Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland

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This may have been the strongest game in the Arland trilogy, at least from a gameplay perspective. I also found Meruru to be really likeable, loved the idea of a princess working to better her kingdom, and thought her outfit with its adorable, practical little bloomers was super cute.

edit: Disclaimer: Wrote this when I was off my meds and kind of whatever the opposite of high is. BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE ME REDO IT HAHAHAHA


In the final game of the Arland series, you play as Princess Merurru, who needs to prep her kingdom for induction into the Arland Republic. Joining the republic is a great thing for the townsfolk, and so it’s the royal family’ job to ensure that their economic situation looks good enough Arland wants them to join. Meruru insists that she can use alchemy to help the kingdom’s development, so your job becomes just that — grow and expand the kingdom via alchemy, battles, and requests, and use your funds to build facilities and invest in opportunities that help it grow. The game is half town sim, half item crafting and all amazing.

I really loved a lot of aspects of this story. I loved how Meruru, as a princess, got to be in charge of bringing her people into modern times in the form of moving to a more democratic form of government — this kind of political story is almost always reserved for male characters, and, though I don’t think this was purposeful, I did like that the future of the kingdom was actually taken away from men in the plot and given to Meruru to modernize. I really loved that “but you’re a princess” never came up as a reason Meruru couldn’t accomplish her goals. Instead, her lack of commitment to her goals in the past was her main obstacle, and she constantly gets praise for her capability and determination. I loved that the bulk of the supporting cast was women. I loved Astrid, because the “mad scientist who gives no fucks” archetype is so, so rare for women and to see it presented uncritically was awesome. Totori was infinitely less annoying.

I also appreciated that the fanservice was whittled down to one side character as opposed to the entire game all the time, though obviously I would have preferred it not be there at all. There was a Bath Scene, because of course there was.

That said, though, I also found the side characters more compelling here than in Totori. I was glad to see Mimi back, and I liked the relationship between Lias and Rufus a lot. I also liked the Keina/Meruru BFF thing, as it’s always nice to see female friendship being championed. The game felt the need to bring back Gino and fucking Peter, but they were avoidable so whatever.

It was also nice to move away from the unsure/easily-embarassed personality type of Rorona and Totori. Meruru was confident, a little brash, and outgoing, which was a nice change after Totori being the biggest doormat ever.

It did have its flaws — like I said, there was still an annoying diversion for fanservice in some plotlines, and I really hated how Esty’s entire character was derailed into being obsessed with youth. I didn’t mind in Rorona where she and Esty end up serial daters because the focus was on them having fun going out and getting dressed up, but the whole “MUST YOUTH AND HUSBAND” thing was dialed up to caricature levels, which was a shame because I liked Esty and she’s badass.

And of course, that crafting system. Still in love with the gameplay, and I thought the game did a really nice gameplay/story integration job by having Meruru use alchemy to prepare farmlands and development supplies and such.

Overall this was a super fun, lighthearted game with some nice focus on female capability and friendship, and I was majorly relieved to see it was back to the kind of form I saw with Rorona after the disaster that was Totori. Next up in this series is Ayesha, which I’ve been looking forward to because of the sister-saves-sister plot.

10 Comments

  1. DarkStarRises says:
    Glad you liked this one…I definitely agree it has the best gameplay in the Arland series, and the story is quite strong too. I also thought it was clever how you have to play through the game twice to see the whole story; in most games I’d find that irritating, but here it really worked because I was able to play through and enjoy the game on my own the first time, then consult a guide for the second play through to see everything I missed.

    Did you get all the different endings? I’m particularly curious if you saw the hot springs ending, since it is….not quite what you might expect ?

    1. actonthat says:
      I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of them — the ones I didn’t get I watched on YouTube. I should really do more playthroughs.
      1. DarkStarRises says:
        I think the official name of it Boys’ Bath, and ironically you get it by following Peter’s quest line…it’s one of the funniest bait and switches I’ve seen.
  2. Jen says:
    Can I ask, what system are you playing these games on? They sound like they’d be right up my alley, but I’m hesitant at shelling out money for a PS3 or Vita just for them, and unfortunately they haven’t been ported to Steam.
    1. actonthat says:
      PS3, one of the really old shitty ones. I’ve never attempted to emulate a PS3 game, but I’m sure it’s possible if your computer is good enough. I know there are Wii emus, so I imagine there’s PS3 emus as well.

      (Incidentally, wow, PS3s still go for like $95 a pop on ebay, you’d think with the PS4 being back-compatible that price would have dropped.)

      1. Jen says:
        I know, it’s ridiculous. If you go on Craigslist, you’ll find people asking like $200 for them! (Well, for the PS3 plus whatever games they want to unload at the same time. Usually CoD or Batman: Arkham Whatever.)
        1. Farla says:
          It may have something to do with the fact PS3s break if you subject them to such indignities as “existing”. The last one I bought was used one time and when I tried starting it up a few months later, haha no fuck you for thinking it can handle being turned on!

          They may be outdated but they’re also somewhat rare thanks to being pieces of crap.

          1. actonthat says:
            wtf is with Sony and Microsoft? You could smash a Wii with a mallet and the thing would still run like a gem.
            1. Roarke says:
              Nintendo openly has a design philosophy inclined towards durability. There are youtube videos of people throwing Gamecubes (one of my all-time favorite systems, by the by) off of three-story buildings and then playing Tales of Symphonia or w/e.
              Reply
          2. Septentrion Euchoreutes says:
            That’s odd to hear. My parents have gotten near constant use out of one for well over a year. Perhaps climate is ruining them.

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