Preview: Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (PS2)

Publisher: Nippon Ichi / Developer: Gust / Genre: Turn-Based RPG / Release Date: 5-24-05

Since the success of Disgaea and La Pucelle, Nippon Ichi has decided to come to the states and release their games themselves. Atelier Iris marks the first game by Nippon Ichi America that they will distribute directly (Phantom Brave carried the logo of the new NIS USA, but Atlus still distributed it). Which is funny considering Gust is the name of the developers, and this is a game Nippon Ichi is merely publishing instead of a new title by them (That little game comes out in July).

Unlike the previous 4 games by Nippon Ichi you may have played on your PSX or PS2, Atelier Iris is not your straight out strategy game. In fact the engine reminds me more of Shining Force or Valkyrie Profile in terms of wandering around, and traveling through dungeons. You’ll be walking jumping, attacking and so on. Now you’re probably wondering why it’s called a strategy RPG by NIS, and to be honest I have no idea because the battle system is again more like something out of Valkyrie Profile or Digital Devil Saga than Ogre Tactics or Disgaea.

Atelier Iris gives us a turn based style fighting set up with enemies on one side, and your team on the other. The engine is described by NIS as the “Cost Turn Battle System” which again, if you have played Nocturne Maniacs or Digital Devil Saga by Atlus, you will have an idea of how this plays.

With the Cost Turn Battle System, you get two moves per turn. Now a normal attack costs 1 move, and special attacks cost more. In fact some special moves take several turns before they activate, again akin to Valkyrie Profile’s Magic system. Some allies are fast enough that they can attack twice per turn. So in this respect there is strategy involved, and far more than your usual turn based RPG. But in the end this game is very different from the tactical RPG’s Nippon Ichi has released previously.

I found the Eternal Mana part of the name interesting as I always instantly think of Legend of Mana, which is one of my favorite games by Square-Enix and oddly enough, there’s some similarities between the two games, although I must point out they are not related in any way.

Atelier Iris gives you 14 mana spirits that you can interact with and that are used to help create items and spells and skills that will help your characters in their adventures. The process works like this: First you break objects in dungeons or collect it from enemies. Then you have to teach your Mana spirit allies to play mad scientist and BAM! Something nifty happens. I wish I could describe it in more detail, but the system for creating things is actually pretty complex. Just know you are going to be making a LOT of mana stones!

And you’re probably curious about the plot now aren’t you? Well in fact, Atelier Iris is the sixth game in the series, but don’t worry, you don’t need to know anything about the others for this one! In Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, you play as Klein Kiesing, the grandson of a famous Alchemist. His goal is to be the greatest alchemist of all time (Like Ash Ketchum wanting to be a Pokemon master!) Klein travels the world of Regallzine looking for fame and fortune, and in his travels he encounters a young woman named Lita, who is a monster hunter working in the city of Kavoc. And if I tell you anything more, I might be spoiling things. ;-)

But I will tell you, you encounter a lot of characters, each with with their own distinct look and personality.

Atelier Iris hits stores on May 24th and carries a price tag of $44.99. The sequel to this game actually hits Japanese shelves the day this game lands in the States, so if this sells well (and it will), hopefully this will be the first of many games in the Atelier series for America!