The Atelier series is a series of sixteen (or twenty-two, depending on how you count them) RPGs developed by Gust Corporation of Japan, with some localized by Nippon Ichi Software. The franchise had been exclusive to Japan (with Atelier Marie, Elie, Lilie, Judie, and Violet) until the release of the first game in the Iris trilogy in the United States in 2005. The series also possesses a brief manga depicting some Alternate Universe adventures between the first two heroines, brought to America courtesy of Tokyopop.Based around the concept of the "atelier", or "artist's workshop", the main character in the games is usually an alchemist looking to be the greatest in her field (or his, for the Atelier Iris and Mana Khemia sub-series, and Atelier Escha & Logy, if you choose to play as Logy). Item Crafting is a major component of every game in the series, as the player is tasked with finding ingredients and recipes to create new items/spells.The earlier games are rather famous in Japan for being very different from other RPGs of the day, with the item crafting and single-city-interaction focus. These differences, however, kept them out of the Western eye during the 90s and early 2000s, and after a few not-as-great sequels and after the rest of the industry began to judiciously "borrow" certain gameplay elements from it, the series' fortunes fell somewhat. The PSX-era games are still fondly remembered in Japan, however, and are often held up as an example that the Japanese game industry is still capable of innovation. (Though, granted, at 15 years old there's a debate to be had about just how valid a "recent" example the series is now...)The series' (rather gigantic) release list is as follows, in release order, with U.S. releases boldednote Until Ayesha, all U.S. releases were handled by NIS America; released are currently handled by Tecmo Koei:
Alternate Continuity: A few. Not too hard to keep track of, but beginning with Atelier Iris, Gust decided to not maintain just one continuity.
The first continuity is the "Salburg" one, which encompasses all five "original" games (Marie, Elie, Lilie, Judie, and Violet) and their spinoffs. They all take place in the same universe, with many characters making appearances in multiple games; the time period between the start of Atelier Lilie (chronologically the first) and Atelier Violet is roughly 35 years.
Atelier Iris and Atelier Iris 2 then form the second continuity, AI 2 being a prequel of sorts that takes place long before AI 1.
Atelier Iris 3, while featuring certain characters who are similar, is in its own, sole continuity.
Mana Khemia 1 and 2 form another continuity; it remains to be seen if any other games will take place here.
The most recent games are difficult to place. Atelier Liese and Atelier Annie are clearly in continuity with each other, and at first glance the Arland games (Atelier Rorona thru Meruru) also appear to form their own continuity. However, there are vague hints that Liese/Annie may well take place in the "Salburg" continuity and that the Arland games may be in continuity with them; Gust is being very cagey about all this currently. (Meanwhile, Atelier Linaseems to sit all by its lonesome like Iris 3 does.)
The "Dusk" universe, meanwhile, is yet again its own thing... except there are some vague-but-there implications that it may be an After the EndDistant Epilogue to the entire franchise. What with alchemists being responsible for much of the world's ruin and all.
Ambiguously Gay: Not who you might initially expect. Of all people, Elie Traum, the heroine of the second game, has an ending that raises a lot of eyebrows. She can sort-of flirt with several of the male characters during the course of the game, but she also develops quite a relationship with Romauge the dancer. Romauge is one of two characters in Atelier Elie to have a fully-cinematic ending devoted exclusively to her, and in it... Elie abandons alchemy to run off and be a traveling dancer with Romauge and "pursue her heart". The overall tone of the ending is intensely romantic and more importantly is the only "romantic" ending available in the game. And then there's the fact that Elie desperately wishes to contact Marie and "thank" Marie for saving her life and, well, you end up with a lot of speculation. Gust has never come out directly and said that the character is gay, however, so strictly speaking it remains speculative.
An Entrepreneur Is You: Some games, but especially in Atelier Violet. The reason Violet learns alchemy is so that she can build her own shop of wonders to drive visitors (and thus, economy) to Karotte Village, which is smack dab in the middle of nowhere. Failure to get ~500 visitors within ~1000 days lead to Bad End where the village is abandoned. (This is easier than it sounds, really.)
