Part 82: Update LXXVIII: An Apprentice and the Flight to FreedomAnd now, the last chapter begins. Atelier Meruru opening. Go watch it. It's pretty nice.
Hey, this isn't anime! Well, it is very anime, but it's not anime-anime. Yeah, Gust was proud enough of their in-game graphics to feature them in the opening movie, unlike the last two games. Part of the fun of this intro is spotting who shows up. For example, Sterk is on the left there with his back turned, and if you look really carefully at the bottom, you can see some of Gio's hair.
Oh, and hi there, Ceci. Also, no points for guessing Astrid is back in this game.
Oh ho, you wiley rogue Marc, you. I see you back there. Peter doesn't count because he's an actual cast member in this game.
Hey there, Lionela. Long time no see. Glad to see you're still traveling around. Little far from home, though. Wherever that is.
Yeah, second screenshot, mainly because that running hug Rorona gives Totori, and the way Totori spins her around, is adorable.
...Wait, Rorona? We sure that's her?
Music: Little Toy Box
All the usual, Extras at the end of the update like last time...hey, "Prologue"? That's a new one. Let's check it out. Atelier Meruru prologue.
One thing I will say about this prologue is that it's very nicely animated, so it's recommended watching. The visuals kinda remind me of the intro movie to God of War III, which was also very nicely animated. Fun fact: the same group that worked on God of War III's intro also did the opening to Metal Gear Solid 2, another superb piece of work.
MGS2's opening...if that opening doesn't make you want to play the game, or at least see what it's about, you probably need your eyes and ears examined, not to mention your head.
I don't hate Rorona as a game, certainly not, but it is no match for its three big sisters on the PS3. But, I guess in a way that's a good thing. From Totori, to Meruru, to Ayesha, Gust has been getting better and better at making Ateliers on current-gen systems.
Good ol' Totori. I think I've made my thoughts on this game clear.
As for Meruru, you shall see.
Alright, so we pick up again my old save, completed on July 4th, of all days. Oh yeah, Totori and Rorona are playable characters in this game, spoilers.
And that's it. The only thing directly carried over between different games is the equipment you had at the end of the game. You might be asking why Cole isn't carried over, and that's a good question, but it might have something to do with how much money you have to spend on serious runs. Hundreds of thousands, but the good news is by the end of the game, assuming you've done just about everything, money is going to be pouring in faster than you can spend it. Usually...
Now then, there's a couple things different in a New Game+ that you can't do at all in a vanilla game. I'll go ahead and say the two biggest differences now. One: there's a text skip option (which you can see on the upper right of this text box, for some reason), like the option found in many visual novels, that lets you blaze through just about every bit of dialogue in the game with a simple button press. Thing is, I rather don't like this option, because once that text skip starts, you can only stop it by pressing Circle by again, and by then you've missed two or three text boxes. I like using Circle to advance text anyway, simply because my X button isn't terribly responsive. If it was something way out of the way, like L2 or something, then it would be fine.
Two: Gio is actually a playable cast member in New Game+, and New Game+ only. Otherwise, he's just a very important NPC. There's a couple endings that require Gio to be playable, and those two are the only ones you can't get in a vanilla run.
Oh, and just for the curious, I'm doing the same thing I did in Totori, where I start everyone out with their regular equipment between games. In Meruru, you can create some abso-ludicrously powerful equipment setups, and carrying that over just doesn't go down well for me with serious runs. Besides, if there's one thing I like doing in these games, is show you how you can do near everything in the game on a vanilla file. It's not that hard, as long as you know what to do.
Now then, enough chatter. Like the past two games, you can skip the intro on New Game+ runs, but not doing it, of course. Atelier Meruru introduction.
This morning you have your arithmetic and history lessons, and the afternoon is reserved for etiquette practice. Princess...?
Music: Courtly Dance
*sigh* She's snuck away again, I see. Such a troublesome child... I have a good idea where she's run off to. I fear Lord Dessier will be no less irritated than last time.
*fade to black*
Ah yes, this game uses more J-Pop songs than the previous games, which just had two, one for the opening and one for the ending. In the not-Japan versions, there's four (including the OP and ED), but in the original, there's five (because an instrumental song in this version has lyrics in the Japanese version).
