Video Game: Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland
aka: Atelier Meruru
is the third and last of the Arland Trilogy
games on the PS3
, released in 2011 in Japan and America in 2012. It is a direct sequel to Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
and Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland
before it, and (like many an Atelier game), can be described as one-part JRPG
, one-part Time Management Game
and three-parts Item Crafting
with a dollop of Moe
Merurulince Rede Arls (just call her "Meruru") is the Rebellious Princess
of Arls, a small kingdom located in the north of the Arland Republic. Bored with palace life, she impulsively decides to become an alchemist under the tutelage of Totooria Helmold, the main character of Atelier Totori
. This does not sit well with her father and royal retainer, so they propose a deal: if Meruru can prove that her interest in alchemy is not just a passing fad by improving her skills and using them to develop Arls into a thriving kingdom over three years, then she will be permitted to complete her training.
The game possesses mechanics that are widely regarded as 'Rorona and Totori polished together'
, earning many an approving word from the fanbase (not to mention some of the best review scores an Atelier game has ever seen
, on both sides of the Pacific).
An Updated Re-release
of the game titled Atelier Meruru Plus: The Alchemist of Arland 3
for Play Station Vita
released March 20, 2013 in Japan, with Regular and Premium editions available. The regular version was also released internationally on PSN in October 2013.
The game provides examples of:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: A gameplay example, regardless of equipped weapon. Sterk's Gaia Break skill copies a slew of action only found in Super Robot Wars' games, and the camera shows him having cut the enemy sky high, before the moon behind him is slashed in half, exploding in Hot-Blooded glory.
- The Ace: Rufus
- Affectionate Parody: To begin, Gust, for some reason, decided that this game should be a series of shout outs to other media in addition to being the most polished game in the franchise. To name a few, Meruru's boss battle theme song sounds like a theme dedicated to a Super Robot Wars' character (there's even a vocal version available if you talk to the right NPC); Totori's ensemble with Chims can rack up as a parody of Sentai genre; Rorona herself is now a battle example of Magical Girl.
- And the Adventure Continues: At the end of the game, before the credits, Dessier says that he knows this isn't the end, but the beginning, as Arls, now part of the Arland Republic, has a bright future. Meruru expresses a similar sentiment and then you get to see a bit of how her adventures continue, based on which ending you qualified for.
- Anti-Frustration Feature: The menus have more navigations that enable players to check for ongoing requests and where to find certain kinds of materials and enemies, making schedule-balancing much more convenient.
- Artistic Age: If you play through the full game, you cover a time period of five years, but none of the characters show any signs of aging, which is particularly notable with our heroine, Meruru, who finishes the game with it being her 20th birthday, but doesn't look a day over, well, 15. (Unless, of course, you receive the Witch's Tea Party ending, in which case she finishes the game aged to 14 by a potion!)
- Badass Cape: Initial players never fail to notice or mention Meruru's rainbow linen side cape. And it shows, because she is possibly the most combat oriented alchemist in the trilogy (by having decent attack power after levelling up a few times)
- Badass Princess: Meruru, especially after you get the "Strongest Princess" ending.
- She's so badass she's the first Atelier heroine in the franchise to get her own battle theme with vocals.
- Bishie Sparkle: Some characters will sport this after a fight, but the most notable mention goes to Mimi, for hers is accompanied by offscreen breeze of rose petals.
- Rufus as well, who's accompanied by blue petals.
- Boring but Practical: Feel like falling short on Cole? Look to the Uni Tree grown next to the workshop. Each of those little spike balls may take up an inventory space, and each only sells for 1 cole, but you can pick them up infinitely until your basket is full, and they don't cost you in-game day time. Depending on your basket size, you can sell for 60 to 100 cole in one go. Provided if you want to spend that much time on your own to begin with.
- Later on in the game, depending on if you built the alchemy facilities, the water in the well will be replaced with Chariot Milk for a week. You can get cole much faster this way, as the mlik sells for 7 cole each, though it's still just as tedious. This method is also, however, a great way to build up the development points for gathering. There's also a bit of Loophole Abuse involved here. Normally, you have one week on the game's clock to gather the milk. The milk changing back to water, however, is contingent on getting a scene in the game's Workshop in which Astrid appears and says that things have been fixed. If any other scene is triggered, you can exit the workshop and continue to gather the milk even well after the week is up, and continue to do so until the next time you visit the workshop and don't trigger a scene other than the one involving Astrid.
