Video Game: Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland
Atelier Rorona is the eleventh (or the sixteenth, depending on how you number them) game in Gust's well-known Atelier Series and the first of the lot to sport 3D graphics. Like many Atelier games, it can be described as one-part JRPG, one-part Time Management Game and three-parts Item Crafting with a dollop of Moe for flavour.Atelier Rorona tells the story of a young lady named Rorolina Frixell (just call her Rorona), an apprentice alchemist who lives in the capital of the Arland Kingdom. One day, a knight delivers a message from the government: due to the recent advancements in steam technology, they will no longer support the art of alchemy and have made plans to shut her workshop down. The only way that Rorona can change their mind is by carrying out a series of tasks over the next three years designed to prove that alchemy can still be relevant in modern day life. With her alchemy teacher being too lazy and apathetic to care, it falls to Rorona to develop her alchemy skills and save her workshop from closure.The game has two sequels, which (together with this game) comprise the "Arland Trilogy": Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland, and Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland. A remake titled New Atelier Rorona (Atelier Rorona Plus overseas) for Playstation Vita and the PS3 features completely redone graphics and game system, new costumes for Rorona, and post-game content.You may find the game's proud old (Japanese) blog here.A character page for this game is currently in progress. Contributions are appreciated.
This game bloody well contains examples of:
Age Lift: Rorona, Cordelia, Iksel, Sterk, Tantris, and Lionela are all three years older than in the original Japanese release.
BFS: Sterk's weapon-type of choice is a Scots-style claymore; these usually aren't quite as ridiculously huge as many examples in other games, but he does still favor weapons that are typically equal to his own height. This carries forward into both Totori and Meruru, and in Totori he also uses halberds at times.
Brain Bleach: This is more or less Rorona's reaction upon finding out how homonculi are made.
Elegant Gothic Lolita: Practically every main female character in the game, with the possible exceptions of Astrid (who is rather too old to actually fall under the "lolita" banner) and Lionela (who is basically a street tramp).
Hyperactive Metabolism: Food and drinks can be consumed instantly as healing items. Also Iksel, who essentially feeds a party member a full meal in a matter of seconds as a healing ability.
Improbable Weapon User: Half of the game's playable characters manage to avoid this, using swords, staves, knuckles and the like. The other half?... let's see, Lionela fights with puppets, Iksel uses a frying pan, and Gio is awesome enough to use a cane that doubles as a sword. That fills out the quota nicely.
Low Fantasy: The only "standard" element of low fantasy missing is the "grittiness". Atelier Rorona is as non-epic as a videogame can get, the setting is dominated completely by humanity ( in fact, a sidequest elaborates on how the traditional fairies of the Atelier universe feel incredibly threatened by Arland's technological advances), the "alchemy" is based on scientific principles, and the setting of the game is tightly confined to Arland City and its environs within no more than a week or two's march. This game brought the Atelier series back to its low fantasy roots in full.
Mistaken for Cheating: Happens to Rorona's father when Hom introduces him/herself as Rorona's brother/sister.
Multiple Endings: An absolutely mind-cracking number of them; three "base" good ends, plus extra end content for each character if you're on excellent terms with them. Plus the pie ending, plus the "adventurer" ending, and plus a few "bad ends".
True Ending: Obtained if you received a high amount of stars on your assignments, and had a high popularity level. Rorona will be unable to keep up with the huge amount of orders she receives from the city's populace. Cordelia may take over as the workshop manager to help stem the flow, or Gio may appoint her the royal alchemist so that she can work in peace.
Good Ending: Obtained if you received a low amount of stars on your assignments, but had a high popularity level. Rorona will receive a lot of customers at her workshop due to her popularity, but her low alchemy skills result in her blowing up her assignments on a regular basis. Sterk may move in (!) to help her, or she may close the workshop and work for Iksel's restaurant instead.
Normal Ending: Obtained if you received a high number of stars on your assignments, but not enough popularity level. Rorona will keep the workshop but be unable to turn it into a profitable business because few people come as customers due to her low popularity, and she refuses to do the few that she does get because they aren't challenging (to her high alchemy skills). She therefore leaves on a journey, and either Tantris or Lionela may end up joining her.
New Technology Is Evil: Applied to steam power, hilariously enough. The advent of steam-powered devices is what sets off the game's central crisis of proving that the atelier is still worth keeping open. Later on, there are hints that the technology left behind by the Precursors of the game may not be as benign as people assume it is.