It actually ends up a pretty nice song, I think. The composer commentary on it is something along the lines they wanted you to think of looking up into the sky while listening to it, and the visuals work well with it.
Our heroine's first line. Meruru, as per her own description, is an absolute dynamo, and at the very least, her voice actress pulls it off.
Today's too darn important to be stuck inside!
The sky does look really nice in this game. The graphics in this game are quite lovely.
Music: Princess March
Ah, Totori already, huh? So the backstory for this game is that for a brief period of time after Gisela returned to Alanya, Totori basically putzed around the Arland Republic, then heard about this place called Arls Kingdom far to the northwest that needed a little development, so the Arland Republic decided to send an alchemist, since their own world had been transformed so rapidly by alchemy already. Totori explains later that at the time, Rorona was busy with something, so she was sent instead.
Shortly after her arrival, Totori was given a workshop for her syntheses, and Meruru eventually stopped by and became entranced by alchemy, and basically begged Totori to take her under her wing. Totori obliged, and here we are. And yes, the True Ending is the canon version of events for Totori. Mimi provides a lot of hints herself, Gino a few more, but basically it's canon because it's the only ending where what happened in it is directly referenced.
As per the developers somewhere, Meruru takes place about a year after the end of Totori, unlike the three years or so between Rorona and Totori. Anyway, I didn't want to make a huge video that covers a lot of the intro, so this is the first normal video. Video goes until the screenshot of our first party member joining.
Totori's redesign is quite great. It's mostly based off her outfit in Gino's Ending, but it's different enough that it doesn't feel like Mel was just reusing something he already drew. Don't have much else to say about it, other than I really, really like it.
Oh, and no need to worry: she's still played by Cassandra Lee. I don't think any returning cast members had a voice change, so that's nice.
Miss Totori, did you fall asleep while you were synthesizing again? Mmm, something smells good! I wonder what she's synthesizing...some tasty treat, maybe?
All right! I'm gonna finish up her synthesis. I AM her apprentice, after all. Besides...I'm starving! Oh, but she might yell at me if I touch it. But it's about to boil over!
Music: Small Head Tilt (1)
Nng...maybe I should just stir it a little more. Swirly swirly, swirly swirly...!
Totori is the chillest alchemist ever in this game. If she were any more laid back as a general rule, she'd be sleepwalking. It's not that Lee sounds bored doing her voice acting, it's just how Totori's personality comes across in this game. But I guess when you spend five years practically world traveling, you can use a break.
Ah! Meruru, when you stir it like that - watch out!
Music: Prank Time
Nng. *cough cough* It seems to have...exploded. Miss Totori, I...
I-I'm really sorry! This is all my fault!
You stirred too quickly, didn't you? Remember, take it nice and easy. Imagine the materials slowly changing form.
Huh? Miss Totori...you're not mad at me?
She remains cute as ever, of course.
Game lets you know you can make a Healing Salve, which was also the first item I made last time.
This one's pretty easy. But it's important that you stir it just right. Remember what I told you.
Music: Sea Breeze ~for Meruru~
Are you sure about this? I mean, I really screwed up your synthesis just now.
Don't worry. As long as you learn from your mistakes, it's okay. You'll be fine!
O-Okay...here we go!
Music: Teach Me, Teacher!
Tutorial here, but alchemy basically works the exact same as it did in Totori. The only major change is that if you see a triangle, you can synthesize the missing ingredient(s) straight from the blacked out item directly, instead of making it elsewhere. More convenient, and certainly speeds things up.
Music: Everyday Me
Oh, and the success percentage is back. That's one thing I definitely don't like that it wasn't in Totori (you just got vague "This is easy", "I should be able to do this" and "No way, can't do this, nuh uh" messages instead), and its return is most welcome.
This would normally take me a day to make, but for the purposes of the plot, the day counter is missing.
I-Is this right...?
Let me take a look here... Let's see...yup! You passed with flying colors.
But I wanted to test you to find out how serious you were about wanting to become an alchemist. The most important thing is your motivation to learn, and whether you're truly devoted to the art of alchemy.
