Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland

This is by far the weakest game of the Arland trilogy. Not only was the gameplay more punishing and the characters infinitely less likeable, it was plagued by an absolutely ridiculous amount of fanservice. Pedos rejoice — you, too, can have 14-year-old upskirt shots!

Every time Boyfriend Husband Boyfriend walked into the room while I was playing this game he would laugh and go, “Wow, lots of jiggle physics in this one, huh?” and I’d have to be like I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS STOP JUDGING ME.

Incidentally, it got me thinking about why jiggle physics are so uncanny valley, aside from the obvious. It’s because, as men apparently never have seen breasts IRL, they’re designed as if they’re attached at the bottom instead of the top. I think this is also probably an ‘ew boob sag’ thing, where males are unwilling to admit that large breasts are affected by gravity. Anyway, they bounce weirdly because they never move on the bottom, despite the bottom being the only place that should move. I thought about this a lot for the duration of the game.

Other highlights include the 14-year-old running around in panties, the various characters whose skirts/capes would fly up when they attacked so you could see thong, and the ridiculous bikini armor coupled with the requisite cringe-worthy attempts to justify it in-game. Then there was the Brock, who at one point asks you to organize a bikini day for him (fuck you, I am not), and the general ugliness of Totori’s costume. Though for some reason she doesn’t flash you when she attacks. I guess sexualizing 14-year-old Mimi is fine, but 13-year-olds? Gross, man. Also no female wore pants. Just because.

As far as other issues go, I got the feeling that the team didn’t really understand why so many of the characters in Rorona were likable, and panicked, so instead of new characters they just reskinned old ones. Totori is basically just Rorona except more incapable, Mimi is literally Cordelia and the game lampshades this constantly, Marc is just Tantris except with science instead of music… and on top of that, the characters that were kind of original were uniformly terrible. Gino was such a fucking brat, I couldn’t stand him. Peter was every neckbeard’s spirit animal. Mel was a Strong Female Character. Ceci was a Good Housewife.

I also was really irritated by how shitty everyone was to Totori. She was just a kid and this was a coming-of-age thing, so it makes sense to start with her being scared and incapable, but for the entire duration of the game all anyone talks about is how stupid and weak she is, and they never change their tune. Even when she’s objectively strong, it’s just that Totori isn’t that bright so we should all make sure she doesn’t fall down the stairs. Gino’s plot even revolves around him having a breakdown when she beats him in a battle. (Fuck everything about Gino, I swear.) It’s one thing to have a down-on-their-luck underdog; it’s another to dogpile on a charcater constantly, no matter what, even in the face of their accomplishments. That’s also really shitty as a player, to feel like no matter how far in the game I got none of the NPCs gave a shit.

From a character perspective, the only thing I really liked was that we got to see the characters from last game and learn where they were. Sterk got sexier more badass, Rorona got more Rorona, Cordelia was still a boss both figuratively and literally, etc.

The one exception to all this is Gisela, Totori’s mother, and oddly enough despite how male-pandering this game was the main plotline and Gisela’s whole character are something you rarely see in games precisely because they’re For Boys. I actually wonder if maybe the series was selling better with women and this game was an attempt to “correct” that?

Anyway, the main plot of the game was that Tototi’s mother was a great adventurer, literally the best most badass ever (and she really was, everything we see of her is just her being awesome), but one day she disappeared without a trace. Totori is determined to find her, and the game centers on her journey.

The issue is that the timeline of the game is so strict as to be completely unfun. I said with Rorona that I wished there had been a post-game sandbox mode or at least a true NG+ so I would have more time to pal around, but in Totori there was zero time to actually explore the game — you had to be constantly watching the clock. The game was also shitty about making its own deadlines clear; I got a bad end once because it didn’t bother to say you had to have all the ship parts done by a certain date, just that your adventurer license was expiring then, so I focused on ranking up my license instead of building the ship. THEN there was the fact that travelling back and forth from Alanya to Arland took an in-game month or more, but in order to see character cutscenes in time you had to constantly be doing it or you’d miss tripping flags. Getting every ending at once in Rorona was doable, but a real challenge — getting it here requires rotely following guides that go day-by-day telling you exactly what to synthesize and when and even so you might not do it. It’s a nightmare.

Somehow, the game managed to stick too closely to Rorona in some aspects while going ridiculously far away in others. The result was not excellent.

That said… Meruru, the next game, is incredible. Really good. And for it to make sense, you have to play this one. And the core gameplay mechanics remain fun, and it’s not that long, so I think it’s worth it. Kind of like getting through Dragon Age II to get to Inquisition. Just… don’t play it when there’s a chance of someone walking in as the girl in a leather bra flashes you while tossing her weapon.

4 Comments

  1. Doortothe says:
    Japan is not above sexualizing thirteen year olds. I think it has to do with the federal age of consent being 13. Thankfully this starting to get toned done when the games come to the west. First with Bravely Default and now with Xenoblade Chronicles X.

    Also regarding the jiggle physics. That’s an interesting topic you bring up. I think it’d help highlight your point if you posted a gif of realistic jiggle physics next to a gif of the jiggle physics used in the game.

    1. actonthat says:
      Yeah, it’s one of those things where, yes, passing judgement on individuals in a culture is wrong, but when you find recurring, empiracally evident patterns in a culture as a whole someone has got to take some initiative in fixing it. Japanese media has a serious problem with sexualizing really, really young girls.

      For some reason in the US we’re okay with sexualizing teens, but below like 16 it’s off-limits. Not sure why, exactly, the cutoff is higher here. (ETA: Not that it’s okay anywhere. Ideally, no one would be objectified because human beings are not consumables.)

      1. Doortothe says:
        I think Japan sexualizes its young girls more often because naked young girls are seen as a sign of purity there. That explains why Homura is naked in the ending parts of Madoka anyway.

        Though thinking about it, that’s pretty much the only thing that culture value justifies.

  2. DarkStarRises says:
    Wow, I really don’t remember the game being quite that problematic. I did play it a long time after Rorona, so the character similarities were probably less obvious, but I don’t remember everyone constantly dumping on Totori at all. The impression I got were that Totori was smarter than Rorona, but less naturally talented (which has some troubling implications, though Astrid defies them by being smart and talented). The lack of freedom was a definite downer…I played mostly without a guide and missed a lot, which may have made it more fun. As for Gino…I can’t say I liked him much, but I thought he was a pretty convincing portrayal of an immature, overly-proud child confronted with the reality that he’s not the best in the world.

    The fanservice…umm…it didn’t make an impression on me. I do tend to tune that out a bit, but I thought I would remember something about it if it was as bad as you say, so I checked my Amazon order history. Turns out I played Ar Tonelico Qoga right before it…I’m still not sure how that game is even legal, but it would have made anything in Totori seem downright conservative by comparison….

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