As Long as It Sounds Foreign: This series is extremely guilty of this trope when it comes to naming the characters. Gust seems to fall into the same trap that certain companies like Sunrise do, in that they try to give all the characters Western-sounding names without really knowing what's properly Western. Atelier Annie has a few good examples, such as "Kilbert" (probably intended to be "Gilbert"), "Jalia" (possibly a correct name but more likely meant to be "Julia", eventually rendered as "Gillian"), and "Kraus" (the obvious problem in trying to transliterate "Claus", which is what the localization went with). Earlier games feature a few suspect names too - Atelier Elie prominently features a character who's name is officially written in-game as "Daglass McRain" when the "right" way to spell that is fairly obvious, especially if you're familiar with katakana at all.
Bag of Sharing: Explained in the context of Atelier Iris 2; Felt and Viese possess a pair of rings which essentially allow them to teleport items to each other, so that Viese can make things out of all the crazy stuff Felt finds in the larger world, while remaining safe in their hometown until the very end of the game. The other games avert this trope by simply never taking control of the protagonist away from the player and making characters who aren't in the current party inaccessible for equipment purposes.
BFS: Kilbert of Atelier Annie uses an almost impossibly huge sword as his main weapon. Or at least, he tells people he can use it for the intimidation value, but he can't actually use it in real combat, and uses "standard" two-handers instead. Sterk of the Arland games uses Scots-style claymores that, while somewhat more realistic, are still quite long.
Bart, Violet's brother in Atelier Violet, works as a send-up of the concept. He also favors very large two-handed swords... and at the start of the game is hilariously inept with them, as they're too large and heavy to swing properly!
Boarding School: The main setting for Mana Khemia. The first few games also feature a school, but the protagonists don't live there (even if they can have friends that do.) The third game stars the woman who founded the school and details her adventures in getting it established.
Broken Bridge: In Atelier Violet, you can't bypass certain obstacles on the field until you have the item needed to overcome it (explosives of varying grades to clear barricades— one of which is an Elven Dice, Air Drop to breathe underwater, living rope to climb tall cliffs, etc). You need reference books to be able to craft them. Which if you don't have, you can only buy in the next city. To go to the next city, you need to have the request-issuer mentioning it to you. Which requires that you reach certain level in alchemy.
Darker and Edgier: As a general rule, games with a guy as the protagonist tend to be more conflict-heavy (and the villain truly vile) than games with a girl as the protagonist. This basically equates to the Iris and Mana Khemia games, with Iris 2 being far and away the darkest of the entire lot and the darkest game of the franchise, and the first Mana Khemia running a close second in its last act.
Determinator: The series has had a surprising number of these over the years, partially because of where it sits on the Sliding Scale. Has become a little more obvious with the advent of the Atelier Iris sub-series.
Perhaps shockingly, the first Determinator in series history is, of all people, the titular heroine of Atelier Elie. Consider: she begins the game still recovering from the effects of a disease suggested to be similar to scarlet fever, and assuming the player plays for a good ending, she will overcome this, overcome a somewhat disadvantageous initial ranking in the academy, manage to run a business and maintain her academy standing at the same time, overcome vampires, sea dragons and potentially psychotic instructors standing in her way, all to become the finest alchemist Salburg has ever seen and thank the woman who saved her life - and she never, ever gives up on her dream, which is the theme behind the entire game. Heck, despite the soft music and narration, the very opening of the game has the message that you can't pursue your dreams if you give up!
Klein of Atelier Iris 1. What's that? Avenbury is sealed? We've got the Big Bad running around planning terrible things? The girl I've fallen in love with seems doomed to die if I stop the Big Bad? Said Big Bad is in fact unleashing a horrible beast borne of an alchemic experiment gone horribly wrong that will destroy every single thing I know, love and hold dear? The heck with all of that, I've got alchemy. Let's do this.
Felt of Iris 2. My home and dearly beloved are threatened with, well, nothingness? The world below is a festering pit of hate, war and recrimination? What I do, alchemy, is considered the art of the devil? The Big Bad is being manipulated by a sword like mine, but gone mad? Yeah, not a bit of that is going to stop me from setting every single one of those things right.
Of course, her hard work ends up influencing her no matter what ending you go for.
And then there's another character in the same game, a certain redhead who puts on a devil-may-care facade but may well have another purpose that she absolutely will not back down on, no matter what...