I see...but is it really that easy to become an alchemist?
Oh, might as well mention it now, but most of the time when portraits are on sides of the screen, they just flip it. For characters with symmetrical designs like Totori, you can't notice it, but I'm pretty sure there's not a single scene where Meruru's crown is on the correct side of her head. On the left on her model and artwork, and on the right in portraits.
Haha. Of course becoming a full-fledged alchemist takes much longer, but you've just taken your first step.
Ahh, so it's really not so simple, huh? But I'm an alchemist now! Everyone's gonna go nuts when they find out!
But Miss Totori is Miss Totori, Miss Totori!
Hmm...I suppose so. It'll take some getting used to, though. I wonder if Miss Rorona ever felt this way. Oh, but what will your father think of his little princess becoming an alchemist?
Don't sweat it. My dad's really understanding. He's pretty much always okay with whatever I decide to do.
If you say so. Anyway, let's begin today's lesson by reviewing the basics of alchemy.
*knock on door*
Oh, just a second. I think someone's here...
Music: Flower Under the Tree
Filling in for Cory and Gino this time is ol' Keina here. She couldn't be more a Childhood Friend if she tried, but she ends up a pretty nice addition to the cast.
I brought you a towel and a change of clothes. Feel free to get cleaned up and change out of those dirty things.
Change? My clothes aren't that dirty, are they?
Dirty enough for Mr. Rufus to notice, I'm sure. If he finds out you've been down here...
Agh, you're right. It'll be a non-stop lecture marathon. I'd better get changed, then!
Okie dokie! Like this?
A bit more to the right...there. Now, you're going to feel a little squeeze...
Um, Meruru...does she always help you change like this?
Mmhm. Ever since I was little. Why?
So anyway, Keina...how'd you know where to find me?
You were acting awfully fidgety last night, Princess. And this is the only place you'd risk running off to so early in the morning.
*sigh* You always see right through me.
And what prompted you to bring a towel and clean clothes?
Ah, and regarding Meruru's outfit, since Totori had her own excuse last time. Most tutorials, and all the item descriptions, are actually written in the game as if Meruru herself was writing them. It's a fun change, actually, and makes the encyclopedia pretty fun to read, seriously.
Anyway, Meruru writes that her dad always wants her to wear something longer, but she likes these clothes because Keina picked them out when they were really young, and they allow her to be super energetic and run all over the place. There you go.
I understand alchemy is a difficult art to master. Considering our princess's chronic clumsiness... I naturally assumed she would find herself covered in some sort of debris.
Such impressive deductions... Can you predict all of Meruru's actions so well?
Well, I've been serving our princess ever since we were children, so...
Unless we're in some stuffy formal setting, you said you'd call me by name. Remember?
Hm? But...this is Ms. Totori's workshop.
And? Miss Totori's just my teacher, so it's okay. C'mon, say it!
Good! That's better. "Princess" just sounds too...you know...
Okay, okay, I understand. There we are, all finished.
So what now, Meruru? Mr. Rufus seemed rather displeased. His mood was...less than amicable.
Gah...I do NOT wanna go back and have to deal with another one of Rufus' stone-faced lectures...
Perhaps, but Lord Dessier is worried, as well. It would be best if you returned to the castle for now.
Nooo, I'm not leaving yet! Miss Totori, you still have a bunch to teach me about alchemy, right?
Good heavens...then at least promise me you'll return as soon as you're finished here, okay?
I will, I will, I promise! Anyway, let's keep going , Miss Totori!
Alchemy begins with gathering all the necessary ingredient materials. Without these, synthesis is impossible. You'll have to search far and wide for your materials, sometimes traveling to unknown lands! It's a crucial job.
Whoa, that sounds great! I wanna do that!
Now hold on a just a second! You're not thinking of leaving town, are you? Out of the question! The area outside town is crawling with monsters! They might not be all that strong, but -
Courage and recklessness are two very different things, Meruru! But i see you've already made up your mind... Ms. Totori, please say something. Don't you think this all happening too quickly for her?
See? Even Miss Totori agrees! Plus, we used to go there all the time. There's nothing dangerous about it!
If you insist...but only on one condition - I will accompany you myself.
