Nora and the Time Studio First Look Preview

We get a glimpse at the upcoming Nintendo DS role-playing game from Atlus, which features time-related item crafting.

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The most obvious thing to point out from our recent look at Nora and the Time Studio for the DS is the game's look. The title's aesthetics are filled to the brim with saccharine cuteness and bright colors, thanks to the character art direction of Yuji Himukai, who last contributed to Etrian Odyssey. The heroine herself is a cute googly-eyed blond girl who displays a wide variety of sugar-filled expressions when she speaks. We really wouldn't be surprised if Atlus were to bundle the game with either a plush doll or Nendoroid figurine of Nora, seeing as the publisher loves to add enticing incentives to its retail products.

Even the story is filled with all sorts of good-natured cliches: Nora has to prove her innocence to a village by helping it out with different sorts of tasks while time not giving away her identity as a time-bending artisan. It's a clear case of misunderstanding, as she's mistaken for the legendary witch Vierra, who lives in a misty forest nearby the village. Helping her on her quest to clear her name are weaponsmith Elsie Quin, bipolar mercenary Karuna Astarra, hot-blooded adventurer Lutz Alenius, and gentle-hearted girl Mellow whose character design may be inspired by Sega's vocaloid idol Hatsune Miku.

Hatsune Miku lookalike Mellow engaged in mortal combat.
Hatsune Miku lookalike Mellow engaged in mortal combat.

Nora has time on her side when it comes to crafting better things out of inferior materials. You see, after getting the materials she needs from different locations, she can apply the chrono solution spell on any object she wishes to transmute. This spell either speeds up or rewinds time on the item of choice. If you accelerate time on it, it will either turn old and wither or have new pieces growing in it. If you reverse time on it, the item will either return to its infant state or break apart into individual pieces. This reminded us of the effects of the time manipulation device from Raven's shooter Singularity, only with a cheery disposition and colorful palettes tacked onto it.

Of course, to get to the harvesting and item acquisition, our heroine will need to get her hands dirty fighting fantasy beasts obstructing her path in turn-based form. Before a battle, players can set up the positions of Nora and her selectable fighters on a three-by-three grid. Changing up the party formation on the grid will affect a character's attack, defense, and range. Ideally, players may want to place their mages on the back row of the grid while putting their damage-dealing and defense-heavy fighters on the front.

As for combat skills, Nora herself can bend time to create items in a middle of a fight. One of her party members can steal items while others can use support skills to boost everyone's stats up temporarily. Following the style of Dragon Quest titles, the game doesn't end when your whole party is decimated; the group returns home with the game's time skipping ahead by a day. Nora and company will be waylaid by enemies on the dungeon field (random battles, mind you), as well as on the map. For the latter, they're displayed as icons so the party can choose whether to engage them or not.

Customize your party to your heart's content.
Customize your party to your heart's content.

As far as traditional role-playing games with item-synthesizing mechanics go, Nora and the Time Studio will resonate with the demographic craving for something lighthearted and less heavy-handed. The developers took a different narrative spin on the item synthesizing mechanics from the Atelier series, which isn't surprising because the man behind the aforementioned franchise, Shinichi Yoshiike, is the game's planner and scenario writer. That's not necessarily a bad thing because there's always a place for such sweet-laced affairs to break away from something serious and involved like a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy title.

Japanese gamers can look forward to a little time-altering synthesizing with Nora and the Time Studio on July 21. An English localization of this title has yet to be confirmed.

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