Meruru of the titular game is established early on as having a flighty personality, but she's absolutely determined to become an alchemist. And as time goes on, she becomes determined to help the citizens of her home, as well.
Dude Looks Like a Lady: Eleore of the still-Japan-only Atelier Liese fits this trope to a T, to the point where he cultivates his ambiguous appearance in order to catch people off guard and confuse them about his intentions.
Funnily enough, the lead character of Atelier Annie is very much a Bifauxnen; most people's first reactions on seeing her was "That's supposed to be a girl?!" She gets this reaction quite a bit in-game too, much to her chagrin.
Dungeon Shop: That would be you (to varying degrees). Most obvious in Atelier Violet, where you actually have some degree of control over the shop.
Empathic Weapon: The Azure Azoth from Atelier Iris 2, and Sulpher from Mana Khemia.
Exposition Fairy: Hilariously enough, the series uses actual fairies for this purpose. You often get a single fairy in the early games who explains how fairies can be "rented" to help around the atelier; Atelier Iris 1 and Atelier Annie feature Popo and Pepe, respectively, who exist purely to explain game mechanics to the player.
Expy: The series usually avoids this, but in the case of Atelier Annie, when the new art for an older version of Liese Randel was released, any half-informed anime fan couldn't help but notice that she looks almost exactly◊ like Signum from Lyrical Nanoha.
Liese Randel was in fact, an expy of Minakami Misao from Asura Cryin' (only with redder hair), in which the light novel illustration was done by Nao Watanuki (the same character designer of the Atelier games which feature Liese). Coincidentally(?), the anime adaptation of Asura Cryin' was done by Seven Arcs of Lyrical Nanoha' fame.
Ash in Atelier Iris 3 is basically the exact same character as Arlin from the first Iris game, albeit an antagonist this time. So are Crowley or should I say the Shadow Gem possessing him and Mull from the same two instalments, although Crowley isn't a Smug Snake (whether or not he reaches Magnificent Bastard is up to you) or a Card-Carrying Villain, thus making him a much better character.
Also, while Gust has never come out and said it, a lot of people rather suspect that the "Salburg" of the classic games is based very heavily on the real life city of Salzburg.
Fantasy Gun Control: A fairly odd case. "Explosive powder" is a very common and easy to make item, and the bombs you can make get rather powerful; cannon are also mentioned briefly in the Salburg games. The guards and armed forces of the various cities in the classic games never use even an arquebus, however. The later games go kind of all over the place with it and make it even weirder; on the one hand, Poe prominently uses a "magic" gun, but none of the soldiers in that game use firearms at all.
Atelier Rorona finally does away with this, as befits its setting; most of Cordelia's special attacks utilize her exquisitely-crafted pistol, and you do encounter enemies who are armed with guns. The other party members don't use guns simply due to a preference for other means of defending themselves.
Funnily enough, though, the trope then comes back after a fashion in the later Arland games; none of the party members in Totori or Meruru, outside of Cordelia, use guns (and Cory isn't even playable in Meruru) despite some of the enemies still wielding them.
Fetch Quest: Poked at and lampshaded in Atelier Iris 3 wherein randomly generated quests that involve getting an item are directly labeled "Fetch". This is also part of the bread and butter of making money in classic Atelier games, with a twist: the items to be "fetched" are generally not available simply by punching Mooks. You have to gather the materials and then make the item in question. This is a key in both random cash quests as well as quests that advance the plot.
Fiery Redhead: Liese Randel, of Atelier Liese and Atelier Annie. She's a bit calmer in Annie, but only a bit, and doesn't really take much crap from anyone and doesn't really take "no" for an answer. In her own game, she's even more forceful and is the Redheaded Hero to boot.
Gainaxing: The manga of Atelier Marie & Elie uses a print version of this a lot; even Elie isn't immune, however, which feels extremely weird given how in all the game artwork her bust is not emphasized at all.
Game-Breaking Bug: Atelier Liese initially shipped with an absolutely stupefying number of fatal errors that would wipe your save data or cause the game to hard lock; while a corrected version was eventually shipped out (and produced for hopeful localization), the press had already taken the game and company to the cleaners over the issues, which were by far the most serious defects an Atelier game had ever seen.
