Rorona to Ryza: An Atelier Retrospective Part 3: Atelier Meruru

This is Part 3 of a multi-part Atelier Retrospective. If you would like to read from Part 1 click here, the next part is linked at the end of each article

Welcome to part 3 of my Atelier retrospective, “Rorona to Ryza”, previously I went over Atelier Rorona’s sequel, Atelier Totori. Totori was a sequel to Atelier Rorona, however it starred a new main cast who would interact with an older version of the previous game’s cast. Atelier Meruru would follow suit with this direction, however it would be the last. Atelier Meruru would be the final goodbye to the cast of Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori (It wasn’t). Turning these three games into a Trilogy, the Arland Trilogy (It’s not a trilogy anymore)

I’m just going to be up front here, this was the hardest part of this retrospective to write. I even have most of the Atelier Ayesha article written already as I write this paragraph. Why, do you ask? Because I don’t have strong feelings toward Atelier Meruru either way. With every other game in this series I feel like I have something to say, either praise or criticism, but with Meruru I feel there isn’t much to talk about. So forgive me if this isn’t the most interesting part of this retrospective.

Let’s go over Atelier Meruru’s structure first. Atelier Rorona would give you assignments to make use of your alchemy with the adventure fields’ main purpose being to gather ingredients. Atelier Totori’s structure was to send you out into the world and have you gather adventurer points so you can explore more of that world. Atelier Meruru’s structure tries to be the best of both worlds.

A look at the start of Atelier Meruru’s map

Meuru will frequently get assignments from the castle that she must complete, like Atelier Rorona. However the way you must accomplish these will involve going out to a world that slowly grows as you progress through the game. You also have miniature assignments that function like the Adventurer Points in Atelier Totori, completing these gets you points that can be used to build facilities in town, these facilities giving you gameplay advantages.

This is actually a great structure that I enjoy a lot. It brings together everything I did like about Atelier Totori and Atelier Rorona’s structures without the negatives I didn’t like in Atelier Totori’s. As usual the game will end after three in game years and you’ll be able to pick an ending based on your friendship level with the other characters.

Alchemy hasn’t had much change this time around, or at least there aren’t any changes major enough to mention. So let’s talk about how combat is in Atelier Meruru. Like alchemy combat hasn’t had any major changes gameplay wise, graphically it is easily the best of the Arland Trilogy. The graphical leap between Rorona and Meruru in the three years between these two games is not to be understated.

A look at Atelier Meruru’s battle UI

Being the final game in the Arland trilogy the cast of the game is filled to the brim with characters from the previous two games, nearly every character from Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori are here, and Totori is even one of the first characters you see in the game, being Meruru’s alchemy teacher.

I love the cast of the Arland games (except Gino) a lot, so seeing them all together for what was the last time for nearly a decade has always been great, it doesn’t feel like a final goodbye either. It feels like just another chapter in their lives, seeing these characters mature and grow is why I love this trilogy’s and all Atelier trilogies’ casts

Unfortunately this principle doesn’t apply to one character in Atelier Meruru, Rorona herself. Through an alchemy mishap Rorona had been regressed physically and mentally into a little girl. Now while having Rorona as a little girl instead of a grown adult and alchemy teacher is disappointing, it isn’t inherently bad. In fact a lot of the funniest scenes in the game involve child Rorona and her magical pies.

Child Rorona’s pies are some of the funniest parts of the game

However, what sours this, and soured an entire character for fans, was the ending involving child Rorona and Astrid. You’d expect this ending to involve Rorona to be restored to her proper age, right? It didn’t. No, instead Astrid makes Rorona age fourteen like she was in Atelier Rorona, physically and mentally. Because “Rorona is cuter dumb”. No, Rorona doesn’t have any memories of her life post-Atelier Rorona either. Astrid effectively hit the reset button on Rorona’s entire character.

This did not go over well with fans, and Astrid’s popularity nosedived after this ending. Keep in mind this was going to be the last time we would have ever seen Rorona, and she was turned back to exactly how she was when we met her. This ending was so poorly received that future ports of the game replaced it with an ending where she is actually restored to her proper age. Astrid did not appear when the Arland Trilogy got a sequel a decade later, this soured her too much for fans.

I don’t think anyone would argue against this being a better ending

Other than that one ending, I have almost nothing but positives to say about Atelier Meruru, so why did I open this part of the retrospective saying it was the hardest to talk about and I have no strong feelings on it?

I honestly can’t explain why, I play it and I see the Arland cast and they make me happy, I enjoy the gameplay, but something about all of it makes me feel hollow. I can’t put it into words. I’ve only played through Atelier Meruru twice. Once for my initial playthrough and another for this retrospective. It’s the Atelier I’ve played the least, while even Totori, my least favorite I have played five times.

So, what are my thoughts on the Arland Trilogy as a whole? I feel like my thoughts on the Arland Trilogy have seemed much more negative then they actually are in this retrospective. However let me say this, I love Atelier. It’s one of my favorite game franchises, and even if I’m more critical of Arland than the future games I still greatly enjoyed my time with it and if it wasn’t for Atelier Rorona’s niche success future Ateliers that I find flawless wouldn’t have been made. I may not be their biggest fan, but it’s impossible for me not to appreciate the Arland games

Speaking of an Atelier I find flawless, join me next week where I will have the chance to gush about my absolute favorite game in this franchise. Tune in next week for Rorona to Ryza Part 4: Atelier Ayesha

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