the last. And this is particularly apparent when it comes to Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm. So let’s look at how this moves the series forwards.

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The Music of Atelier, Vol. 2: Atelier Iris 2 – The Azoth of Destiny

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It’s time once again to spend some time in the company of Gust’s wonderful sound team and their sterling work on the Atelier series.

This time around, we’re looking at the soundtrack for Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny. The music is once again the work of Gust regulars Daisuke Achiwa and Ken Nakagawa, the latter of whom in particular has become heavily associated with the Atelier series over the years.

Conveniently, copies of Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny came with a bonus soundtrack CD, so we’ll be focusing on a selection of the tracks from this disc today. Let’s jump in — pump up the volume!

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Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny – Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Although technically a “sequel” to Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana — it was even known as Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana 2 in Japan — Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny unfolds quite differently from its predecessor.

It’s set long before the events of Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, for starters, so the world in which the action unfolds is very different. There’s a stark divide between the peaceful land of Eden, where alchemy is widespread and Mana spirits walk (or walk-equivalent) the streets alongside humans, and the “surface world” of Belkhyde, which left the practice of alchemy behind long ago.

Before we delve into all that, though, there’s an important question to address: what the fuck is an “azoth”, anyway?

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Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny – Worlds Apart

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The Atelier series, as we’ve previously explored, was primarily based around an isometric perspective right up until its shift to full 3D in the PlayStation 3 era.

If anything, this aspect of the game’s overall design and structure is even more apparent in Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny than in its immediate predecessor, with much of male protagonist Felt’s quest consisting of exploring labyrinthine dungeons presented from this distinctive viewpoint.

With that in mind, then, let’s take a closer look at how one gets around in the world of Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, and how it differs from Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.

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Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny – The Fight for Eden

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The Atelier Iris subseries is, as we’ve already seen with Eternal Mana, something of an outlier in the Atelier series as a whole.

While all of the Atelier games involve RPG-style combat to varying degrees, the Iris subseries places a particular emphasis on what many would think of as a more “conventional” RPG-style structure: the protagonist goes on a journey, explores dungeons, acquires allies, seeks out wondrous treasures… there just happens to be some alchemy involved on the side.

Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny has a particularly strong emphasis on its combat and progression mechanics, making it a satisfying game for those who like making numbers get bigger. Let’s take a closer look at this aspect today.

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Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny – Alchemy Evolution

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Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana was very clearly an attempt to do something different with the Atelier series… and also a bit of a playground for the development team to experiment with a wide variety of ideas.

This much becomes obvious almost from the moment you boot up 2005’s Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, which takes many of the things that worked from Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, fixes the things that almost worked and ditches the things that didn’t.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny builds on its predecessor, and how this becomes clear over the course of the game’s early hours.

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