Atelier Annie

I’m still putting off dealing with Atelier Escha (which, ugh, that game) but in the meantime, here’s a fun entry into the series, and the only handheld one released in the US.

It’s a lighthearted and super-adorable game that I found really fun and features some of the great town-sim elements I liked so much about Meruru. It was incredibly short, though.

I had a really tough time tracking this game down, then found it randomly at a used-game shop in Minnesota (along with the equally-rare spinoff series, Mana Khemia — apparently it’s midwestern game shops that have the good stuff, who knew). So if you’re like me and obsessive about having hard copies of DS games, which basically no one is, this could be a limiting factor.

Let’s talk about character designs!

Annie
Annie is AMAZING. I love love love this! It’s adorable, practical, and exactly the kind of design I wish more games had.

What isn’t so amazing is that the game then turns her looking like an actual adventurer into some kind of awful running gag, where she gets teased for, I guess, not wearing a dress and stilettos to go herb-hunting in the wilderness. It only comes up a handful of times, but it’s supremely annoying when it does. I kind of wonder who’s to blame for it — did the character artist craft this and then someone higher up felt like they needed to reassure players they weren’t trying to upset the status quo? Or did the writing team crank out “unfeminine for the lolz” first and the artists followed suit? Does it differ between the English and Japanese versions?

That said, there were actually some super positive elements to the game — a grandfather mentoring a granddaughter isn’t something you see very often, nor is the “lazy good-for-nothing” personality type on a female character. And I liked that the story is really about Annie finding her passion and the thing she’s good at and learning that work can be rewarding. These kind of character arcs are very much reserved for boys, usually, and Annie herself isn’t given any personal criticism that feels gendered (unlike, say, Totori’s constantly being told she’s weak and cowardly and useless).

The basic premise is that Annie is a lazy girl whose grandfather finally gets sick of her mooching ways and ships her off to an island to be a forced participant in an alchemy contest to revive the island’s economy and continue her family’s alchemical legacy (whew). Initially reluctant, she agrees when she hears both the sizeable amount of prize money at stake and that the winner will marry the prince — being a trophy wife suits her laziness.

Inherent to the plot is the upending of the “just marry a rich man” cliche, which was also pretty cool. In the ending I got, Annie is offered a chance to become the in-house alchemist at the palace, and gladly throws away her wifey ambitions to take on a job she loves. In the best ending, she’s offered the prince’s hand, but objects on the basis that she wants to pursue alchemy instead. It’s really great.

As for gameplay…

The game itself is much like Meruru in its town-sim elements, but actually makes the townbuilding an even bigger aspect, which I enjoyed. I also really liked that FINALLY you have some spare time to pal around and aren’t working on a constant time crunch. The rpg elements are more in the background than in the other games, too, which I was okay with.

The biggest objection I have is that it really is very short. I have a feeling this is to make New Game + playthroughs easier, but I would have preferred, say, the same amount of years but longer days with each action taking up less time. Also, a clearer system for where friendship events are happening would have been super useful, as would have an alchemy exp bar — not being able to see your level progression was a bit odd.

But overall, super cute. Still a pretty niche series, but if it’s your niche, this is a super solid game to get.

7 Comments

  1. Nerem says:
    The Swordcraft Story series, which is a neat RPG series I don’t know if I’ve rec’d to anyone here, has some pretty good designs for its female leads too.

    [img]http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/summonnight/images/b/b8/Pratty.png/revision/latest?cb=20100716165629[/img] The female protag of the first game.

    Which is a nice fun game that is a bit like Tales in gameplay with an emphasis on crafting your own gear. It’s made by the same people as Super Robot Wars, though sadly only the first two (out of three) games were released on in America, and out of its sister series Summon Night, only the fifth game was released.

    (Sorry, I was just immediately reminded of a Razzy from Swordcraft Story in Annie’s design. http://rs291.pbsrc.com/albums/ll297/MagnusNeos/Summon%20Night/1chara_f08.jpg~c200 ))

    1. actonthat says:
      The mild b&b pose is lulzy, but her costume is awesome!

      a bit like Tales in gameplay with an emphasis on crafting your own gear

      doood hate you for not bringing this up before, I’ve been looking for more crafty games!

      1. Nerem says:
        Haha sorry. It’s kind of a simplified version – you mostly are looking for materials and recipes, but there’s a ton of hidden ones and they all have different attributes and a bunch of weapon types that are good for different things. For example, you can win fights by breaking the enemy’s weapon to get the recipe for it. And a lot of the battle strategy is damage to them vs damage to their weapon. And vice versa. You lose if all your readied weapons are broken too.

        It’s a fun game series. I was reading up on it earlier and I was actually surprised that even though you have the ‘choice between two siblings’ they don’t actually have identical characters. The boy protag has been in training until a master and is a lot more prepared to take on his father’s mantle as Craftlord, while the female lead wasn’t so lucky, but is more talented and even more determined and able to catch up.

        Man this brings me back. I’m prolly going to play the series again. Though haha I got into it thanks to the Summoned Monster battles, which in the third game (the first one I played) involved giant robots.

  2. Nerem says:
    Augh it ate my long reply.

    Ok, what I said was: The game’s fun, though I should make sure you know the crafting isn’t nearly as complicated as I believe it is in Atelier. It’s a dungeon crawling JRPG type, but you search for recipes and materials. And the weapon combat has a focus on weapon durability – if all your weapons break you lose, but weapon breaking the ENEMY gets you their unique recipes. And there’s a bunch of weapons with a wide variety of traits and specialties.

    I didn’t know this earlier until I looked it up but I didn’t know the female lead’s story is actually different from the male lead’s (Only the one you pick exists, and they’re the child of the same person). Like the male lead had been in training to be a Craftlord for years, while the female lead finally got her chance when her father died and the mantle passed onto her, but she’s just as good as the male lead. Also if you pick Sugar as your Summon, then it turns out that she was your father’s summon and he had promised her the hand of his unborn child’s hand in marriage. And it’s still on even if you play Pratty. It spawned this famous screenshot too: http://66.media.tumblr.com/0b77808a5be8885a7a9b2103beda2cd1/tumblr_inline_ncw300rvDE1slx187.jpg

    I mostly got into the series from the third game before they were translated. Which had your summon monsters turn into mecha. https://i.ytimg.com/vi/yetU_Cd9MUE/hqdefault.jpg And then I learned the second had the mecha battles too…

    http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/summonnight/images/8/8b/Aera_image.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20090702223813 This is the protag of the second game. Not as good as an outfit, sadly.

    http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/summonnight/images/2/29/Rifmonica.png/revision/latest?cb=20130701212755

    Annoyingly I can’t find the better official art of her outfit, which is exactly the same as the male lead’s outfit except pink instead of red. Her official weapon is drill knuckles, and this has her wielding a bow for some reason.

  3. Nerem says:
    By the way, the site is doing some weird stuff with the replies.
  4. i want this game so bad, but no luck ;~;
  5. Hyatt says:
    Yay, Atelier Annie review! Glad you liked it. It’s my only Atelier game so far, because I haven’t played many console games in a long time.

    One thing I really liked that you didn’t mention is the female friendship. Fitz absolutely adores Annie in a way that you don’t see often and most of the female characters get along great (it gets a little iffy with one or two of the managers). And women run both the weapon shop and the Adventurer’s Guild for more gender role reversal.

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