After having released a number of titles in Japan, Nippon Ichi has finally decided to introduce the Atelier Iris series to gamers in North America. Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~ comes in as its sixth installment, bringing along a style that is slightly different from previous Atelier Iris games. Rather than a simulation, in which the primary goal is to run a successful alchemy shop, ~Eternal Mana~ is designed to be a full-blown, character and story-driven RPG.
The events of the game take place in the beautiful world of Regallzine, a realm created and sustained by the Great Spirit of Mana and its elemental powers. The people of Regallzine look to the Great Spirit for protection and guidance in their lives, but amongst them there are also a few individuals who can use Mana’s power to create things themselves. These special people are called “alchemists.”
In the humble town of Gazestein, players are first introduced to Klein Kiesling, the hero of the game, who is a 17-year old alchemist yearning for greatness. Klein learned the basics of alchemy from his grandmother, Daphne, who was once a very well-known alchemist; but when she passes away, he vows to surpass her and make his own name famous. In order to make his dream come true, Klein leaves Gazestein to explore the great kingdom of Esviore and seek his fortune. However, when he travels through a dark forest, Klein is attacked by a monster and quickly overwhelmed.
"The trademark feature of the Atelier Iris series is its heavy focus on item synthesis."
Just before it is too late, a beautiful, young girl comes to his rescue. She saves him from the beast, and then introduces herself as “Lita Blanchimont, ” a monster hunter from the neighboring town of Kavok. Lita advises Klein that the path to Kavok is dangerous and that he will need her as a guide, but out of pride he rejects her advice, insisting that he can make it through the forest on his own. Little does Klein, or even Lita, know that they will meet again in an adventure that will bring them both to the doors of Avenberry, Esviore's legendary and mysterious “City in the Sky,” which is thought to possess mountains of valuable knowledge and treasure.
Klein and Lita are the two main characters of ~Eternal Mana~ but there is a generous cast of companions and enemies for players to encounter as they lead them through their adventures. These characters come in all shapes, sizes, and ages and offer a wide variety of skills to use and challenges to face. They are monster hunters, magicians, knights, and even ghosts, just to name a few. The Mana spirits of Atelier Iris ~Eternal Mana~ themselves can also be considered characters of the game.
Uru - The Mana of Fire.
Diemias - The Mana of Stone.
Aion - The Mana of Life.
Silwest - The Mana of Air.
Dour - The Mana of Wood.
Nymph - The Mana of Water.
Plua - The Mana of Darkness and Shadow.
Eital - The Mana of Light.
Luplus - The Mana of Time.
Each one has its own personality, look, and utilizable skill; a few of them are even capable of evolving into more powerful forms. In all, there are 14 different types of Mana.
The trademark feature of the Atelier Iris series is its heavy focus on item synthesis. Every title in the series has boasted a synthesis system, and ~Eternal Mana~ is no exception. In fact, there are three different synthesis systems in the game. One of them is called “shop fusion,” and it is accomplished by cooperating with a shop owner and following a synthesis recipe that mixes certain ingredients together to create items. Players, who think outside the box, can create rare items by changing the ingredients in the recipes that they use.
The second method of item synthesis in ~Eternal Mana~ is Mana synthesis. Mana synthesis requires the help of at least one of the Mana to work. Different Manas are good at making different types of items. For instance, Uru are experts on explosives, while Nymphs are skilled at creating healing items. The failure and success rates of Klein’s synthesis attempts are also greatly influenced by his relationships with the Manas, themselves, and their relationships with each other. The better the relationship levels of those involved, the higher the success right, and vice versa.
However, Manas cannot create items on their own; they need elements to work with. Elements can be collected through a process called element extraction, which involves destroying nearby objects and then extracting elemental materials from the wreckage.
The third and final synthesis system in ~Eternal Mana~ is that of weapon synthesis. This system becomes available to Klein only after he receives a special item called an anvil for creating new weapons. The materials required for the synthesis process are Mana stones, Manas, and customizable weapons. While accessing the anvil, players can transform a Mana stone, with the aid of a Mana spirit, into a Mana crystal. Once the crystal has been created it can then be fused with a weapon to dramatically increase its power or add a special status effect.
And what are all good weapons used for? Why fighting, of course. The battle system of ~Eternal Mana~ has been dubbed as a "cost turn battle" system. Every action uses a turn, or in some cases a half-turn or multiple turns, to complete. Normal attacks cost one turn, while special attacks generally cost more. The half-turns mentioned above go with maneuvers called double-skills that involve two separate attack moves that can be strung together for a cost of only one turn. Outside of battle, players can have Klein running, jumping, and casting Mana spells to make his way past obstacles and dungeons.
The graphics in ~Eternal Mana~ are entirely 2-D, but this works out quite well for the game. Colors are vibrant and abundant giving off a playful atmosphere that is eagerly backed-up by the anime-inspired character designs. The effects used to display the special attacks, especially the summons, are stunning.
Atelier Iris~Eternal Mana~ is scheduled to hit North American shelves sometime in May. The website, however, has been up since early March. Look foward to RPGamer's review of the game on its release date.