Atelier Meruru Review

Atelier Meruru buries its intriguing crafting system beneath annoying characters and a sickeningly sweet setting.

by

The Arland trilogy of Japanese anime-flavored role-playing games ends with a whimper in Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland. This last addition to the family bogs down the formula with a number of extras that make the game more annoying than entertaining. While the addictive alchemy formulas that sit at the heart of the gameplay have been held over for a repeat performance, everything else has been hit hard by an obnoxious spoiled brat of a title character, a repetitive plot loaded with never-ending tedious dialogue, and so many creepy moments with the short-skirted kiddie characters that you feel like you're committing a crime just looking at the TV screen.

Meruru is the stereotypical spoiled princess.

Like the first two games in the franchise, Atelier Meruru is set in the fantasy kingdom of Arland. The scene shifts to the rustic backwater of Arls, and the new heroine is Princess Meruru, who chooses to become an alchemist simply because she's bored and wants to irritate her old man. Meruru is an insipid, self-absorbed kid, about as far from a sympathetic title character as you could roam, complete with a blackboard fingernails screech of a voice and a giggle that could cut glass.

The story is a bit more pleasurable, dealing as it does with Meruru's attempts to improve the kingdom and prove herself as an alchemist. But she is so annoying in every way that you can't help but cheer for her to be beaten into the ground by every monster she encounters. Needless to say, that is a problem given that you're supposed to be guiding Meruru to success. Other characters are easier to endure, although their meandering dialogue rambles on endlessly through conversations that make Saturday-morning cartoons seem like George Bernard Shaw.

The setting is overloaded with anime-style cutesiness. There are more pastel colors and glowing stars here than in the average 8-year-old girl's dream bedroom. The entire game sparkles like a Twilight vampire. Even hard-fought victory in combat is concluded with Meruru and pals jumping up and down like they just won a spelling bee. Music is equally light and poppy, although tinges of adult rock make it more acceptable for the crowd that doesn't need a fake ID to buy a six-pack. This kid-friendly atmosphere sits uncomfortably alongside sexualized fetish outfits on too-young female characters. Costumes are taken to extremes with super-short skirts and corsets that it makes playing the game somewhat cringe-worthy.

As in the previous games in the series, Atelier Meruru is mostly about alchemy. Meruru is a budding alchemist at the start of the game, with a small list of recipes that allow her to whip up everything from healing salves to bombs. Exploration on the world map is required to find all of the goodies needed to make these items, so you spend a fair bit of the game wandering far and wide stuffing your inventory with grass, rocks, salt, flour, water, logs, mushrooms, and more esoteric items that sort of defy description. As the game proceeds, you open up more areas on the map, access more recipes, and discover rarer items that can in turn craft more interesting and more powerful gear and weapons. It is overly formulaic, and somewhat linear in that there isn't as much room for experimentation as you would think given the significant number of ingredients available for your alchemical synthesizing.

Cute anime gaming is one thing, but this game flat-out sparkles from start to finish.

But there is still something addictive about exploring for new items and then experimenting with the results of your recipes. It also adds a pretty involved tactical layer to the game, because you need to take advantage of the recipes to have a chance of surviving much of the combat. You can't cruise along on autopilot, relying on a handful of tried-and-true concoctions. So despite the game's atmosphere, you can find yourself hooked, at least for a while.

Unfortunately, the initially addictive combat eventually falls into a rut. Battles all take place in turn-based showdowns where you generally either launch right into melee attacks with Meruru and her friends or select some special item whipped up in the alchemist's pots. Skrmishes fly past, at least, but never involve much in the way of tension. You usually know from the first moments of an engagement if you're going to survive or not, since your chance of victory is set forth at the alchemist's pot in the lab long before you head out into the world. The only distinctive aspect of the combat system is the bizarre enemies, which take the cute premise of the game to a hilarious extreme with foes like carrot-wielding bunny rabbits.