- But if you follow a guide and build sufficient facilities, then you're just spending time on this tedium for no good reason, other than getting the development points. The game provides you with more cole than you'll ever really need.
- Call Back: Mimi's ending is nigh identical to Cordelia's, right down to the handmade necklace and the recipient crying in gratitude.
- Childhood Friends: Meruru, Keina, and Lias.
- Combination Attack: One of this game's ferocious selling points involving combat. After Meruru uses an attack item, her companions can follow-up with attacks, followed by her unleashing the thrown item's hidden power, THEN followed by one played straight combination attack, before channeling the thrown item's REAL hidden power, maxing such items' use up to three.
- Comes Great Responsibility: Meruru and The Masked G discuss this if you achieve the requirements for the Strongest Princess ending.
- Cosmic Plaything: Lias, whose bad luck is almost inhuman.
- Cuteness Proximity: Meruru's reaction to the young Rorona. "I just want to hug her and wash her hair and wear pajamas and cuddle and go to sleep with her!"
- She gets this way around the Chims and Homs as well.
- Death Is Cheap: Instead of a straight out game over, this game repeats the previous' defeat penalty by whisking the player back to starting point, passing the same time should the player have walked back themselves. Should that be the case, players often would just do one thing: load the game.
- A piece of development equipment plays it straighter - with it equipped, getting defeated just puts the player back at the start of the current area, albeit still with everyone at 1 health.
- Don't Call Me Sir: Meruru is formally Princess Merurulince, but asks that everyone just call her Meruru and she doesn't anyone to bow to her or anything like that. In her own words, she's never been much of a princess.
- Downloadable Content: Rufus, Fwana/Hanna and Pamela are downloadable as party members for a price each. A post-game Bonus Dungeon can be downloaded for free, while a set of remixed BGM from nearly every previous game in the franchise) can be downloaded and set to play during certain events in place of the standard OST, for a price.
- Bribing Your Way to Victory: With certain DLC characters. Hanna is a particularly good example, as she comes with a passive ability that increases drop rate and a powerful multi-hit attack that targets all enemies.
- Everything Is Better With Princesses: Oh, everything will certainly get better with Meruru's newfound life goal of alchemy. Should everything get to the point of 'Best', the people will erect a statue of HER in honor.
- Expy: Lias is pretty much a gender-bent version of Mimi.
- "Freaky Friday" Flip: Rorona gives both Meruru and Keina a "Switching Pie" so they swapped bodies for a time. Meruru took it in stride, Keina... not so much.
- Hair Decorations: Nearly all of the girls wear one.
- Hero-Worshipper: Meruru absolutely adores Totori and really looks up to her.
- I'm Taking Her Home with Me!: Hanna asks Meruru if she can take the Homs home with her because they're just so darned cute.
- Improbable Weapon User: Lias Falken fits this trope for the main reason of shouting out Super Robot Wars' Kyosuke Nanbu, as his weapon of choice is a gauntlet-equipped revolver stake. Keina Swaya uses a basket carrying sleeping drugs and healing potions, though that fits into Improvised Weapon.
- Item Caddy: You can now have Totori as your partner, along with Rorona who also fills this role, making this game the first to have three consecutive protagonist alchemists in a single adventuring party, all of whom can use brought items.
- Genki Girl: Meruru, pretty much.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: A number of things, but perhaps the biggest is that Totori reveals to Meruru what happened to her mother, Gisela, the truth of which is something that is only revealed in Atelier Totori if you earned the game's True Ending.
- The Medic: Keina
- Meido: Again, Keina
- Merlin Sickness: The fate that befell Rorona, causing her to be cast in this game as a child. Some fans don't take this well, mainly because of the development team partly responsible for having decided that this is the way to go for her. In game, Astrid is responsible for having messed up the plan to make a regression potion that can reverse her age back to the ideal age of 14, but instead she got about 8. Not only that, Rorona's memories got messed up. Fortunately her alchemic skills (which remained) are still a help for Meruru
- Modesty Shorts: Meruru wears bloomers under her Dangerously Short Skirt, thus allowing her to move around freely without having to worry about Panty Shots. It's taken to the point that all of her costumes (except her Totori costume, which comes with a leotard) include bloomers underneath.
- The Moving Experience: Totori is called away for a brief visit to Arland. Meruru thinks that she's leaving Arls for good and gets very upset and runs off to sulk by herself. Totori returns after three days, having only supposed to have been gone for one day, but her sister Ceci wouldn't let her leave that soon. Meruru says that she should have told her the truth about the trip, but Totori points out that she never gave her the chance. Rufus points out "How could I tell a princess who refused to show herself?"
