Atelier is one of the more long-running, prolific series in the canon of Japanese gaming.
First launching in 1997, the franchise has seen 19 mainline releases since its inception (with a 20th on the way at the time of writing), plus a variety of spin-offs, side stories, ports, expanded adaptations and guest appearances from its characters in various other games over the years. Although we didn’t see our first Western localisation of the series until its sixth mainline game (Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana for PlayStation 2) in 2005, it is, by this point, firmly established as a mainstay of Japanese role-playing games — and, in the nicest possible way, developer Gust’s cash cow.
With that in mind, before we delve into the Arland trilogy in detail, let’s take a look at the history of the series as a whole up until Atelier Rorona’s initial release in 2009. Join me on a trip into totally-not-Renaissance-Germany, and let’s get crafting!
Continue reading Atelier Arland: Introduction and History
A core part of my gaming “diet” in the 16-bit home computer era and onwards into the early days of mainstream PC gaming was the military flight simulator.
I have many fond memories of piloting numerous pieces of military hardware around the virtual skies, dropping bombs on filthy commies (this was the height of the Cold War, after all) and dictators in the desert — but for me, it wasn’t necessarily the action-packed parts of these games that was appealing. No, it was the simple satisfaction of remaining in control of several tons of metal that really had no business being up in the air and not immediately plummeting to the ground.
This was a feeling I hadn’t really experienced for a while, to be honest; the Ace Combats of the world have their considerable appeal, but they’re not exactly realistic. Taito’s 2003 release of Energy Airforce, on the other hand… well, let’s take a look.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Energy Airforce
While a whole ton of late ’90s PC games have been updated and rereleased through services like GOG.com and Steam in recent years, one which I haven’t had the opportunity to play for a long time is Maxis’ SimCopter.
A fascinating new angle on Will Wright’s SimCity, SimCopter allowed you to take to the skies above either some predefined cities or your own SimCity 2000 maps and take part in a variety of missions ranging from yelling at speeding motorists to dealing with the aftermath of the notorious and iconic SimCity Disasters. Or indeed, tracking down the secret Apache helicopter, setting half the city on fire and then dealing with the carnage you created yourself in exchange for a fat paycheck.
I absolutely adored SimCopter as a kid — and not just because it had Ride of the Valkyries on the soundtrack — but the fact I 1) can’t find my original boxed copy and 2) probably wouldn’t be able to get it running on my current PC anyway makes me sad. Which is why I was so excited to discover Syscom’s City Crisis for PlayStation 2.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: City Crisis
One of the most charming things about D3 Publisher’s Simple Series is its straightforward naming convention, which brings to mind the good old days of Atari 2600 games called imaginative things like “Combat”, “Golf” and “Dodge ‘Em”.
As such, with a game called The Helicopter — or the even more literal Radio Helicopter, as it was known in Europe — you pretty much know what you’re getting into before you start.
What you might not know, however, is that this simplistic-sounding, low-budget game is actually a ton of fun.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Radio Helicopter