Your actions seem somewhat removed from the campaign, however. The story centers on Meruru building a better Arls by making it bigger, which is accomplished mainly by clearing out areas on the world map and erecting structures that in turn boost the population. Unfortunately, this doesn't always directly tie in to your adventuring and scrounging for alchemical ingredients. Campaign goals are set on timers where success or failure governs what ending you get at the close of play. While you may feel driven to scrounge regions to find rarer items, slay foes, and boost your level, these things take time away from accomplishing timed goals. It can seem like exploration is something of a waste, as you find yourself rushing through areas after achieving goals. The time limits add pressure that takes away from being able to enjoy the game at a relaxed pace and simply have fun exploring and cooking.

You are not leaving the house dressed like that, young lady!

You may well like the quirky, crafting gameplay of Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland. You may well get into harvesting ingredients and building this little backwater into a real kingdom. But it is impossible to enjoy the game as a complete experience because you see everything through the eyes of one of the most vapid gaming protagonists ever created, and do all of your adventuring in a world so sickeningly sweet that you should get screened for adult-onset diabetes the moment you put down the gamepad. This, plus the repetitive nature of the campaign and the timed goals, betray the good elements provided through the crafting and adventuring.

The Good
Involved crafting system with loads of alchemy recipes
The Bad
Extremely annoying title character
Sexualized outfits on very young female protagonists
Bland campaign hobbled by timed quests
5
Mediocre
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300 comments
TCJJ
TCJJ

It pisses me off when I see idiots like this "reviewer" talking about something that they have no idea about. This genre obviously isn't for you at all, but just because you don't like it, doesn't mean it is bad. 

Whilst the outfits are somewhat sexualised, in context, it is completely normal (I mean, hello, we're talking about a JAPANESE RPG, not a Western game). This, in Japan, would generally be considered normal. Is it there for sex appeal? Yes. Is it that shallow? To an extent, yes, but until you understand the "cute culture" that Japan has, you won't ever understand these sort of games.

That doesn't mean you need to watch anime 24/7 and stare at 2D girls all day. It just means that you have to be aware that there are different target audiences, and in particular, niche audiences. JRPGs, especially of this variety, are designed for a niche audience.

Furthermore, I'd like to point out that these characters are more or less typical of the genre. If you find them annoying, then you probably don't like the genre. There's a difference between "annoying" and "disliking", though. There's also the matter of the "bland campaign hobbled by timed quests". The "timed quests" are one of the core elements of most Atelier games, and is why these games are often classed as Japanese strategy role-playing games, as opposed to regular JRPGs.

It's this sort of lack of insight that annoys me when I see stupid, unthoughtful reviews like this. I'm not saying the game is perfect, but I am saying that it deserves a fair go. Then again, this seems to happen with every GameSpot review. It's always a mess.

Brett Todd better keep way away from Akihabara...

Xroalia
Xroalia

Huh. There's only one character in this entire trilogy whose design I considered "sexualised" and she's not even in this game. I imagine this reviewer would have a heart attack if they played any game by Compile Heart.


I find the criticisms on the bright style and upbeat music pretty ridiculous. I realise reviews are opinions but you should be more objective about it. Those things aren't flaws, they're just not to the reviewer's taste.

I'm gonna have to disagree on the "bad voice acting" part too. The voices fit the characters and the acting itself is great. Not liking someone's voice =/= bad acting.

orbit1star
orbit1star

The reviewer should avoid tennis clubs. Also, public swimming pools. Ballet. Gymnastics. Anywhere that females show leg. Obviously he has an "issue", and should avoid contact with young females. At least until he grows up.

deekirk36
deekirk36

i am about 3 hours in and i like it i have not seen anything overly  suggestive, but its a decent game so far 7.5 out of 10.

brassmonk
brassmonk

I played this when I came back home on break and had nothing to do.  It is my sister's.  It was waaaaay too cutesy and not my thing but definitely didn't deserve this review.  Only posting really because of the "sexualized".  If you compare it to pretty much anything that exists in any market in any form of entertainment.........yeah I question whether this guy was raised in a cabin in the woods.  On the other hand, from a design perspective, there would be no need for the shorts/bloomers in the first place if they made some of the attire a bit longer.  Who is to say it couldn't have been meant to be suggestive..............but since everything in this game was designed to be overly sparkly.......I think they just designed the clothes that way as well.  All in all I pretty much had the same reaction as the rest of the posters........the review weirded me out more than the actual game. 

dizzyrhino
dizzyrhino

These comments are hilarious. People actually trying to pretend the women in this game aren't sexualised. That's it fan boys, lie to yourselves.