- Multiple Endings: Like the two games before this, what you achieve in game can determine the ending which you'll get, based on a number of factors. There's also a pecking order, where if you meet the requirements of one ending, you'll still get another if you meet the requirements for one with a higher priority. A bit of guide reading is in order. The game does do you one favor though— anytime you secure the requirements for an ending, you get a MeMemo (journal) entry with the phrase "I feel like I've uncovered a whole new future for myself!" Additionally, this phrase is presented in Rainbow Speak to draw your attention.
- New Game+: Items, money and development don't get carried over, but equipped items do. Furthermore, it's only really practical to get most endies for Trophies in New Game Plus. Therefore, you should really just do your best in your first playthrough and make sure to synthesize the best equipment possible, then start a New Game Plus with this equipment equipped to everyone. Also, Gio's later events are only accessible in New Game Plus and he can only join your party in New Game Plus.
- Non-Standard Game Over: If at anytime you allow Meruru's popularity to drop to zero, then Rufus comes to the workshop, chastises her, and then sends her before Dessier, who is so mad at her that he reneges on his promise and ends her alchemy studies immediately, followed by a Game Over without even getting the Bad Ending (and thus no "Castle Life" Trophy.)
- Older Than They Look: Every adult female in the game. Of particular note is Esty, who is 40 in this game and she looks about 20.
- Sterk as well. He's a year younger than Esty, but could easily pass for someone in their 20's.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: You can count the amount of characters who have shortened forms of their real names, with the latest addition of Meruru.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: The Masked G, who is obviously Meruru's Uncle Gio, but she doesn't realize this. If you achieve certain requirements, Meruru will almost realize it at the end of the game. And if you complete the requirements for a certain ending, Sterk will all but let it slip out.
- Power Trio: Totori tells Meruru that her, Gino, and Mimi were this when they would go out adventuring together.
- Rapunzel Hair: Meruru's hair is incredibly long.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: At the ending of Mimi's storyarc, she and Totori have shades of this.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Meruru's charm and main point of being. Instead of going by her father's aim of letting the nation get peacefully absorbed into Arland's border, Meruru later wants to use alchemy to bolster Arls condition. Throughout the game, her efforts will be rewarded by the sight of the map becoming crowded with representation of Arls' growth
- Save Scumming: Oh man. You can save in the alchemy workshop or the World Map, so if something goes wrong or you mess up, it's very easy to just roll things back if you remember to save regularly.
- Shout-Out: Sterk's Gaia Break cut-in to Super Robot Wars Thrudgelmir cut-in.
- So Proud of You: Meruru gets this from her father Dessier if she achieves her goals.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Due to the large carry-over of cast, a number of examples from previous games apply here as well. Two new examples for Meruru, however, are Meruru's father and "the young shop owner" - the former was "Dessie Horstna Arls" (デジエ ホルストナ アールス). As this was a bit feminine for a man, a bit of kana-interpretation alchemy transformed it into Dessier Hahlsner Arls.note More problematic was the latter, though, as "Fwana/Juana Olsys" (フアナ オルシズ). There've been several ways given of spelling her name and neither really matches the given katakana. NISA ended up saying "pike it" and called her Hanna Olses.
- An interesting quasi-example is Mimi; in the promotional material for Meruru, she was called "Mimi Houlier von Schwarzlank". This wasn't even consistent with the spelling Gust gave in Japan's version of Atelier Totori. NISA, naturally, opted to keep the spelling consistent between English versions as "Mimi Houllier von Schwarzlang".
- Tall, Dark and Handsome: Both Rufus and Lias.
- The One Guy: Male Hom is the only male presence in a workshop that houses four other girls.
- Third-Person Person: Little Rorona, though it zigzags a bit. (At least in the English language version anyway, maybe or maybe not in the original Japanese.)
- Tsundere: Lias, though he isn't nearly as bad as Mimi.
- Unmanly Secret: Rufus and his love of sweets — pies, etc. Meruru has known about it "forever," but that doesn't stop him from trying to hide it anyway.
- Updated Re-release: Scheduled for Japan on March 20, 2013 for Play Station Vita, and released later that year elsewhere. It will be available in Regular and Premium editions (in Japan). It will feature new bosses and costumes.
- Visual Initiative Queue
- When Trees Attack: The Spirit Guardian of the Forest of Ent.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Keina is incredibly mature and responsible for a fourteen-year-old.