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    dkirschner's Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (PS2)

    [May 20, 2012 04:44:15 AM]
    I've been burning through games faster than I can think much about them. Just trying to get this massive list shrunk a bit. I could have skipped this one though. Oh well! It was fun enough, but nothing special. I thought it would have some neat item/crafting system but that part, which was one of its unique bits, was just lame. The other unique bit that I did like was that you get Mana (otherwordly spirit-type beings) on your journey, and when you get one, sometimes it comes with a skill, like the Earth mana you can summon as a stepping stone, one of the others gives you a barrier to protect you from fire and other things on the map that hurt you, and at the end you get one that lets you fly some, which actually kind of renders most of the others useless. Each dungeon and area is a navigable map with obstacles and things that you need to jump and use your mana skills to get around. There are items and treasure everywhere to get you to try and reach places.

    I'll explain the item system briefly. So there are like 15 or so different types of mana (fire, earth, dark, light, etc., etc.). In order to get mana, you can extract it from enemies, and more often, from items in the environment. So if you use extract element on a rock, you get some stone mana. Each mana you can hold up to 99. Ok so there are the obvious things like rocks giving you stone mana or fire giving you fire mana. Then there are like 100 other items, like various foods and plants, that also give you different types. These items respawn every time you leave a map screen and come back, so you have infinite mana of most types, basically. You use this mana to create items, which you find recipes for throughout the game. So your basic healing potion takes some water mana. You've got to use a Mana (creature) with a water attribute to help you make the potion. Some mana are more efficient with whatever mana type (water Mana is more efficient with water mana than the spirit Mana is with water mana, and the fire Mana can't even use water mana).

    Does this sound needlessly complicated? It is. I think it just adds steps to getting a damn healing potion! Why can't I just find a healing potion? Why do I have to extract mana first, then tell my Mana to use the mana to make the potions. And I can only have 9 of each item in my inventory? Come on! You have to constantly go through menus and make gets old.

    Atelier Iris has item shops where you can synthesize items. This is part of its whole "alchemic RPG" theme. You can create items for sale in shops. I didn't see literally any benefit to doing this. I did it a handful of times in the beginning. Shopkeeps will tell you what they want and provide you a list of ingredients. Very quickly after the beginning, the ingredients required to make things are themselves things you need to synthesize first. So then when you do make something, which is usually just some other ingredient, you can actually deviate from the recipe to make a better quality version. So for example there might be like worm-infested apple, dry apple, apple, sweet apple, or apple pie. Right, different versions. These have some bearing on the outcome of the synthesized item, like how good it is or something. Each item has a % and if you look at the shop it will tell you what the 'hot items' are and why. So like, the worm-infested apple I made might be the hot item because it's 'wormy' or something. There are lots of weird 'reviews' of the synthesized items...deadly odor, sweet and sour, heavy, adult...etc. Random townspeople will then tell you like 'i love the bread crumbs at mojo's bakery. i make them a part of my daily routine. i love the bread crumbs because it is deadly odor.' Seriously. The NPC comments on the items I made were kind of funny because they were usually horribly out of context. Anyway, this whole item synthesis served no purpose whatsoever that I could tell and I quit doing it almost as soon as I started.

    I also didn't bother with 'mana synthesis,' which is where you can augment your weapons with mana to add attack or defense or fire resist or whatever. I didn't do it mostly because I didn't know if I could remove the mana once I attached it, and also because you can't augment equipped weapons. So you have to unequip your weapon first, then augment it. One step too many to care!

    So all these things I didn't care about. I could afford not to care because this was the easiest game I have played in forever. I didn't do hardly anything extra and I breezed through it. There was one boss that killed me twice I think. Otherwise, no deaths and generally didn't even come close. It helped too that you can switch in alternate characters during battle with no penalty and they get to act immediately. And you can switch characters out when they die. So basically I had 5 attackers instead of the 3 on the screen.

    This game would have been much better if it were more difficult. They could have helped with with more interesting battles. The game tags itself as a 'strategic RPG,' but it is hardly strategic. It is very mindless. 99% of fights were 'x, x, x, x, dead.' Just plain attack all the time, even on bosses! The only reason I did anything else (besides a couple bosses) was (a) to hit more enemies at once since some characters' attacks (the useful characters) hit multiple enemies at once, and (b) to hit enemies immune to physical attacks. There were a lot of REALLY annoying enemies who were immune to physical attacks. Two of your characters attack with magic, and they are both weak, so you have to bring in one of your other characters and waste mana just to kill these stupid physical-immune creatures.

    Oh man, and maybe the worst of all is that at the end of the game I was still fighting enemies from the beginning! And there are like 10 enemy types with like 4 variations each. The notorious 'Puni' enemies had so many different types and they all looked the same with a different color. My god, it was so stupid. So yea, like level 50 at the end of the game, and here comes an army of level 1 punis. Will I win?! Why is this a random battle?! And the game makes you travel over a horrendous world map all the time, so even if you're not in the difficult areas mysteriously encountering simple enemies, you're in early easy areas encountering the same simple enemies.

    I really sound like I hate this game huh? It really wasn't that bad, just some annoying things. The story wasn't anything special. There were forced romances, a couple 'what, you're my SISTER?!' moments and other things typical of dull stories. The high point though was the silliness of it. I liked the game in that it didn't take itself seriously at all. The characters were enjoyable. There was a cat girl, and I expected to hate her, but she was actually cute. I especially ended up liking her voice. And there were a lot of little side missions/side stories involving shopkeeps and other townspeople that I enjoyed.

    Yeah, anyway, glad to get it off my shelf, but too bad it wasn't better. I think when I heard it was focused on items and it was strategic, I was somehow thinking of a non-grid-based Disgaea. Not even close!
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    dkirschner's Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana (PS2)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Saturday 12 May, 2012

    GameLog closed on: Friday 18 May, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Charming. Way too easy. Neat exploration and overall fun to play. --------------------- got a bit boring in the end, lots of cliche story bits, very jrpg-ish, wouldn't go out of my way to play.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstar

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