ArcticNinjaXXI
ArcticNinjaXXI

I swear GameSpot reviewers and their crappy reviews suck ass

FemalePervert
FemalePervert

"This" game is considered sexual? It's more feminine and sweet than anything else.

 

Excuse sah' me while I laugh the crappy religious man who wrote this to scorn! A dumb male.

 

Obliviously he has a victorian fetish-problem where a female wearing bloomers turns him on so much!  Naughty Naughty!

 

The only ones who would complain about meruru are tight-wads and old hags.

 

Complain all you want, JRPG's will not disappear!

radprofile
radprofile

This review is a bit harsh toward the characters designs, I finished the game recently (last weekend), and I didn't noticed the "Sexualized outfits", yes, some are mini skirts, but I didn't find them offensive, Meruru use some kind of Victorian shorts or something like that below the dress...  In fact, I never had in mind any kind of "sexualization" when I was playing the game until I saw this review, I think it's matter of what we have in mind... There are tons of sexual content in so many games around, but this one is very far from that, or at least I don't find any. Maybe the real problem here is about something I read about this game in other site: "Unless you find JRPGs absolutely repugnant, there's little to dislike about Atelier Meruru." And that "little" could be the time passing by fast, so you have to manage your time wisely. This game is not a masterpiece that deserve a 10, but can be easily a 7.5 or 8.5, but some people dislike it just because the content, like someone I know that don't like the game just because there are so much girls around... "girly" game? kinda stupid to not like a game because just that...  

xrman
xrman

Brett Todd has consistency issues in this review. He gave a "Sucks You In" emblem, whose description starts with the sentence "A good game can really suck you in...", and yet he calls it a "mediocre" one. Also, he gave the "Annoying Characters", "Bad Voice Acting", and "Weak Story" emblems, but it still "Sucks You In"?

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

I enjoyed reading this review. WOW I wonder if the game designers are total preverts.

wizardboyus
wizardboyus

one thing is for sure...isn't it about time that voice acting in video games is ALWAYS good instead of almost never good? well it's not going to be that way unless high profile reviews say something about it. JRPGs should make more of an effort to have good english voice acting if they want to be successful in the western market. Usually, it just always sounds sooooo cheeeessyyyy....and not just japanese games, but most video games imo...although there are a few out there that have gotten it right (i.e. metro 2033, uncharted, mass effect). but then there are those that are so good because they are so cheesy like dmc, but that's kinda a tongue in cheek thing..

Rasu89
Rasu89

I guess he hasn't played "Record of Agarest War 2," even I feel that  game was overly and perposely "sexualized" compared to the previous games (the limited edition came with a heart shaped towel). This game is not "sexualized" in my opinion, unless you have a dirty mind and wild imagination.

Decretum
Decretum

All of the righteous indignation in these comments is ridiculous.  The reviewer devotes one paragraph to the style of the game, and mentions it in the intro/conclusion like any review would normally do.  On the other hand, he devotes equal amounts of time to the characters, the game mechanics, player interaction, story pace and graphics.  Where is all the outrage coming from?

 

I guess it must be that one section where he calls the game "overly sexualized."  That's his opinion, it has no other significance beyond that.  However, why is there so much anger over this?  There must really be a sensitivity to this kind of criticism.  It is only a review, not a personal insult to people who like this sort of niche game.  "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

RAMUHAS
RAMUHAS

Sexualized outfits on very young female protagonists

 

What is this? A review from 18th century perspective? :D

RussianMeatClob
RussianMeatClob

Lol I just looked up Brett Todd and apparently a there were other reviews he did that had people scratching their heads too.

