The PS Vita receives a lot “JRPG love”with releases such as Persona 4 Golden, Disgaea 3, Danganronpa and Ragnarok Odyssey no one can ignore this fantasy anymore. This month Vita owners will be able to try out Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland, the third installment in the Atelier series that was ported straight from PS3 courtesy of Tecmo Koei.
This time the game puts you in the shoes of Arls Kingdom’s princess, Merurulince (Meruru for short), a 15 years old girl who wishes to be an alchemist. Unfortunately, her father thinks she should act like a princess and take care of her people, so he offers her a deal – If Meruru manages to develop the land by using alchemy, she can keep training.
My main problem with the story-line is that it doesn’t follow the reasons for Meruru to be an alchemist. I was left with the impression that there’s nothing at stake here, the worst case is that Meruru goes back to be a spoiled princess, not that she isn’t acting like one on her journey.
Don’t get me wrong on this, Atelier Meruru’s plot feels like a childhood fairy tale. It can still be amusing at times, but there’s nothing special about it at all.
All games in the Atelier series take place in the same fictional universe, but in different towns with different protagonists. Therefore people who haven’t played any of those titles before can pick either one of them and jump right into the action without further introductions. (There’s a prologue that covers the basics)
The Atelier series was always known for its alchemy system that lets you craft different items by using different material. The idea is simple; you need to search Arlands for ingredients and then go back to the shop and synthesis. Each item you create will have a unique effect based on the quality of the items you gathered, so there are countless options for you to explore.
If that’s not enough, the game also put a timer on every step you take. For example, travel time will be counted when you go outside the kingdom and synthesis will have you spend days at the workshop. That’s the main challenge of the game, as you’ll have to do everything in a 3 year frame-time.
The game also features a battle system that works like most Japanese RPGs. Every time you encounter an enemy, the battle menu pops and you’ll have to either: attack, use a skill, guard or flee. There’s not too much depth here, but because it’s so simple (unlike others such as Disgaea) people who don’t usually play this genre might give it a try.
As I mentioned before, Atelier Meruru Plus is a straight port of the PS3 version, therefore there aren’t that many changes to the game. Sure, you’ll notice some balance tweaks, additional costumes and new events, but overall it’s the same experience you already had.
Another thing I want to point out is how well the game plays on the Vita. With horrible ports like Epic Mickey 2 and Jak & Daxter, you can’t take it for granted that every game will run smoothly, but Tecmo Koei sure did a wonderful job and was able to achieve a steady frame rate and similar performance to those of the PS3 version. If you haven’t picked it yet, go with the Vita, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
Conclusion: Atelier Meruru plus is a great addition for the Vita library, although it’s almost identical to the PS3 version. If you enjoy the Atelier series and are yet to play it, this version will suit you well, but if you already played it – there aren’t too many reasons to re-purchase.
+Great alchemy system
+Double dub (Japanese + English)
+There’s always something to do
+A PS3 game in your pocket
–Not much of an improvement over the original
giving it a 7.5 out of 10