I have found that over the past several years, the RPG genre has evolved and how should I say it, crossbred with other genres of games. We live in an age where the First Person Shooter RPG is a reality, among the advent of Diablo-type loot gathering games. It really does seem that RPGs are kind of like the new peanut butter in the world of gaming, always adding that (one more level) mentality. Granted some RPG hybrids are complete crap and should never be experienced by any decent gamer and some just take some time before you warm up to them. Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island is one of those games that some people will love from the get-go and some people will hate with a steaming passion.
Atelier Annie is a simulator RPG for the Nintendo DS, and I must admit that I hated the game the first few hours that I spent with it, but something happened. Over time I warmed up to it and now think that it is a nice change of pace from your average portable RPG.
The story of Atelier Annie begins with a comic book style introduction of the main character with a deep male Japanese voiceover depicting a very lazy girl who sleeps all day and only dreams of getting married and having lots of money. Due to her lack of motivation, Annie’s grandfather (a master alchemist) decides to send her on a trip to place called Sera Island and put her to work on the creation of a resort paradise. Of course Annie herself does not know anything about the move, even as some pint sized creatures basically kidnap her (with her bed) as she is still sleeping. Annie wakes up on the island and we are introduced to the fairy, Pepe who is quickly established as Annie’s master of alchemy arts. Pepe basically explains that the island resort project is a three year plan and that the construction of this project is mainly contributed to alchemist who have the ability to create materials and structures at well.
At first, Annie is reluctant to do as much as lift a finger, however, the king of the island creates a contest. The king says that who ever can achieve the greatest accomplishments in the building project will have his son’s or daughter’s hand in marriage. Needless to say, Annie’s quest for the hand of the prince and a life of riches and future laziness has begun.
I must make this point; I really do not like the character of Annie. She is what you would have if Sailor Moon and Jar Jar Binks had a child. Her dumb dialogue is so bad that I felt my own IQ dropping with each second of reading the endless complaints and overly joyful comments. Annie’s stupid dialogue makes Kratos from God of War seem like Shakespeare in comparison.
Despite my dislike of the main character, the game is a good execution in experimentation. The game takes place over a three year time span; however, those three years fly by. You receive your alchemy workshop in the very beginning of the game, and you are given assignments for the construction of the island resort.
These assignments may involve you obtaining alchemy recipe books which you use to create objects or structures with. However, before you can demonstrate your synthesis skills you must first go outside of the major town to the gathering points in the wild. While you are collecting lots of loot that’s just laying on the ground you will get attacked from a group of monsters.
The battle system in Atelier Annie is you typical turn based RPG with a minimal (but colorful) level of graphics. Your party fights on a three-by-two square grid against the opposing party, and you can have up to three people in your party. You fight the bad guys with weapons and skills, and you can also change your party formation on the grid by which and give you an offensive or defensive advantage (kind of like football). The loot that you will receive from the fallen enemies can also be taken advantage of by the alchemy arts.
When you are not battling creatures you are creating objects via the powers of alchemy. You will also be asked to do favors from time to time which can distract you from your main goal, however your overall fame will go up which will give you better scores on your projects. The game really does turn into a micro management game while you have to keep track of materials, recipes, and money for both spending and development projects.
While you are doing all of the said tasks, time is also flying by. Days will change as you walk in gathering spots and as you exit and enter the town. This time element gives the game a sense of urgency which may turn off a lot of people, however brave through the game you will find that you can make due and that you can still be successful to a degree. This brings me to another thing about this game, multiple endings.
Depending on how well you do in the overall scheme of the game, Atelier Annie will grant you with one of seven endings. You can actually get one of the endings by being a complete lazy ass so that even losers can win.
Atelier Annie is a strange game that could find a small but eccentric audience. With nice colorful graphics, a whimsical musical score, and the addition of alchemy; Atelier Annie just might be the stay off of the RPG path that you might be looking for, even if the lame ass dialogue gets on your nerves.