OreoPoptart
OreoPoptart

I lol'd at "Sexualized outfits on very young female protagonists" WTF?!

AceOfDiamonds29
AceOfDiamonds29

I've never played an Atelier game in my life, so the mediocre review might be justified and I just might not know any better. 

But there's just something extremely unsettling about Gamespot calling this game out for 'sexualized outfits' while refusing to make the same kinds of criticisms regarding an abundance of other games that are more brazenly sexist in their portrayals of women. 

 

...For that matter, the reviewer's criticism of the aesthetics of the world as "sickeningly sweet" seems to suggest that he's just not the intended audience for the product, and therefore has no place reviewing the title. It's akin to having someone who hates the masculine stereotype of a blood-drenched, violent and militaristic atmosphere review the next Call of Duty. 

 

An_Ethiopian
An_Ethiopian

I don't play RPGs that much but this reviewer did a horrible job with this review. When reviewing a game talk about the mechanics of the gameplay (very important), story, music, graphics are the next things to mention then end with the petty stuff like voice acting and how the characters dress if you're adamant about including stuff like that lol. I give this article 2/10 and I'll try this game out.

Straperry
Straperry

Whoever reviewed this has very poor understanding of J-POP/Anime culture to began with. What if I am asian and I enjoyed games like this. Am I suppose to be ashamed about the games I enjoy but the star-war guy can enjoy what he likes?

 

Some emphasis on the game being too kawaii yet the game has an almost all female-cast characters. Then some left-field lecture about skirts and what imaginary characters should be wearing. The game came from Japan, it was made from Japan. It will have pretty characters in it. Brett's review is more of a rant of what they want in a game followed with insecurities then what the game is actually about.

 

Please Brett excuse the amount of light-hearted feminine features in the game that is lacking all that kool hard-core gritty blood and guts from all the rehashed FPS games swamping the market or the other games with "war" tagged on their title names. There's been much over-powering male ADD stigma that's been beaten as the only acceptable gaming direction in the western market since Blizzard. Sadly I can say most of this comes from the macho-head emphasis that's "games are for diablo guys only" as if the female portion cannot enjoy gaming too or those who enjoy and like girly characters.

 

 There are players and fans out there that enjoy the Atelier series and it's character designs along with the character's personalities.

 

I fail to see why anything that looks like a cartoon or a drawing must be extremely disney childish as if it was made for a 3-year old to be acceptable. It is a pleasant game, it has some humor in it unless the reviewer expected a crusty cut-and-dry type game for players to be bored with and characters who act like robots with no personalities.

 

While the fighting is standard turn-base old-school the design and journey of the girls of atelier is quiet lovely. Young ladies who venture off into the world to make something out of themselves and succeed. If not that is the most positive image I can see in the game's series(though i do not recommend anyone basing anything of their RL significance upon a mere game!). And a lot of games now lack this instead they are filled with pointless violence and murders as fun.

 

Why OP hating so much?

epic_bunny
epic_bunny

I certainly hope that Gamespot has gotten the message here.  I don't think any of us suspect anything to change, but I'm happy that so many of you took the time to voice your concerns about this review.

 

Here is a link to RPGFan's review for those who would like a little contrast:

http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/Atelier_Meruru_The_Apprentice_of_Arland/index.html

 

To be fair, it's an overly positive review, but it's nice to see the other side of the equation every now and then.  Don't lose hope JRPG fans!!!

CoRiNi
CoRiNi

@TCJJ  Well said, I have been saying this for years now. Westerns and especially Americans, have very little understanding of JRPGs. They can argue about playing hundreds but it doesn't matter how much you play, to me and to most Japanese people, you will always be a scrub who have little knowledge about the culture and Japan itself. 

