Atelier Iris 2: Azoth of Destiny

This is why we don’t hope.

So, this game starts off well.

It opens with a reasonably-dressed young girl, Viese, being told she’s officially graduated from alchemy school, and that all she has to do now is find a Mana to make a contract with.

A7 Viese Blanchimont

Her outfit seriously rocks.

Sweet, I think, the protagonist will be female this time!

She runs off to tell her adoptive brother, Felt, the exciting news. Apparently they were both orphaned and have been raised together since childhood. She meets up with him in some forest, and then everything starts going downhill.

Their first interaction is him talking about how she studies harder than everyone, and then she stops him to talk about his Innate Betterness (TM). See, even though she’s the harder worker, he’s better at alchemy, because penis. In fact, he just somehow knew how to do elemental extraction, which is apparently hard and took her forever to master. She goes on and on about how much more awesome and capable than her he is for an entire cutscene. Instantly, the game transforms from a girl who accomplished something big by working hard to extolling the virtues of a guy who’s by his nature so much better. You will never be good enough no matter how hard you work, girls.

At that point she asks him to lead her to the park, because I guess she’s not capable of walking on her own, and he officially becomes the protagonist. There’s a cliche sword-in-the-stone that Felt apparently attempts to pull out every day without success, but Viese has never so much as tried because vagina. There’s a sudden earthquake and she clings to him because woman, and afterward he successfully pulls out the sword because man. The sword speaks to him and calls him the chosen one because man, but she can’t even hear it and stands there and frets because woman.

The earthquake opens up a dimensional portal to another world which he is going to go through alone because man, and she will stay home and “guard the house” because woman. She sobs quietly every night up until he leaves because woman, but he ~must go alone~ because man.

As he departs, some asshole priest muses about how great it is that they’ve both “found independence” in their own way, him going off on an adventure (penis) and, I shit you not, her taking care of the house (vagina).

He goes through the portal and walks into a harsh desert, and the first person he meets is this baffling creature:

A7 Noin

She is immedaitely tsundere, and then yells at him for “not dressing appropriately for the desert,” presumably the asinine handwave for her ridiculous attire. We then meet the first shopkeeper.

I then turned the game off.

After debating whether or not I should just snap the disk in half or attempt to sell it and recoup my losses, I decided to do something I should have done in the first place and check out the character designs for the subsequent games.

The Iris triliogy seems far and away to be the worst of the bunch, as encapsulated by this image of a 15-year-old girl from Atelier Iris 3:

After this, things kind of plateau off into a more generic, “Well, no one has pants, but if you imagine black tights on everyone they’re pretty designs,” kind of thing.

Nicole Mimi TithelLilianne ValendorfRoronaTotooria Helmold imageA13 Meruru

These outfits are so pretty, why can’t they have pants God dammit. And like, I would totally be behind the alchemists as kind-of magical-girls wearing frilly outfits, but WHY CAN’T THEY WEAR TIGHTS.

Anyway, in a purely aesthetic sense, the protag of the 14th game is absolutely gorgeous:

A14 Ayesha

But we’re still in no-pants-and-for-some-reason-now-wedged-shoes land, so clearly the new character designer brought on for this title was only going to do so much.

Regardless, something else about this installment stuck out to me, which is that the plot is about her heading out on a quest to save her sister, and girl-saves-girl plots are so rare, that I thought, okay, this is your LAST CHANCE game.

But THEN I saw the summary of the 11th installment’s plot…

“One day, Sterkenburg Cranach (Sterk, for short), a knight of Arland, comes to the alchemy workshop and informs Rorona that the shop will be shut down, unless she is able to prove that it can function in the city’s economy. Over the next three years, she must pass 12 examinations to assess the ability of the workshop to do this.”

…and had serious Recettear flashbacks and now I think maybe I’ll play this one as my generosity game and hope that whatever fuckery was going on in the Iris trilogy is done. Also, the protagonist of the eleventh game has a mentor that looks like this:

Astrid

Which is pretty freaking awesome.

So, who knows. Maybe I’ll be back in a week having ragequit again. But maybe not! But probably, frankly.

