Atelier Iris 3 (Mania.com)
By:Captain Gordon Edward
Review Date: Monday, June 18, 2007
The Atelier Iris series continues -- released nearly annually now for the third straight year -- which is been a blessing for those who enjoy sprite based RPG games. In fact NIS continues to seek out and publish this style of game as often as possible, and I assume it is because they are trying to thrive off of this niche market. Of course those that have played sprite styled videogames know of the hypnotic power that have, which can keep you playing for hours. Of course most of the RPG games released these days are 3D based, so how well can these games hold up? Quite well.
Atelier Iris 3 continues in the same style that the other games have set up, where a team of people must navigate the world to redeem it in one way or another. Then again that is pretty much what all RPGs are about. This spin, a little different from the previous Atelier Iris games, has the main pair of Edge Vanhite and Iris Fortner venturing into different worlds to complete quests so to increase their rank. Indeed it is a quest-based game, so be ready to complete a lot of tasks to reach your goal. Early in their travels Iris captures a gem, which could lead to untold power. It is later found out that the gem belongs to a set of eight, and if anyone is able to collect all of them they will have a book with unlimited knowledge. As a side affect the owner of the book is also granted any wish they can conjure. That is roughly the gist of the storyline, and sadly while it is a little light on the substance, it is worthy of experiencing for those that love RPGs.
Moving to the mechanics of the game, of course since it is a role-playing game there are going to be plenty of battles to endure. Normally this can be a bothersome thing after the tenth hour, but they mix it up well in this game. A slight change from the previous Atelier Iris games allows you to see all of the enemies on the field before you engage them, reducing the randomness encounter factor. What is great about this is that you can generally initiate battles by attacking them first, or trying to avoid them and thus combat altogether.
Another interesting spin allows you to defeat some enemies without even entering a battle with them, which can be a huge time saver. There are three different colours that creatures appear on screen, which change depending on your team’s level. Enemies that are blue in colour are creatures that you can immediately vanquish if you initiate an attack against them. Not all enemies will appear this way, where if the creature is white they are close to your level but you will need to enter combat with them. If they are red or larger in size you could be in for a challenge, as they are currently above you. After battling the enemy, they are removed from the map for full duration of which you stay in that world.
Battles themselves are pretty simple. Characters attack based upon a set timeline indicated at the top of the screen. This timeline has plenty of blank spots that can be filled up with extra attacks, but each character appears once. After players attack they shuffle down the line, but depending on their speed they will not go to the end. Options for combat are fairly standard, where you have general attacks, magical attacks, item usage, guarding, and the option to run away. Each successive attack builds up the magical bar, up to the max level of 9. Magical attacks will drain this bar depending on they type of spell that is used. Attacks and magical attacks have different hit ratios, which help build up a secondary Burst bar.
The Burst bar is fairly important, and if it is filled your character’s attacks are boosted dramatically. A full Burst bar will automatically fill the magical bar to 9 as well, giving your characters their optimal choices of attack. The Burst bar is partially filled after a successful attack is connected onto an enemy. The bar is filled faster if players attack the enemy’s elemental weaknesses. Each time an attack connects on your team a portion of the bar will be depleted. If the Burst bar is completely filled, and players are unable to defeat the enemies before it depletes, Burst mode will end and players will lose built up levels in their magic bar. If players are able to defeat their enemies while in burst mode, half of the magic that remains in the bar will follow characters to their next battle. The general magical bar will also slowly refill itself as characters walk around, but the Burst bar starts over every battle.
Characters are unable to battle in towns rather they required to enter other worlds. They enter the five different worlds by going through gates, and more of them open up after quests are completed. These worlds are fairly different, and should satisfy those looking for a different venue for adventure. A twist on the game forces characters to remove themselves from these different worlds after a certain time has elapsed. This time can be increased if players search out time extensions on the level, but they will not be allowed to remain indefinitely. Characters may also leave the world before that time is up if they so choose. After characters leave a world they are graded on their overall performance, past and present, which can lead to additional rewards. Rewards generally provide players with extra crafting material, and in conjunction with the alchemy system in the game, players can create plenty of items to help them on their journey.
Graphically the game is pretty much the same as most of the other NIS sprite games, which is great to see. The general map size has been increased meaning that you will not need to breeze through plenty of tiny areas as found in Ar Tonelico. Areas have expansive maps, which require players to return multiple times to uncover new areas. This allows the areas to have pretty of replay value, though you may find yourself revisiting the areas a little more often than you would like. When it comes to sound the game does a good job as well. The game offers a bit too much text verses voice work, but it does not severely hurt the game. What I enjoyed the most about sound though involved the voice actor of Edge, who happens to be the voice of Edward Elric from the Fullmetal Alchemist anime. I suppose that is perfect because the game has plenty of alchemy in it.
In the end, this is a pretty standard serving for the Atelier Iris series. I enjoy the adventure system a bit more than the previous games because you are able to vanquish enemies without needing to enter battle with them. I would have liked a larger team than just three people though, but there is a way to temporarily infuse them with elements to give them a whole new look. The alchemy system is as fun as previously incarnations, even after the removal of the elemental draw system since it has streamlined creating new items. It is a fun experience but I doubt that everyone out there will enjoy the game, since it feels like it was dedicated to the hardcore RPGers. That happens to be the main thing that brings down the score of the game, but it is a very enjoyable experience. Wrapping up, Captain Gordon gives Atelier Iris 3 a B-.
Mania Grade: B-
Platform: Playstation 2
Fun Factor: B
Reviewer's Wild Card: B-