I remember when Dragon's Crown was about to come out and some American reviewer coming with his feminism bullshit went to the twitter account of the artist and flamed him there, calling him a 14 years old boy. I seriously hoped from all my heart that they censor the NA versions because people like these don't deserve to get the original product. Keep the original to people who won't go about bringing their cultural bullshit trends to their criticism, because let's be honest, we must care how every culture goes in every country in order for us to make an acceptable game, no thank you. 

It doesn't matter if you agree with what I just said, but I'm pretty sure we can all agree that GS have little knowledge regarding JRPGs, they know nothing about them and they can't give one decent review related to them. While I wrote that, their Lost Odyssey review came to mind as well, which was a total joke. quote - "Lost Odyssey doesn't rewrite the rules for turn-based role-playing games-" oh because games have to rewrite their genre in every release. Aha I see that's what COD is doing.

luxm4n_2007
luxm4n_2007

@TCJJ  I agree with u...i play this game and i like the character that they built...The fashion,its anime so what? Its cute... :)

FemalePervert
FemalePervert

 @AQWBlaZer91 

 

Mmm they must be if this little pretty-pony game turns them on so much. Then again Gamespot is known for biggot reviews, no? :P~

FemalePervert
FemalePervert

 @Rasu89 

 

Ooooh I loved Record of Agarest War 2. I wish they would localize more games like that mmmynhaaa~

 

Tish too bad. I have to keep reading in Japanse and Korean for everything thanks to hillbillies like this reviewer making sure all our delicious games are kept to a bare minimum as possible.

 

Meh, I wish there wasn't so much discrimination against the female body in video-games over here. I'd soooo love to run around in one of those frilly outfits with a panty-shot. Mhmmm...freedom, at last unyha! -^-^-

 

I lubs eet. It makes me feel purtie. <3

jgtogi
jgtogi

@Decretum

The main reason people are getting upset is that this reviewer made a faux pas when it comes to journalism. He insulted his audience. He said, "Characters that you feel like you're committing a crime just looking at the TV screen." and some other lines that suggest that any adult man that would pick of this game would be so revolted by it that they would hate it or is a pedophile. I liked the game and never once, while playing it did I feel like a pedophiliac.

 

He also threw in some other awkward lines referring to "Twilight Vampires", "sexualized fetish outfits" and other such tidbits that have nothing to do with the game. At best, he just hates the game and that is fine. At worst, he is intentionally trying to guilt trip any adult who would actually like this game as well as any adult who would give this game to say their 8-year-old daughter. Personally, I prefer game reviews with more critique and less sass.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

 @LinkOcarinaMan Brett Todd can't be fired because he's not working for GameSpot. He's a freelancer, and guess what? His next review was accepted by GameSpot anyway, even after GameSpot's editors saw all these protests here.

 

http://www.gamespot.com/world-of-battles-morningstar/reviews/world-of-battles-morningstar-review-6382137/

 

And you know why they still accept his reviews for publishing anyway, despite your protests? That's because they know that this is matter of conflict of opinions, and I rarely, if never, see them cave-in when it is a matter of conflict of opinions.

fullframework
fullframework

 @RussianMeatClob Yeah, just look at his review for Two Worlds. That game might just be the most broken game I've ever played (a lot of professional reviewers agreed with me), yet he gave it a 7.

AQWBlaZer91
AQWBlaZer91

 @OreoPoptart I did as well but it is true. She wears an extremly short skirt with her Blommers sticking out.

epic_bunny
epic_bunny

 @AceOfDiamonds29 You hit the nail on the head.  The reviewer clearly doesn't like the genre, and the review suffered for it.  

Lhomity
Lhomity

 @epic_bunny Bottom line. You're mad because someone disagrees with you about a video game.

 

What concerns are you actually voicing here? Should JRPG's only be reviewed by hardcore fans of the genre who will give favorable reviews to appease people like you who can't handle a difference of opinion?

 

If you want someone to tell you all the things you love are amazing and wonderful, and spell it out in a fashion completely befitting your expectations, don't bother reading reviews. Pick up the game and read the back of the box.

atom2000
atom2000

 @Gelugon_baat To LinkLinkOcarinaMan? That's copied and pasted from your other replies. That's called spamming.