27 Comments

  1. GeniusLemur says:
    Why are game, movies, novels, etc so allergic to protagonists who have to work for their importance/competence? It’s always chosen ones and “talent” that puts them at archmage level after five minutes and “can’t do a damn thing, but everyone senses he’s the protagonist and treats him as infallible and the most important person in the universe anyway” and “best of the best (soldier, etc), but has no self-control or discipline and never trains, so his super-competence must have dropped out of the clouds or something.”
    1. SpoonyViking says:
      If I had to guess, I’d narrow it down to two options (which may not apply equally to all works):

      1) It’s meant as a power fantasy for the audience. “See, [audience surrogate] is special just because, and so are you!”

      2) Plot convenience. That way, you can have a protagonist that knows nothing (or next to nothing) about the setting so the audience can learn about it together with him, but also capable of going up against gods, devils and assorted cosmic horrors within 5 minutes of training / levelling without breaking too much suspension of disbelief.

    2. actonthat says:
      Because it’s much, much harder to write about a sympathetic character struggling than it is to god-mod through the story with a self-insert. You see this big time in fanfiction, where people seem allergic to character conflict. You’d expect someone being paid for their time to be a bit more competent, but obviously not.

      I think in video games in particular there’s also a fear on the part of the devs that if the game isn’t an explicit power fantasy from start to finish players will lose interest. In the ten years or so since this game was released that’s *less* of an issue, but it’s still around. It’s an oft-cited reason for why devs won’t have female protagonists, or give male protagonists long-term relationships and families– not power-fantasy enough for the presumed-young-male audience.

  2. GeniusLemur says:
    “dressing appropriately for the desert”
    Which would be something that covers you entirely, both to protect your skin and body from the sun and minimize fluid loss.
    1. SpoonyViking says:
      One need only look at how real-life bedouins dress to understand that.
    2. actonthat says:
      The most ridiculous part is that’s how he was dressed. He was literally dressed as if he’d known he would show up in a desert! IDK if the writers were just stupid or really, really dedicated to justifying underwear-armor-lady or both, but I died a little inside.
    3. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
      Isn’t desert just a really big beach? Bring some sunscreen and lots of soda and that’s the perfect outfit.
  3. PostguestivePostistPhase says:
    I always wonder if there’s some Samurai Pizza Cats business going on with these murricanized jrpgs. Did they cut down on Japanese bullshit and these are cleaned up versions or replaced it with a different flavor of western bullshit and original has nothing to do with its localization? While the obvious answer is always they just translated whatever was there, that’s a boring answer.
    1. actonthat says:
      For newer localization I think they may cut down, but this was, I believe, 2004, so it’s probably a direct translation. Maybe this is optimistic, but I think that a 2015 loc team would know “Isn’t it great the woman has realized her place is in the home?” wouldn’t go over well.

      When I was taking my Japanese class, we had a conversation about how the colloquial word for “wife” was changing because the traditional one had a strong connotation of “person associated with the household” and women were obviously not thrilled about that. I wonder if there’s a romantic implication in the way she was described.

  4. Goldreaver says:
    Goddamnit Act, remember the Codex Astartes: “Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.”

    Fuck, the second to last pic is really pretty but it’d need short pants to work. At least the one before it has bloomers! That’s something, right?

    1. actonthat says:
      I actually think the bloomers are adorable! The costume designs are so pretty, I just wish they’d get some kind of legwear.
      1. Goldreaver says:
        Considering how some japanese artists draw people, I’m beginning to think they don’t put pants on female characters as to avoid confusing them with male ones.
        I think that’s actually a good thing though.

