Most polished and improved title of the Arland series - Micro-managament at it's best!
Meruru gives you a lot less pressure about the yearly goals you have to achieve to avoid getting a bad end, the goals are easy to achieve, so there is a lot more time to fiddle around with Alchemy or travel around the world and explore the various locations - and best of all: The personal fetch-quests from characters don't have time limits anymore.
If you travel around the world map not only does the game show the number of days it takes but also at what date you arrive at the destination. A lot more information about traits and effects is now shown in item synthesis and in battles LP actually do effect things (low LP make your characters weaker, high LP give them boosts). Turn order is one of the most important things now, as it will not only save your ass, but also saves you time (if Meruru never attacks, battles won't use up time either). Battles are a lot more strategic now, every party member has it's uses and it's not just about taking the one with the hightest strength with you.
Getting one of the special endings (besides the Normal / Good Ending) is less error & trial now, whenever you trigger something related to an ending, you'll get a new note in the MeMemo section in the menu. You can actually see what ending flags you have triggered, there are hints on what to do next and when you complete all related events there will be a notice as well. So it's way easier to find all the endings by yourself without having to rely on a walkthrough. Character events are also a lot easier to obtain, since you don't have to have the character in your party to trigger the event (except for some special cases at certain areas on the world map).
Graphics did improve a lot, the character models are very pretty to look at as always and the world looks more lively than ever.
Gameplay-wise you're most of the time juggling between alchemy, exploration, development quests, accepting and reporting fetch-quests at the tavern and cutscenes.
Most of the battles are relatively easy as long as you always keep your weapons and armor upgraded, not wearing the right equipment can be your death in this game, but dying doesn't result in a game over but instead makes you lose a couple of week's game time and warps you back to the workshop - you won't lose any of the items you collected up to the point of your death.
Overall this game is very cute & colourful, the story is lighthearted and battles aren't too much of a challenge with the exception of boss battles. To me it all felt very right, very polished and I enjoyed playing through the game so much that I instantly wanted to start a New Game+ when the credits started rolling.