Powerwalk
Powerwalk

 @fullframework I thought 2 Two worlds was amazing but it still could have been better if they got rid of all the glitches. 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

 @ryuzaki57 When GamrReview publishes a review that you don't like, it's going into your list of "corrupt reviewing oligarchy'.

epic_bunny
epic_bunny

 @ryuzaki57 Yes!  Nothing changes if nothing is said.  The outcry in this thread is awesome, and shows that JRPGs are alive and well.

shadow580
shadow580

 @Lhomity You should review JRPGs with a different attitude than if you were to review a typical FPS game. They have different pros and cons than other games but this reviewer decided to only focus on the negative parts on this one. I could review Gears of War 1-3 in the same manner by saying that the characters are over the top and ridiculous, the plot is stupid, battles become repetitive and that the game simply isn't that long. Notice that I left out all the parts that make the games good and I also have a personal grudge against some things that may not even matter to other people. 

 

The fact is that in order to review something, I need to have a background in that particular area. For Atelier Meruru, I would need to be familiar with Japanese role playing games and anime as well. Over the top colors and enemies, silly characters and voices are practically a necessity and couldn't really count as something bad (or annoying). I am certain that Brett Todd is definitely not the type to watch f.x. Lucky Star which has a 7.8 on IMDB. That is a very good example of an over the top cutesy anime with characters drawn like little prepubescent girls but it still manages to gain a high score simply because people like it.

 

Also, the fact that Atelier Rorona got a 6 and this one 5 is ridiculous. There have been tons of additions already to gameplay mechanics. At least have some consistency.

epyon45
epyon45

 @Lhomity The issue with this review s that the author spent very little time speaking about the actual game and why he feels its mediocre and went on a rant about how the game is too cute, how skirts are too short on how everyone that plays these games is a sick sex offender, when, in fact, the Atelier games are some of the most tame JRPGs out there.

 

Here,  let me review Call of Duty in his style:

The graphics are great. The music is average. The gameplay is the same thing as always. (ENTER RANT ON HOW EVERYONE THAT PLAYS COD IS A MASS MURDERER).

 

5.0/10

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

 @atom2000 Really, you are assuming that I am Brett Todd or his partner, after calling me childish?

 

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

 @atom2000 More so than getting upset over what others are saying about a video game?

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

 @ryuzaki57 Really, why should you care whether interested people would be discouraged or not?

 

You already have this game and played it, and that is all that should matter to you. I don't see any reason other than you having a vested interest in the commercial success of this game if you are concerned over this game losing out on sales.

 

Also, that you would ask if I am Brett Todd in disguise would suggest that you cannot acknowledge that there are more than just a few people who do not have the same opinion as you do.

 

P.S. Of course I am not Brett Todd. That's ridiculous.

ryuzaki57
ryuzaki57

 @Gelugon_baat People who are skeptical about a game don't buy it, and don't even consider doing so. But interested people might be driven off by biaised and inaccurate reviews like this one, so I'm just pointing out there more positive opinions, from people who have actually some consideration for the genre or the audience to begin with.

 

Btw just wondering... are you Brett Todd in disguise?

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

 @ryuzaki57 So when one site tells you what you don't like to hear, you cite the review from another one?

 

Seems to me like you are trying to divert viewers away from reviews that you don't like to those that you like.

 

I would tell you this though: it doesn't work on those who are automatically skeptical of any review, regardless of their verdict. (By extension, they are likely to be skeptical of the game itself too.)

ryuzaki57
ryuzaki57

 @Gelugon_baat Absolutely, Final fantasy XIII-2 got 5.4 on GamrReview and believe I made a racket they will never forget! No review site is perfect.

Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

  • PlayStation 3
Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland is the third and final Atelier game set within the Arland world.
ESRB
Teen
All Platforms
Check out even more info at the Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland Wiki on Giantbomb.com