        Naoto-kun~ <3

      2. DarkStarRises says:
        The outfits actually have an in-game explanation. It’s obviously a bit contrived, but isn’t completely ridiculous. It also gets humorously lampshaded by NPCs without breaking the 4th wall
        1. actonthat says:
          I mean, usually these outfits have in-universe justifications because CHECKMATE SEXISM, but I’d like to get to a point where time isn’t being dedicated to justifying costume design because it’s being done with logic and not the ogling of teen girls in the first place.
          1. DarkStarRises says:
            …yeah, can’t argue with that. This one is better than most, but it’s still unnecessary. Still, outfits aside, most of the characters are pretty good (with a couple of glaring exceptions), and there are quite a few positive relationships
  5. Hyatt says:
    IIRC, Recettear was directly inspired by the Atelier series, which is probably why you’re getting flashbacks to it.
  6. Sam says:
    The Atelier Iris series always seemed like a grab to get more male gamers to play the Atelier series.
    BTW, all the Atelier games from Rorona onwards are really nice. There are characters with bad designs (looking at you, Katla. Ugh. I hate your oufit so much.), but the stories are all focused on improvement or saving someone or something important.
    Rorona: Saving your shop
    Totori: Finding your mother
    Meruru: Proving you can a kingdom your own way
    Ayesha: Saving your sister
    Escha: Doing your job and exploring the world to find out what happened in the past
    Shallie: There are two: Shallie 1: Saving your village; Shallie 2: Proving/Finding your own self-worth

    Seriously, please at least try Rorona and Totori and Ayesha (Totori is by far my favorite with Ayesha being second. Girls and family. <3)

    1. actonthat says:
      I’m happy to report that I’m currently playing Rorona and enjoying it very much! I am cautiously optimistic again.
  7. Eterne says:
    Maybe it will help to know that (spoilers imminent but I think it’s neccessary) halfway through the game Felt is really easily overpowered by the main villian, defeated and turned to stone (rendering all his ‘chosen one’ stuff pretty useless), and I shit you not, Viese picks up her staff, stomps off to the other world, saves him, and then is the strongest party member for the rest of the game.
    Fee is also an awesome character! She joins early on and is a super-badass girl who later becomes queen, and a great one at that. She’s also one ofthe strongest party members too.

    Though, to be perfectly honest, I think Mitsue (cat girl clerk) was pretty unnecessary and don’t like her much, either…

    The game’s not perfect definitely, there’s some glarily bad moments, but it’s old now and it does more things right than wrong, I personally think.

  8. Worst review I’ve ever read. Your tastes in Atelier games is the worst I’ve ever seen. Iris 1 and 2 are the best games. Why do the females have to wear tights? Also, you are clearly biased and sound kinda sexist.
    1. Farla says:
      Hey there! I know it’s been confusing for you when people use words like “sexism” for all sorts of stuff you like, but that doesn’t mean it’s just a random slur people are saying because they don’t have taste.
  9. I agree that it does more right than wrong. Just about all the PS3 Atelier games are pretty awful, IMO. The only exception I have is Atelier Shallie.
    1. Eterne says:
      Nice to see the voice of reason! I do think Mitsue in general and the makeup scene in AI2 are pretty bad, but the rest of the game still very much retains the strong, independent female characters that is the norm for the series. Though while I do greatly enjoy the PS3 Ateliers too (Totori, Ayesha and Shallie are by far the best out of them), I do greatly miss the Iris’ series beautiful enviroments and vast game world…
      The newest game in the series, Atelier Firis, seems like it’ll be much more in the vein of Atelier Iris 1, though, with a big exploration focus! there’s no ‘base camp’ town or harsh time limits like the other games.
  10. No, you’ve got it pretty backwards. Most of those games are very bland.
    1. actonthat says:
      You actually inadvertently bring up an interesting point. I’d be willing to bet that the fedoras who were brought in by these games then were pissed when the series went back to being about young women and crafting. I wonder if that’s the explanation for the over-the-top fanservice in Totori, and the weird condescending crap in Escha & Lodgy.
      1. Roarke says:
        Yet another example of pandering successfully nabbing an audience, I guess. The Nasu Dilemma strikes again.
  11. NoUserName says:
    The idea that wearing little clothes in the desert would be protection is so weird.

    The main thing I remember about this game is actually the token pervert party member hitting on the catgirl shopkeeper you listed above, this resulted in the shopkeeper forcing him to marry her, which sticks for the rest of the game!

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