(This review contains blacked-out spoilers and possibly traces of nuts)
Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm
So this game wraps up my runthrough of the three Atelier Iris games, which I got through in about six months. This one took me about three weeks to beat, which surprised me.
Gameplay: 6/10 Nothing special about controlling Edge than in other RPGs, except that he can jump and slash things on the field. I’d talk about a world map, but there is none–there’s one main hub, and five dungeons that are accessed through this one town. The dungeons range from the typical forest to the typical haunted castle. The worst part about them is that you’ll have to go through the beginning parts every time you want to access deeper areas, and you’ll be doing this a lot because of the quest system. It would’ve been nice to have teleporters that lead you in deeper (like Persona 3), or a random spawn point in the dungeon each time you entered to cut down on all the travel time.
The quest system. To move the story along, you have to do quests to get guild points. When you get a certain number of points (it changes every chapter), you’re sent on that chapter’s mission. There are three types of quests: Guild/Help quests that give points, Fetch quests (delivering items to people) that give you money/items, and Combat quests (fighting monsters) that also give you money/items. Money isn’t too useful in this game, items are ten times more useful. So you really can’t just do guild quests to move the game along, you’ll run out of things to do alchemy with.
Ah yes, alchemy. You learn new recipes from recipes gotten from quests, but also from idea markers in the field. The more stuff you make, the higher your alchemy level is, and the more ideas you get/can find. Your best weapons, armor, and items are gotten through alchemy, and Iris’ stats raise along with the alchemy levels. Item crafting is fun, but I miss being able to use elements like in the other two AI games. And you’re going to spend a lot of time in front of that cauldron making items and fiddling with recipes to get better skills, so get used to it.
Battles are like AI2: Turn based, with a skill gauge that you build up with normal attacks, then you use skills that deplete this meter. There’s also a “burst” meter at the bottom–the more hits you give enemies, the more this builds up, with points given/taken away for hitting enemy weaknesses/strengths. When this maxes out, you go into “burst mode” which gives extra exp and money, and you do a ton more damage. The ACCB bar at the top shows who will go next. You and the enemies can add on timed attacks to the cards. Even with all this, it’s nothing special, just another turned based battle system. Bursts are fun to get, though, because you can do obscene damage…
Enemies are on screen instead of random encounters (think Chrono Trigger, Lunar, Persona 3). Blue ones you can slash and be done with, white ones are around your level, red ones are a bit stronger, big red ones are a lot stronger, and giant red ones are bosses. You can slash enemies for an advantage, or just run into them to start the fight, but I’m sure you want an advantage. I always have trouble with levelling in games like this, because I end up jumping over all the enemies, but I know people prefer this to the sudden random encounters out of nowhere.
Story: 5/10 Edge and Iris are Raiders, people who go into Alterworlds to do quests for the guild and people of the town. Iris has this book which turns out to be the Escalario, a book that can supposedly grant any wish. Of course, stuff happens, and you gotta go save the world now. The major problem I had with the story was how spaced out actual story events were. You have to get guild points to get to the story missions, so if you’ve been doing lots of minor quests, you might forget what’s going on, and be confused with the story events that don’t take up much time at all. I’m sure if they took out all of the padding the quests give, this game would be around 10 hours long. It’s not fleshed out too well either. What exactly happened to Crowley to make him go evil? Did Yula and Alvero really want that power just to kick your ass (especially Yula!). Why was Ash SO against you? Heck, I think who Ash is was mentioned once (strongest Raider or something). Also, how did the extra Shadow Gem quest make Iris able to come back to life? A lot of parts just needed more explanation, that’s all…
Characters: 6.5/10 Edge is a seemingly cold-hearted stick-in-the-mud, and that’s all you learn about him. Iris is the alchemist in this game, a bit of an action girl. She’s what the MacGuffin in the story revolves around, so she gets a bit of backstory in terms of what the alchemists did in the past. Nell is annoying and wants to rebuild her family fortune…and that’s all her backstory. Once she joins your party, it’s never really brought up again. Some NPCs like Meyna and Rufina get more backstory than the main characters do! So again, my favorite characters ended up being NPCs instead of the main set (Anna and Phenyl, if you’re wondering.) Yes, there’s only three playable characters, I would’ve liked one or two more, but if they didn’t get backstory, maybe it was for the better.
Voices were nothing special. We get to hear Michelle Ruff as the lead girl yet again (she was Viese in AI2). Vic Mignogna does a good Edge, rough but not too low. Nell…sorry Stephanie Sheh, I liked you as Metis and Silmeria, but here you’re WAY too high and squeaky, and it got annoying. Nell, Phenyl, and some of the high-pitched enemies are the weak voices of this game.
Graphics: 8/10 As with the rest of the series, and Ar tonelico, the 2D graphics are beautiful and detailed. Some of the backgrounds, like the entrance to Grimoire Castle, are almost breathtaking when you first see them. My worst problem with the graphics was when I had to do some platform jumping (platforming? In my RPG?!). It’s a bit hard to tell exactly where in the psuedo-3D space where some platforms are…or if you can even jump on them *fistshake at Valtessa forest*
Music: 8.5/10 Beautiful, but I love all of Gust’s music. Ken Nakagawa was the sole composer for this OST, I believe. The battle themes are my favorite, with Rain of Blossoms at the top. I also love Grand Phantasm, shame it only plays on the file loading screen! After a while you’ll probably get sick of hearing the same dungeon and town themes over and over, though.
Overall rating: 6.8/10
Recommendation: If you’re a Gust fan or have played the other Atelier Iris games, pick this up. If you haven’t played any of the AI series, go play Atelier Iris 2 and skip this one and AI1. Especially AI1.