What!? But, I mean...there's nothing for you to even do out there!
Nng...fine! I guess that's okay. All right Miss Totori, we're off!
Be safe out there. Oh, and take these. They'll come in handy if you get into any trouble.
Woo. Like in our previous outings, it's basically a makeshift, single-target grenade, but it'll do for now.
Oh, thanks a bunch! Okay, we better scram before Rufus shows up. Let's gooo!
Music: Nice to Meet You!
The first party member. Keina is pretty neat, actually, but we won't see her in a real fight for a while, sadly.
Video goes until Meruru says "Oh, there's something over there!"
Music: Forest Dance
We're heeere! Let's get gathering!
It's been ages since I was here last. We're close enough to town that monsters shouldn't be a problem, right?
Monsters won't be a problem anyway! I'm here, right? I'll just whack anything gets too close. Now let's go!
Please don't jinx us like that. Anyway, let's hurry up and get this over with.
Hehehe. I was just kidding! But yeah, let's do this quick. Oh, there's something over there!
You get a whoooooole bunch of optional tutorials after this, but nothing I can't explain later, or that I've already covered. Gathering basically works exactly the same as it did in Totori, but once again, the HUD is disabled for this intro part, since it's supposed to be happening on the same day. For this opening part, you have to gather at three points nearby, but Keina stops you if you wander too far off.
Here's what the status screen looks like. Nothing too interesting here, but look at the bottom there. "Switch Item". This option is only there for Meruru.
This is also carried over games. These are "Adventure" items, items that you equip on Meruru and have effects as long as it's on her. If I wanted to do a totally vanilla run, though, I could just unequip all of those and drop them in the Container ASAP, but I won't. Anyway, from the top, here's what everything does.
- Handmade Basket - increases Basket storage. Depending on the quality, you can carry more. Jumbo Size is the best effect for this.
Blessed Coin - prevents items that deteroriate if you travel with them in your Basket from doing just that.
Fate Talisman - gives you more money after battles, I think. Not a huge amount, but some.
Flying Carpet - like in Totori, if you're defeated in the field, you're not automatically thrown back to town.
Goddess Statue - I'll explain what this does later, as it'll make more sense when the game's fundamental mechanics are being introduced.
Harvest Glove - like with the Basket, can have greater effects depending on quality. Instead of reducing gathering time as you might think, it actually increases the number of items in a gathering spot.
Secret Bag - same thing it did in Totori. Allows you to access your Container at any time, and move items between the Basket and Container freely.
Traveler Shoes - another item that can have a better effect depending on ingredients. Sprint is the best, and like in Totori, it significantly reduces travel time, but you still spend at least one day between locations no matter what.
At lot of this just means a lot less time spent in the game. Following in the tradition, you can do a ton in this game in a relatively little amount of time, and finishing up with 18 months or so still on the clock is not unheard of.
First gather. Materials once again go up to 120 quality at the very best, and the incredibly crappy quality of this item is related to another big mechanic.
After the final gather, another scene. Video goes until a battle results screen.
Man, I'm having a blast!
We should head back soon, Meruru. I'm sure Lord Dessier must be worried by now.
Worry, worry, stop worrying! I want to...collect more materials! I bet there's even better stuff the farther we go. I'll be right back!
*fade to black*
I can't wait to find some incredible materials and knock Miss Totori's frilly little socks off!
Music: Pinch, Pants, Punch
Ahh! Watch out!
Do you think we can handle this?
No doubt! Here we go, Keina!
Once again, another game where the first enemy we fight is an adorable little critter. He's a bit ornery, though.
Music: Alchemy Girl Meruru's Song
So a couple new things with battles. One, a change to LP. Like with Totori, if you have very little LP, that character is badly weakened, but if you have a lot, then you actually get a little buff. How nice. Also, turn order is different. Now you can see a whole bunch of turns in a row, and if you decide to Guard, you can place the guarding character's card to another place in the turn order.
More changes down the road, of course, but that'll do for now. The song here is basically Meruru's "Action-y" theme song, where Princess March is her normal one. This song had lyrics in the Japanese version, but alas, this is not the Japanese version.
We'll give our heroine the first victory. Unis kill these guys in a single hit.
