Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~
Platform: PS2
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Gust
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 05/24/05
Japan 05/27/04

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Mark P. Tjan
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Mark P. Tjan

Alchemy is the name of the game for developer Gust, and has been for five titles running now. This installment, Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~, is the sixth in that long line, featuring the series' trademark clean, bright graphics, deep customization system, and expansive, storybook world. It is the first Atelier title to be given a North American release date and is due to wind up on domestic shores this very May.

The series has always had a strong emphasis placed on customizing items and supporting the in-game community. However, Gust has decided to take a more story-driven route this time, sporting full on character development and plot scenarios. The story opens in the kingdom of Avenberry, a city set high in the heavens, where Mana is the esteemed power of its inhabitants. These inhabitants are called Alchemists, and for many years they've enjoyed a peaceful and happy life in Avenberry. But due to a number of unfortunate circumstances, Avenberry's time aloft comes to an end, and the city plummets to the surface, ending its glorious civilization. For a time, the power of Mana is lost save f a few individuals who still posses it.

One such individual is the story's protagonist, Krein Kiesling. Like his grandmother, he professes the power of Alchemy. Having heard the tales of Avenberry, he sets out to discover its secrets by traveling the world in search of the lost city. The story revolves around this bold, archetypical hero and amasses within it a large number of characters including a wide variety of embodied Mana Spirits, whose role shall be explained later.

Despite being oriented towards storytelling, Eternal Mana still promises a high level of complexity, to the point that an immense number of tutorials will be required to explain everything the players can do. Rather than subjecting the player to monotony however, comedy routines performed by the Mana Spirits will accompany all such lectures.

The game's varying systems will include several stages of Mana Synthesis, where players can use alchemy to create a wide variety of new items. This is made possible by using the power of the Mana Spirits, who can lend elemental powers to Krein for his experiments. In total, the game will feature fourteen elements, all of which can be combined in numerous ways to produce new items.

One stage of synthesis will aid the game's shopkeepers. If players choose to cooperate with a shopkeeper, they can use a recipe to create new items. By tweaking and changing the elements used, players can have Krein produce brand new creations. The better the items, the more money the shop will make, and Krein will get a share of the profits. This is especially helpful, as the game looks to be financially conservative.

Gust chose a very storybook feeling for Eternal Mana, displayed by its exceptional sprite work and bright, cheerful art. In the spirit of other titles such as Nippon Ichi's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, full bodied, anime-style art will accompany key dialogue; both characters and monsters have been given large, detailed sprites, and backgrounds are teeming with small touches which give Eternal Mana a very home-made feel.

The game makes use of a "Cost Turn Battle System," in which characters each come with a number of points to use. While the overall feeling of the battle system is that of an SRPG, the CTBS helps liven things up by requiring that characters use up points to commit actions. Unlike in other SRPGs, where characters generally get to move and act, then wait for the enemy to respond, the characters here use up their points to perform regular or special attacks. This can mean the character won't be able to do more than one attack that turn, but it might also pay off in higher damage to the enemy.

With anime entering mainstream popularity, NIS America has chosen just the right time to bring this game to domestic shores. Western audiences will finally see Gust's ongoing Atelier series for the first time on May 25th, 2005. If all goes well, fans can also look forward to Eternal Mana 2, due out in Japan shortly.


© 2004-2005 NIS America, Gust.
All Rights Reserved.

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