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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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The Music of Atelier, Vol. 1: Atelier Iris – Eternal Mana

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The Atelier series has some wonderful music, and provides many examples of Gust’s sound team producing some of the most distinctive, immediately recognisable soundtracks in the business.

As the Atelier MegaFeature progresses, we’ll stop off every so often to take in some of these classic tunes — and where better to start than with the game we’ve just finished looking at in depth?

Let’s admire some of the lovely themes from the first Atelier game to come West, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana!

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Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana – Narrative, Themes and Characterisation

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Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is something of an outlier in the Atelier series as a whole, as we’ve already talked about.

Rather than adopting the established structure of “struggling alchemist works in a workshop to craft items, also there are adventures” it inverts this format to “struggling adventurer explores to discover mysteries of alchemy, also there is crafting”.

This change of structural focus gives the narrative scope to be a much more epic affair than many of the other games in the series — but at the same time it doesn’t abandon one of the series’ core principles. Let’s take a closer look.

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Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana – Life at 45 Degrees

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Last time, we talked a bit about how Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is a lot more of a “traditional RPG” than many of its stablemates in the rest of the series as a whole.

We looked in particular at how the game’s combat and progression mechanics are based on the conventions of turn-based, menu-driven console RPGs, but how it adds a few twists onto that formula — with an appropriate emphasis on item usage and alchemy.

Today we’re going to explore the overall game structure and presentation a bit further, with a particular eye on how protagonist Klein and his companions can explore their world over the course of their adventure as a whole. Let’s jump in!

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