What do you expect from a harmless little rabbit? Anyway, next video. Video goes until the end of the update.
Music: Trefoil Bookmark
Yeah! We won!
Ahh, my heart is going a mile a minute! But that wasn't as bad as I expected...
Heck, that was nothing! Come on, let's head a little farther in!
No! Absolutely not! I can't put you in any more danger than I already have.
*fade to black*
Music: Small Kingdom's Town
Alchemy really is tiring work. I'm exhausted already.
You got it. But I learned a ton of new stuff and had a lot of fun.
Music: Love Danger!
Welcome back, Princess. I've been waiting for you.
Ah! Oh, uh, well...y'see, Rufus, I just...
Arithmetic and history in the morning, etiquette in the afternoon... I would like to ask why you neglected your duties in favor of leaving town. Later. In front of Lord Dessier.
Rufus can be kind of a jerk at times, but as a general rule, he's a pretty cool dude. Besides, I can't find fault with anyone who takes a page out of the Belmonts' playbook.
(Ngaah...that blank stare of his really stresses me out. I hate this part...)
*fade to black*
Music: Overprotective Father
Hey, a character who wears glasses. Y'know, this dude is Meruru's dad, and other than an honorary family member, and another important relative, Meruru's family is entirely unknown. No siblings apparently, and her mother is nowhere to be found. I think she gets referred to once, and it's just Meruru saying she never really knew her mother. Strange.
Father! I'm ho -
Where have you been, young lady?! You promised you would stop sneaking out of the castle! Everyone has been worried sick about you!
I-I'm really sorry. And you can lecture me all you want later. But first I have a favor to ask -
B-But you haven't heard what it is yet.
Your "favors" are consistently absurd. For your sake, I hope it's nothing as ridiculous as wanting to become a street performer or some such nonsense.
Of course it's not something so silly! I want to become an alchemist.
Oh, is that all? Well, in that case...
Yup! It's okay, right?
How come? You don't think it's a great idea?
We have already welcome a first-class alchemist to our land. Ms. Totori can fulfill all our alchemy needs. And more importantly, as the Royal Princess you have your own duties to attend to!
Yeah, that's the end game of Meruru. Arls merges with Arland and becomes a part of the Republic. Even though he's still a wandering geezer for the most part, Gio is still the head of state, apparently, and he's the guy who talked with Dessier and arranged all of this.
Who cares if I take some time out to do a little alchemy?
Royal obligations? Like what, reading stupid history books and practicing dumb boring etiquette?
You must learn to protect and aid the development of your land, to guide your people toward peace and prosperity.
Absolutely right. Born into the Royal Family as we were, such is our burden to bear.
Then why haven't we seen any sign of development? Are you sure you've been doing your job as king?
I love that portrait. Nicely sums up Meruru's personality, I think, and you get a nice look at her super fancy rainbow cape.
P-Poopyhead!? Hey, Meruru! I'm not finished! Come back here!
Music: 2 Teaspoons of Honey
*sigh* That child never ceases to surprise me. Now she wants to be an alchemist...
However, this time is no joke, I fear. She seemed surprisingly serious.
You're right. She was certainly different from before. What am I supposed to do with her?
So this is the Extras menu. Unfortunately, for some reason, there's no Ending option, so that means I'll do have to do a lot of work with endings at the game's end, but that's a ways off. In the meantime, though, the Music Room has composer commentary again! And even better, the actual composer of each song talks about it, so I'll have to tag each song commentary. For future reference, if I use italics beneath a song link, that's Daisuke Achiwa speaking, and bold means Kazuki Yanagawa is talking. Everything else, otherwise, is the same around here. Model Viewer actually comes with the game this time, though.
One Normal Day
The castle's theme. A florid waltz featuring a piccolo trumpet, which I had requested just for this song. I also had Yutaro Takahashi play trumpet on another song! Bravo!
Small Kingdom's Town
Arls' town theme. I tried to combine the spirit of the town with the lush countryside. I modulated things without thinking, and after some struggles I was able to force it to work. Just like always. Yep.