Gratuitous German: Used a lot in the earlier Atelier games, since the setting is meant to be a version of Renaissance Germany; it's meant to be breaking Translation Convention since the characters seem to ostensibly speak German. This has essentially disappeared as of the Atelier Iris games.
Ein/Zwei Zecksclaw? No?
The opening theme song to Atelier Iris 3 starts with German.
Kilbert's massive chunk of metal that passes for a sword in Atelier Annie.
The "Mechsword" in Atelier Iris 3.
Poe's crazy doomcannon in Atelier Iris 2. You'd think the recoil from that thing would knock him into the nearest hard surface every time.
And let us be honest: every single character in Mana Khemia does it, to a greater or lesser degree. (Ever seen someone use a Bag of Holding as a weapon?)
Item Crafting: A cornerstone of the series' design. It's well worth noting that Item Crafting in JRPGs, especially through use of "alchemy", became widespread after the release of Atelier Marie in 1997 which went on to casually sell a quarter-million units. Pretty much all modern JPRG crafting owes something to, or is directly a pared-down version of, the Atelier crafting system.
Knight in Shining Armor: Many of the "freeform" early Ateliers have a character like this who can accompany the main character on out-of-town quests (as well as serve as a kind of love interest), with Enderk and Daglass in the earlier games and Marius in the more recent Atelier Liese.
Sterk from the Arland games is an examination of the concept; he wants to be a knight and serves as a love interest for Rorona but he was born in an age where knights are becoming a thing of the past. His multi-game character arc involves his coming to terms with this and looking at what it really means to be a "knight".
Large Ham: Vayne's dark-side's English VA in Mana Khemia deserves a special mention for this. Beggur of Iris 1 is also noted for this in the best way possible, especially in English.
Lady of War: A lot of supporting characters across various games. Kyrielich from Marie, Yurika from Elie (sort of), Katarina from Violet, Fee from Iris 2...
Low Fantasy: While the games are hardly gritty or cynical (just the opposite really), they are also generally low-blatant-magic, with a focus on creating items for your use to get things like "fire spells" and the like, are heavily dominated by humanity, and don't possess a scope that goes much beyond a single country or principality (in the earlier games this is part of the point; you're operating on a time limit so you don't have time to go Walking the Earth for whatever you need). One of the criticisms directed toward the Atelier Iris sub-series is that it tended very much away from the Low Fantasy roots of its predecessors, and Mana Khemia and the DS Atelier games (Liese and Annie) get credit for bringing the series back toward this; the dev team of Atelier Roronaopenly stated that they intended to go back to this full-force with that game, which the Arland games did.
The truly great irony is that, in the original design document (as revealed in the Atelier Series Official Chronicle), the Salburg setting was going to be very dark, gritty fantasy in the vein of Berserk. The early visual concepts thrown around for Marie and crew didn't really line up with such a dark setting, however, and so the rough edges were filed off to turn it into the optimistic, hopeful concept seen in the final game. A few remnants of the old "dark" concept survive, though, such as the plague that struck Elie's hometown (though crucially, it was Marie who saved it).
Interestingly, while a lot of Japanese MEF features a rather higher standard of health compared to what actual medieval Europe was like, in the Atelier games this is actually justified in that, well, with practical science-based alchemy being so prevalent, the standard of medicine is quite a bit higher in this setting than it was in real life. This is even a quest in the first game (where you have to create a medicine to save a friend from a crippling disease) and a plot point in the second, where the protagonist of that game was saved from death's door by the medical skills of the previous game's protagonist.
Medieval Stasis: Hilariously played with in various parts of the franchise. In the "classic" games from Elie on, this trope is generally averted because you, the player character, are often discovering new items that become popular and imitated later on and are thus a force for change and progress. (Generally). In Atelier Iris, things are in fact After the End and the world is slowly regaining the progress lost when Avenberry fell, and in Iris 2 the enforced stasis of both parts of the world is a large part of the problem and you, uh, inadvertently set up the catastrophe that precedes AI1.
Atelier Rorona then turns this on its head. Arland has well broken past any Medieval Stasis, and that's a large part of the problem; with so much new technology and progress, you have to prove the alchemy shop is worth keeping open at all. You have to cause a little Medieval Stasis just to survive!