The Nicknamer: Whenever Rorona hears someone's name she immediately starts brainstorming possible nicknames.
Oh Crap: Encounter a bunch of powerful monsters and watch Rorona's face as she sees them.
Parental Abandonment: Played for Laughs to some extent with Rorona's parents. While Astrid may take a good care of Rorona, one has to wonder how her parents can go on so many trips without showing so much concern on her well-being.
Put on a Bus: Some characters will be temporarily unavailable after their events.
Tantris, Gio, and Lionela are getting this treatment in Atelier Totori, although it's justified and explained in one of Rorona's events there.
Well, Gio's back in Meruru. And Lionela appears as a quick cameo in Meruru's opening. But it costs Cordelia and Iksel...
Schizo Tech: A little bit, and justified by the backstory: the engineers of Arland have begun to comprehend the technology left behind in the ruins of an ancient civilization which dot the kingdom. This has generally led to the adoption of consistent steam technology at the start of the game, but there's still a few odd bits of high-technology that have been made to work in the city, such as the computerized bulletin board in the city square.
Schmuck Bait: At one point in the game, Hom gives Rorona a bottle, on which surface is written not to open it. This is even lampshaded by Meredith if you follow the warning (which, of course, you really should).
Spell My Name with an S: Rororina or Rorolina? Cuderia or Corderia? Yksel or Iksel? Astrid Zexes or Astrid Zexis? Tantoris or Tantris? And that's just the names!
Steampunk: Of the "not really actually punk" variety, since Atelier rarely ever gets dark and gritty. Arland City is quite well steam-powered as the game opens, however, and the clothing! Goodness gracious, the clothing!
Street Urchin: Lionela is a very rare female example of this trope. She starts the game out as a homeless street performer with only the (relatively ragged) clothes on her back and her puppets for company. She may or may not also be quite desperately insane as the game opens, as the puppets seem to be fully animated and speak to her and other people, Lionela treats them as separate conscious entities and you might think they are magical or something... and then you realize they don't move or speak when she isn't around. It's all a little whitewashed compared to the real Victorian examples, but it's still there prominently. The player can, of course, decide how much they wish to interact with Lionela and help her out of her situation.
Stripperific: In a series noted for going back-and-forth on this a little, the characters in this one game are all over the place!
Rorona's skirt is a little... short, and her dress is a bit generous in the chest, but she isn't in a catsuit or anything. Lionela's outfit prominently displays her ample chest and bares her stomach, although this is part of the point; Lionela is a street performer and is basically a homeless tramp. She's dressed the way she is since that's practically all she could find, and she's not particularly proud of having to dress that way.
The early concepts for Rorona's design featured an outfit that was a good deal less "flattering" and somewhat more realistic for a young woman who often has to do some traveling and lab work - and the outfit was then continuously whittled down for sex appeal. They even took away her boots, in the end, in favor of showing more leg. It is worth noting, especially in regard to Rorona's redesign, that her "stripperific" qualities are almost certainly made to appeal to the girls who might play the game. The whole outfit was made pink, the knee-high adventurer boots with knee guards were replaced with short, stylish boots with lacy, frilly socks, the plunging neckline is, again, on a lacy blouse with a small black ribbon and several cute accessories. Combined with her hobby of baking and generally passive personality, she's obviously not designed to appeal to customers as an Action Girl.
The rest of the female characters are quite a bit more conservatively dressed - Cordelia and Astrid don't display any skin below the neckline, aside from their hands. Pamela's dress is a bit more flattering, but is of a style that was perfectly common in the 19th century.
And then of course there's the beach scene, which probably requires no further elaboration.
Taking the Bullet: Sterk in his final event, which renders him out of commission for 80 days.
Time Management Game: The game is kind of like playing an actual job, except in real life your boss doesn't live with you and molest you while you sleep.
Turned Against Their Masters: Done hilariously when Rorona creates the Living Pie. For some reason, she is surprised when it proves unwilling to cooperate with her plan of eating it alive, and decides to fight back.
Victorian Britain: Obviously not actually Britain, but the architecture, technology and costume design clearly riff off 19th-century British culture. The music also takes a ton of Celtic cues, and Ken Nakagawa even used several legitimate Celtic instruments in composing the music.
Notable in that this is a first for an Atelier title; most of Rorona's predecessors could be best described, perhaps, as "RenaissanceEuropean Fantasy".