Having his carrot stolen on top of getting beat down...I feel bad for that rabbit. This is for a calm forest. Recording the melodica was a struggle becuase of the changing rhythm. Who wrote this song?! Oh, it was me!
A soft and snuggly song. Playing the flute and melodica on this reminded me of my childhood. It's a very simple song, but still lets you relax.
A song for when something bad is about to happen - someone's hatching evil plots. Although, in this world, even the "evil" things that people come up with are still kind of cute. If only the real world were like that.
2 Teaspoons of Honey
A sad, heart-rending song. My first attempt was too sad and got rejected. now it's a bit more sweet. How much sweeter, you ask? About 2 teaspoons of honey's worth.
Small Head Tilt (1)
A jokey song. The wonder of the tilting of the head, the upturned eyes, and that "?" kind of face makes you want to forgive just about anyone. So damn cute. I think it's a kind of magic that has survived to modern times.
Pinch, Pants, Punch
They wanted a real crisis song. When I heard "crisis", I immidiately thought "pinch, pants" punch". So that became the title. So you're in a crisis, but still have some flexibility here and there. It's sort of a comical interaction.
A comical song, and a bit nostalgic. I made a double-speed one just for fun, but I wonder if they ended up using it in the game...
A "FUN!" song. I turned to bossa nova for the chord and celtic for the beats. It has a unique "rock" to it, but it still has some happiness to it. It turned out pretty cutesy, so personally I was satisfied.
A bright and lifting march. I just love marches. And Meruru is so cute! With the excitement of "I get to make songs for the game that has this girl in it!" I was able to overcome all obstacles during production.
Flower Under the Tree
If Meruru represents "motion," this one represents "silence" with a gentle waltz. Keina is so cute! Her flamboyant socks are her most charming fashion feature.
Because the kingdom is so small, the king conveys the aura of an executive in a (probably small) business. The timbre of Yutaro Takahashi's trumpet was wonderfully idyllic. During recording, Yanagawa and I silently smirked at each other, "It's perfect".
Sea Breeze ~for Meruru~
The sharp-tongued airhead, once again. Totori is so cute! This arrangement is softer than the original, but maybe that wasn't so necessary.
Little Toy Box
For the Title Screen. I didn't have any specific instructions, so I just used the melody from "Little Crown" and imagined opening a toy box. I've heard that listening to this right after listening to the melody from the last game really boosts the excitement.
Nice to Meet You!
For when a new member joins the party. The vague chords represent the subtle distance between each new friend... Maybe. Although with Meruru...I feel like there's zero distance from the beginning.
For winning a battle. The normal battle song is a flamenco(?) style, so I tried keeping that style here. It starts with the sound of steps, but then it gets challenging. Before some modifications, people may have mistaken the sounds for explosions.
Teach Me, Teacher!
For the tutorials. Arranged from the regular workshop song. It features Rorona and Chim cheerfully playing the flute, while Meruru focuses on playing the toy piano. Totori struggles with her own piano. Hom plays the harmonica with dedication...that's all in my imagination, of course.
One man's treasure is another mom's trash. My mom would throw away my stuff while she was cleaning, and I'd cry. Huh? What did she throw away? I-I can't tell you that here...///
Alchemy Girl Meruru's Song
The vocals are, of course, Marie. Guitar is Toshinori Hiramatsu and trumpet is Yutaro Takahashi. Please enjoy this song with the heart of a child! A bit too old? Oh, sorry. I was raised on songs like this. FYI, changing the "Me" in Meruru to "Ge" in the opening lyrics turns it into a different person.
Vocals done by Mineko Yamamoto, guitar and bass by Dani. The theme is "a chain of dreams." When you reach your dream, someone else will long for you, and then that person becomes someone else's dream; the neverending sparkling of dreams is like the galaxy.
Comm. for OP edit: Edited for the opening. The final melody is a little different.
Vocals done by Chata, a first-timer in the Atelier series. Guitar and bass by Dani again. It's a weird age when you're over-confident but also lacking self-confidence. But don't brood, just keep jumping forward! I want you to listen to this as you gaze up into the cloud-filled sky.
Comm. for game edit: An edited version of the song. I imagined the castle's bell, and brought the guitar and vocals (?) portion into the intro.