Multiple Endings: The earlier, freeform Atelier games had lots of endings; Atelier Elie had thirteen of them. Mostly abandoned with the later games but Atelier Liese and Atelier Annie once again feature them. Atelier Rorona, as part of its "true back to the roots" design, was advertised as having thirty such endings (though whether this is true is up for debate). The other Arland games have similarly large ending counts.
Nice Hat: This seems to be a requirement for being a heroine of a "main" Atelier game; every heroine has some bit of headwear that is prominent to varying degrees. Liese and Annie have particularly notable hats; Liese's is doubly notable as it disappears once she's no longer the main character in Atelier Annie.
Nintendo Hard: The third game of the series, Atelier Lilie, has a reputation for being hellishly difficult to complete with any kind of satisfactory ending without a lot of planning beforehand and knowledge of how the game works. The optional material in many of the latter games tends not to slouch, either.
No Antagonist: For the most part, a lot of the games are about your character trying to prove themselves or reach some goal, with nobody actively trying to prevent you from reaching it. Some of the games do have antagonists, but they tend to be a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere that doesn't get revealed until much later in the game.
Also, during one scene in AI1, Norn the Catgirl gets frightened by all the monsters in the woods, and asks to sleep in the same bag as Klein. She thinks it's innocent, but Klein gets the entirely wrong idea and says "No way! The ESRB would go nuts!"
The cast finally says the word in Escha and Logy, and pronounce it pretty much how you'd read it in English (ah-te-lee-er). Usually it was called "workshop".
Only Known by Their Nickname: Many of the title characters are only called by their nickname and will usually say their full names only when introducing themselves. note For those curious: Marie = Marlone, Elie = Elfir, Judie = Judith, Rorona = Rorolina, Totori = Totooria, Meruru = Merururlince, Logy = Logix
Rebellious Princess: Liese of Atelier Liese is this. Mildly out of the ordinary in that she's leaving home without permission in order to earn enough money to pay off her father's crushing debt.
While she seems to have canonically saved her family from ruin, she continues this sort of behavior in Atelier Annie, having apparently given her parents the flip to go participate in the Sera Island alchemy tournament. Despite outward appearances, though, her motives don't seem to be driven entirely by money this time...
Running Gag: Player characters often shout "Barrel!" whenever the player searches one. Yes, this dates all the way back to Marie.
The Arland games have a running gag involving Sterk and his "scary face."
Schizo Tech: Assiduously averted in the first five games (Marie to Violet) as all of them maintained a more or less realistic technology level for their settings. Some of this began to creep into the games with the advent of the Iris sub-series, however (although it never got as bad as in Ar tonelico).
This is all poked fun at and lampshaded in Atelier Rorona, where a previously Renaissance-level civilization has discovered the ruins of a more advanced culture and is slowly integrating technology as it is understood. By and large they have so far advanced to the steam age and firearms are becoming increasingly common, but a few more advanced pieces of technology appear throughout town, like a computerized bulletin board, complete with touchscreen in the town square.
Shared Unusual Trait: Both Ingrid and Helmina of the original series have this, in the form of heterochromatic eyes with one being gold; so does a significant portion of the population of their home city-state of Kentinnis, for that matter. It's a genetic quirk among the Kentinnisans; those without heterochromia tend to have straight-out golden eyes like Lilie does.
Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Pretty much every single entry into the franchise is deliberately slammed just about the entire way toward idealism. There is no problem that cannot be solved with the proper application of science, logic, and faith, and the life of your fellow man can always be made more pleasant. Even in the few games where the situation can look dark and grim, the protagonists do not lose hope because they know that the world can be made a better place, though the work of their own hands, however small. The games are relentlessly optimistic in tone - practically to the point of some accusing them of being rather too sweet.
Smug Snake: Many of the villains. (This makes punching their faces in highly satisfying.)
The Smurfette Principle: Inverted, the protagonists are usually female. However, the Atelier Iris Trilogy and the Mana Khemia spin-offs have male protagonists. This also can apply to the latest game, Escha & Logy, where one of the Deuteragonists, Logy, is male.
