Game Title: Atelier Meruru DX: The Apprentice of Arland
Company: Gust, Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 3 – 4 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 8.0 GB

It’s been Atelier fever for me, lately. Not long after I reviewed Rorona DX, I got a request for the other Arland games and ran through Totori DX. Almost immediately after, I got some nice funds from my following via Donations and I managed to buy the third Arland game, bringing me back into the Atelier world once more within a 2-month span.

With Totori, I came full circle with the first Atelier game I tried, and now I’ve come to the game that was never given a chance, due to my initial distaste for Totori and her involvement in said game. But, here I am, giving it a chance and getting all the way through it for today!

Here is my review of Atelier Meruru DX for the Nintendo Switch!

Story

mer 2 - story

Atelier Meruru takes place around a year after the events of Atelier Totori. The story centers around Meruru, a princess of the Arls kingdom who is amazed by alchemy when Totori visits and becomes Arls’ resident Alchemist. Dead-set on shirking her royal duties to learn alchemy, Meruru is given 3 years to prove she can use alchemy to help her country prosper in the wake of an uncomfortable merger between Arls and Arland.

The story of Meruru is a bit odd in Atelier because of how serious it is. Rather than being filled to the brim with constant comedy events between characters, everything is more just “This is what’s happening”. There are occasional funny events, but overall, it’s much more serious than even Totori was.

Although the real issue I have with the story is the same thing that I nitpicked about Totori: Retroactive Continuity. While not as numerous and in-your-face about it, Meruru retcons a lot of events and people from the previous 2 Arland games, so if you’re a returning fan from Rorona/Totori, there will be many pretty big differences, especially in the returning characters from Atelier Totori, outside of just Totori, herself.

Gameplay

mer 4 - gameplay

Like the other games of the series, Atelier Meruru is a turn-based RPG with lots of item synthesis and time management elements thrown into the mix. Most similar to Totori, you’ll be spending a lot of time gathering items to combine into new ones and managing tasks within time frames for progression.

It hardly needs to be said at this point, but Meruru DX is a simple port of Meruru Plus from the PS Vita. As such, DX includes all DLC from the original release, along with new events, characters, and bosses that were added to the PS Vita version of the game.

Progression here is the same song and dance as with Rorona and Totori. You have a town that acts as a hub with facilities like shops, your workshop for alchemy, and the Castle where you can report and get new assignments and the World Map, where you can travel to different dungeons to fight off monsters and gather materials.

mer 5 - develop

The big “new” thing in Meruru is the Development Feature. Instead of just fulfilling tasks for an Alchemy/Adventurer’s license, your task is to Develop the nation of Arls. As such, you have a ton of different tasks to do throughout the game outside of your main goals for being allowed to continue Alchemy. These tasks have you fighting enemies to clear new land, delivering supplies to the citizens of Arls, and using task completion points to build new facilities to better the country and increase the population and your popularity among your people.

This also ties into the main task of the game. Thankfully, you have yearly goals to meet to continue performing alchemy (Unlike that 3-year nonsense from Totori). If you don’t meet the population goals with that year, it’s Game Over. However, having yearly goals makes this immensely more manageable than the previous game and increasing population is a pretty easy thing to accomplish. You don’t get quite as much free time as in Rorona, but almost every year, I had at least a good 2-3 months left by the time I’d reached the current goal and got all that time to just do whatever or work towards the next year.

mer 6 - battle

One of the nicest things about this is the benefits of being the third game of the trilogy and the huge roster of characters that comes with it. When you go out into the world, you have a plethora of characters you can bring with you. You’ve got new characters like Hanna and Keina to side characters that are rarely recruitable in the series like Pamela. For series fans, this game is a great way to have a lot of choices for your battle party. Not to mention the fact that a lot of the characters have AoE attacks and status elements to their basic attacks, making combat very easy to grasp and get a lot of ease out of.

I felt this all came together pretty well, for the most part. There are some points where all of the tasks become long treks, but it never feels -too- hard like they did in Totori. And in terms of content, you’ve got about the same amount as the previous game. Different Endings aside, it should take you around 15-20 hours to get to the 3-year mark where the Normal Ending happens and 30-35 hours to get to the True Ending if you pass the 3-year mark and gain the blessing to become a fully-fledged alchemist.

Controls

Controls are pretty much the same as in Totori and Rorona. No touch controls. No motion controls.

You move with the Left Analog Stick and the Right Stick can be used for Camera Zooming in dungeons. The triggers are mostly just used for quick menu access and Fast Travel while you’re in town.

The face buttons are used a good bit, though. A interacts with NPCs and gather points while B lets you jump while wandering around or cancel menu options. Y lets you swing your staff in dungeons to start battles while X pulls up the customization menu.

Presentation

mer 3 - presy

Graphically, it looks about like Rorona DX did. The renders aren’t perfectly smooth and there are a few jagged edges here and there, especially on Meruru’s model.

The big difference here is that there are small frame-drops when you roam around through some dungeons, both in docked and handheld mode. They’re not super-noticeable in docked mode, but they are in handheld mode. Not game-breaking, but a clear difference between Rorona DX and Totori DX.

Battery Life

I expected about the same Battery Life out of this as the other Arland games. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 26 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 32 minutes

Low Brightness + WI-Fi – 3 hours, 45 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 49 minutes

It’s definitely the lowest of the Arland games, but still pretty good.

In conclusion, Atelier Meruru is definitely a step up from Totori, but still suffers from some of the same issues. It’s got a huge variety of characters to choose from and a much easier-to-tackle task system, but it’s brought down by its less-funny and retcon-heavy story along with occasional frame drops when wandering around dungeons. Definitely a fun Atelier game, but Rorona still stands as my favorite of this trilogy.

Final Score: 8/10