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Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk – Alchemy in a Fading World

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Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is, as we’ve already established, something of a step in a different direction for the series.

Over the course of the series, Gust has always drawn a hard line underneath each of the main “sets” of games before moving on to the next; the narrative of the setting isn’t necessarily wrapped up conclusively (which leaves things open for titles like Atelier Lulua to revisit past series) but there’s usually a significant reinvention of, at the very least, overall aesthetic and mechanical components.

One of the most obvious places where we see this is in the heart of the series: the alchemy component. So let’s take a closer look at exactly how Atelier Ayesha handles this side of things!

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Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk – Chromatic Shift

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While in many respects the Arland games had brought the Atelier series back to its roots, they also very much had their own distinctive sense of identity. In order to move on to a new subseries, there would need to be some sort of noticeable “shift”.

That was the challenge Gust was faced with after the success of Ateliers Rorona, Totori and Meruruhow to follow that up with something that still felt like Atelier, but which also distinguished itself from the pastel-coloured, distinctly “comfy” games that had come before? And with the new generation of fans who might have joined the series in the HD era, how to ensure that no-one went away feeling like the series had dropped something important to its core identity?

We got our answer in 2012 with the release of Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk — which ended up being the first installment in one of the most fondly regarded Atelier subseries of all time. So I guess they did something right. Let’s take a first look!

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The Music of Atelier, Vol. 9: Atelier Lulua – The Scion of Arland

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After two full trilogies — Dusk and Mysterious — the Atelier series returned to Arland for one (possibly) last hurrah with Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland. And naturally, that meant a return to the distinctive sound of Arland, too.

Once again, the music for this installment comes courtesy of series regulars Ken Nakagawa, Daisuke Achiwa and Kazuki Yanagawa and, much like the rest of the game, tends to blend elements of old and new to create something that is simultaneously comfortably familiar and recognisably fresh.

Turn up the volume, hit the jump and let’s listen to some selected highlights together.

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Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland – Give Me A Reason to Live

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The nice thing about the original Arland trilogy is that although there was definitely a sense of narrative progression over the course of the three games, each one was self-contained and left things open-ended for future development; there was no “grand finale”.

That’s where Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland comes in, of course. The fact that Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland concluded the story of Meruru’s growth into a talented young alchemist, but didn’t spell any sort of “finality” for the Arland region meant that there was still plenty of scope to tell more stories in these pastel-coloured lands. Perhaps some sort of story that answers a few unresolved questions from the original trilogy — and which lets us see how all our favourite characters are getting along?

Atelier Lulua still doesn’t necessarily feel like a “finale”; if anything it ushers in a bold new era for Arland. Whether or not we’ll see any more games in this setting remains to be seen at the time of writing, but for now, Atelier Lulua provides an interesting, substantial story to tie things together nicely. So let’s take a closer look — bearing in mind that, of course, there will be spoilers ahead.

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Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland – The Fight For What’s Important

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In keeping with how Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland’s alchemy mechanics aren’t just a straight rehash of the other Arland games, the battle and exploration mechanics also feature a pleasing blend of old and new.

By taking the basic structure of battles from the earlier Arland games and then supplementing this with a variety of brand-new tactical considerations, Atelier Lulua provides us with an enjoyable combat system that keeps things consistently interesting for the game’s duration. And some really nice “quality of life” features mean that the whole game feels nicely streamlined and efficient to play without sacrificing any sort of mechanical depth.

That’s how you do a good follow-up — from the perspective of game design, anyway. Let’s take a closer look at these specific elements of Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland.

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Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland – Fourth-Generation Alchemy

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Given that there was a gap of eight years and six games between Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland and Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland, it will doubtless not surprise you to learn that the latter’s mechanics aren’t just a rehash of the former’s.

Instead, upon the game’s initial announcement in Japan’s Weekly Famitsu, Gust revealed that the new game would feature an alchemy system that blended elements of the classic Arland games with more recent additions to the formula — specifically, incorporating some elements that had proven popular from the primarily PS4-based Mysterious series.

The result is a mechanical core to the game that is accessible to newcomers but filled with a considerable amount of hidden depth — and which feels fresh and interesting to series veterans, even if they’re coming to Atelier Lulua directly from the previous three Arland games. Let’s take a closer look.

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Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland – A Trilogy of Four

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Up until this point in the Atelier MegaFeature as a whole, we’ve explored the games in release order.

They were released in clear “sets”, after all — we had the Atelier Iris trilogy, then the Mana Khemia duology and then the three Arland games. And while the stories don’t always follow on directly from one another — most notably in the Atelier Iris series — each game in each series, at the very least, feels like it has a number of stylistic and thematic elements in common with its contemporaries. But in 2018, something interesting happened; after three Dusk games and three Mysterious games, Gust issued the surprise announcement that the twentieth game in the mainline Atelier series would not kick off a new trilogy; instead, it would return to Arland for (probably) one last time.

So with that in mind, we’re skipping forward from 2011’s thirteenth Atelier game Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland to check out 2019’s twentieth installment Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland. Then we’ll go back and look at all the ones in between. Sound good? Good. Let’s get cracking — beginning with an overview of what this game is all about and how it fits in with its predecessors.

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The Music of Atelier, Vol. 8: Atelier Meruru – The Apprentice of Arland

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After the rather melancholy tone of Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland’s soundtrack, Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland returns to a rather more joyful feel.

There’s a sense of adventure to the music, for sure, since Meruru’s quest takes her quite far afield from her home town, but there’s also a sense of triumph; of overcoming odds. Meruru’s story, particularly in its latter hours, is one of triumph over adversity, and of growth. Not just personal growth, either; also the literal, measurable growth of the kingdom of Arls as a direct result of Meruru’s efforts.

This time around, Ken Nakagawa is joined by frequent collaborators Kazuki Yanagawa and Daisuke Achiwa for a solid and diverse soundtrack that is one of the catchiest in the series. Turn up the volume and let’s listen to some selected highlights.

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Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland – Royal Responsibilities

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We’ve previously seen how the other games in the Arland series have tended towards being “coming of age” stories; Rorona learned how to respect the balance between tradition and modernity while learning to believe in herself, while Totori endured a more gruelling journey to adulthood than most!

With Meruru’s inherent position of privilege at the outset of the story, she’s obviously coming to her adolescence from a rather different starting point than her two predecessors did. But she’s still got plenty to learn about herself, the things she believes in, the things important to her and, of course, her place in the big, wide world.

Will she grow into the role of a “proper” princess by the time she hits twenty years old? Of course not, she’s got far too much work to be getting on with between now and then…

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Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland – Meruru, Warrior Princess

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As we’ve seen numerous times in the previous installments of the Atelier series, being a successful alchemist isn’t just about holing yourself up in your workshop for months at a time; sometimes you have to take to the field and get some practical experience.

In Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arlandthose excursions outside of the protagonist’s home base occupy something of a middle ground between the relatively short excursions of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland, and the grand adventure which unfolded over the course of Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of ArlandMeruru never strays that far from home — but she does have important things to accomplish wherever she goes.

Let’s take a look at what life in the field is like for our tomboyish princess — and how she makes use of her alchemical talents to defend herself when things get rough.

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