Spell My Name with an "S": The literal version, as "Norudisu" of Atelier Elie and related works (such as the Atelier Marie & Elie manga that has been relased in the U.S.) suffers from the exact same problem as a certain other famous video game character who's name ends with "su". This is so bad and consensus is so nonexistant that even Tokyopop changed the spelling of his name between volumes of the manga (the only English medium the character has appeared in thus far) from "Nordith" to "Nordis"!
This problem exists for a whole bunch of other characters and places, particularly for ones who don't really have a game released in the United States yet. Is a support character in the first two games meant to be My or Myu? The first one is how Gust likes to spell it but it leads to certain grammar issues in text. How about "Hermina" versus "Helmina"; even worse in that both are completely valid options? Is the last name of the titular character of Atelier Lise Liese "Lander" or "Randel"? In the same game, is the region the game takes place in "Ordre", "Oldor", "Ordor", "Orudoru"? And so on and so on. Gust Inc. itself often doesn't help matters either - they like to spell the name of the heroine of the fifth game as "Viorate", despite the fact that the name they're aiming for is fairly obviously "Violet" (which is what Trinity Universe's English version went with).
For some of the above examples, Atelier Annie eventually came down with "Randel" and "Orde", which work... along with Liese for the protagonist of Atelier "Lise", creating a little confusion as to what Annie's prequel should be called.
NISA is also proving to be a little inconsistent with names for characters from unreleased games in the "music DLC" for the latter Arlandgames - in the Meruru DLC, Violet is named as "Violette", Liese is named back to Lise (and was "Lize" in the Totori music DLC!) and Lilie is "Lily".
This is especially hilarious for the name of the principality in which the first three games (and the manga) take place in - ever since the beginning of the series, Gust Inc. has spelled it "Salburg" and even runs a website bearing that name. Given that the setting is meant to be vaguely like Renaissance Germany, however, the pronunciation in katakana features a "za" instead of a "sa"; ergo, the name of the city is rendered by Tokyopop and some fan translators as "Zarlburg". Apparently Americans are too dumb to understand Gratuitous German pronunciation.
Stripperific: The series tends to yo-yo on this a little. While the heroine of the original game, Marie, wore an outfit whose chest can best be described as "liberal"◊, and several other heroines (Judie of her own game, Lita from Atelier Iris, and the Iris from Atelier Iris 3) all have somewhat revealing costumes, in general the rest of the heroines in the series tend to be very tastefully and possibly even conservatively dressed. The best examples are Elie◊ and Viese◊ from Atelier Elie and Atelier Iris 2 respectively; they're dressed in such a way that aside from their hands, the lowest you can see exposed skin is the neckline. And these are not low necklines.
Timed Mission: Most games have a fixed deadline (usually three or five years, in-game time) within which you must complete the overarching goal of the game in question. They may also provide smaller missions that must be completed within a couple months or so.
Translation Convention: Given the lengths to which the earlier games of the series attempt to evoke that "Renaissance Germany" feel, it's generally assumed that characters speak German or something similar in the context of the games. In many Salburg games, even parts of the interface are in German.
Troperiffic: The very first game of the series, Atelier Marie, has a lot of fun with this: the intro appears to be lifted directly from Record of Lodoss War, "Light And Darkness" and all, and seems to be setting up an incredibly cliched experience... then the game reminds you that 99% of the population of this world isn't a world-saving hero and just goes about their normal lives. And that you're one of these people. Cue title screen and the surprise of many 1997 gamers.
Unfortunate Names: One would think that one of the reasons Atelier "Viorate" never left Japan is due to the name of the heroine, never mind that a more accurate romanization would be "Violet".
Esty Dee in the Arland games is just as bad, but in a game that's actually been localized. Thing is, NISA actually changed Esty's last name to Dee just to make this joke.
Unique Items: Atelier Iris has a few ultimate items. Each of them can only be made once, even through different playthroughs of the game.
Widget Series: A lot of debate as to whether or not this even applies. Many in the industry certainly seem to think so, given the obstinance with which they refuse to bring over the earlier games; however, those very earlier games especially were meant to be as Western as possible to Japanese audiences what with the down-to-earth plotlines and characters and conspicuous non-Japanese language and all. The Iris games and Mana Khemia tend to be a little weirder, but not confoundingly so by any measure.