Today I want to talk about something very near and dear to my heart. It is a game that I have fallen in love with, even though I haven't gotten to play it -- Atelier Marie.
For what it is, Atelier Marie doesn't get the credit it deserves in the western market. This is most likely because up until recently the Atelier franchise was struggling stateside. All we had was Atelier Iris, which iv'e heard is a bit different from the traditional games, and Mana Khemia, which is a spin-off of the Atelier series. More recently we've gotten Atelier Annie for the DS, which I have played multiple times and adore (and have covered here once), and are coming to Atelier Rorona for the PS3 (I'm not sure if this has hit the US market yet. I need to check my release dates.)
But a lot of modern RPGs owe their thanks to Atelier in one way or another, and Atelier all started with the one and only Atelier Marie. I've been completely in love with the artwork from this game for years now It's heavily influenced by Alphonse Mucha, who is one of my favorite artists. Some images are even reworkings of his illustrations.
Even with how Atelier has slowly been crawling into the western market, we still have not, and most likely will not, see any of the games from the original Zarlberg (Salberg?) continuity that started with Atelier Marie. Even if the franchise does finally become popular here, I doubt NiS (who is localizing the games) will go back and bring us Marie, Elie, Lilie, Violet, and Judie.
The closest we've come was Tokyopop localizing 4 out of 5 volumes of the manga "Atelier Marie and Elie: Zarlburg Alchemists". However, they dropped volume 5 when the going got tough. I have Japanese scans of all 5 manga, and have gotten the basic idea of what goes on in volume 5 (the ending is very clear from the visuals, and is fantastic.) but I'd love to actually get to read it.
Finding merchandise for what is, essentially, a dead fandom in the west has been a challenge, but I've managed to get some doujinshi, a guide book, a poster from the re-release of Atelier Marie And Elie, and matching figures of Marie and Elie. They're basically the stars of my collection of things, and I'm glad I was able to find anything at all. But it doesn't bring me any closer to playing the game.
However, there is still some hope for that. There is an Atelier Marie translation project that some fans are working on to make a playable rom of the game for English language fans. I've been following the project for a while now, both on the blog and on an Ar Tonelico forum and just quietly offering support.
But now I guess I'm going to make a little bit of a rallying cry? If there's anyone who has the time and ability to help with translating or coding, please drop these guys a line. If not, spread the word and see if there's anyone who can. I'd love to see this project completed and get to play Atelier Marie one day.