Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Atelier Annie - Part 1

So it's been... a month since my last post? But I have a (not very) good reason for my absence... I've been playing Atelier Annie pretty much non-stop since February 14th.

You maybe unaware, but I am completely obsessed with the Atelier series of video games. Specifically, Atelier Marie. Tragically, this franchise has been mostly doomed in the US and has seen minimal release over here. (Which has been slowly changing, thank god.) It's something I whine about to anyone who will listen on a regular basis.

But on Valentines Day, my boyfriend and I were at the mall and dropped into gamestop because I was in the hopes of wandering across a used copy of Katamari Damacy. Not finding it, we decided to stare at the DS games and talk about pokemon and complain about how expensive the Bleach games are for a while.

That was when Suri looked up at the top shelf and spotted a game I would have completely missed due to being a shorty -- Atelier Annie.

I bought it on the spot and have been playing it obsessively for the past month. I've beaten it three times since the day I bought it and am midway through my 4th playthrough. Now, I haven't been playing constantly, even if I have been playing a lot. (After all, I've had school to deal with too.) This game is pretty quick. Personally, I wish it was a bit longer, but I suppose I should expect as much from a DS game in comparison to a console game. I can get through the whole of Atelier Annie in about three days if I play a little when ever I have a spare half an hour or so.

But as quick to play through as it is, this game is fun and incredibly challenging. As I said, I've beaten the game three times and have not been able to meet the highest objective. I've only gotten two different endings, and man on my third playthrough I seriously hauled ass to try and make Meister. But no go.

I guess I should probably tell you all about the game before I continue rambling on and on about how much I love it and you, your mom, and everyone you know, should rush out and buy it and get them to bring more Atelier state-side. I'm going to swipe a quote from TVTropes that sums up Atelier more accurately than I could ever do.

"Okay, you know how every RPG has the grand heroes chosen by fate to become wonderful friends and stand up to the evil sorcerer/empire/corporation/monster and keep it from destroying the world?

This game is not about them.

You know how in almost every RPG, buried about halfway down the final dungeon, sitting next to the second to last save point in the game there's a shopkeeper who has every healing item in the game and every weapon or bit of armor that doesn't require an epic quest? The one who leaves you wondering: "Just how in blazes did she get down here? I'm the ridiculously powerful chosen one and it's almost impossible for me to do it so how did a lowly shopkeeper pull it off"?

This game is about her."

-Anonymous Internet poster, succinctly summing up the spirit of the entire franchise.

This is one of the things I love most about Atelier. Your primary means of driving the plot is not roaming the land kicking ass and crawling dungeons. It's sitting in your workshop for days on end making the best fucking items you can make and selling them to people that need them. Of course you do go out and stuff happens and you fight monsters, but it's a vastly different progression than, say, Final Fantasy.

The plot of Annie is a little ridiculous, but therein lies the charm. You play Annie, a young girl from a family of well known alchemists. Annie herself has no desire to do all the work involved in being an alchemist and just wants to "marry up" so she won't have to worry about any of that.

Annie's parent,s sick of her just laying around, go to Betner, her grandfather (I have no idea if he's maternal or paternal.), and complain. So, in his infinite crazy-old-man wisdom, he kidnaps her in her sleep and has her move across an ocean to Sera Island, where a resort is being set up.

Annie wakes up in the company of a fairy named Pepe who Betner asked to be your alchemy teacher. He gived you a letter from Betner that explains the situation, which Annie realizes is ridiculous (and maybe a little illegal). He's soon joined by Hans, a young member of the committee at the head of the restoration.

Hans explains about the resort development and the contest between all of the alchemists involved, all competing to make Sera Island a popular resort over the next three years.

Now I need to step in and warn you not to be afraid of the phrase "three years". This is (obviously) not in real time. It is not a long period of time to get through. it is actually notoriously short. Especially when some higher level items take nearly a week to make, not including any time you need to make the items it takes to create them. Not to mention anywhere from one to three or four days to travel from your workshop to your resort facilities or places to gather items (and time spent there). The time adds up really quick, guys.

But back to the plot...

Hans takes you to the opening ceremony of the development project and, for some ridiculous reason (this is Atelier after all), the king puts up the right to marry one of his children as a prize for the alchemy contest. Marrying a hot prince? Hey isn't that Annie's goal in life? Nothing lights a fire under a girl's ass quite like the prospect of not having to do actual work ever again.

So he has you do a quick assignment (Making a sign for your shop.) and then he explains a bit more about how playing works. then you're given your second assignment, get some access to gathering points (to get ingredients for alchemy) and then you're off and running.

Year 1 is mostly about getting your alchemy skills up and building resort facilities (like a theme park or a spa) and getting to know the game's NPCs. It's not until year two that plots start cropping up.

So next time I'll cover the things that go on in year 2, all of the NPCs you hang out with, and the developing plot. Though a post on Ace Attorney Investigations may come before that since I'm midway through playing that, and Suri's currently got my copy of Annie so he can enjoy the fun that is Atelier.

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