Part 5: V: Pages of Old TrailsChapter V: Pages of Old Trails
The first stop on the trip to Arland. And additionally the first step to Lulua's wider world. It's a pretty chill area, as you might expect, but there is some business to attend to here. Just by coming here, you should finish up The Road to Master Gathering (1), so that's nice right off the bat.
Nice to know our protagonist is completely nonplussed about picking bugs out of a honeycomb. Unlike some other Atelier protagonists I could name.
So the weather in several areas of the game can change, but unlike in some of the earlier games, it doesn't appear to affect anything that shows up or what items you can gather, so just enjoy the flavor of it, I suppose. However, time of day definitely changes the enemy list in some areas, like some wolves only coming out at night.
No going through here, that's for sure.
In a field of flowers enclosed by a fence, you'll come across this ornamented chest, but it seems for once someone doesn't want us looting every treasure chest in sight. We'll just have to keep this one in mind.
It's when you get out of the Arklys Area that enemies become much more formidable, and I'll level with you, this first stretch of the game before you reach Arland is probably the most difficult of the game if you insist on fighting everything in sight. Why? Because without having access to weapon / armor customization, you're going to be pretty underpowered against many enemies on Very Hard. It's certainly not impossible to win many of these fights, but it's important to know your limits.
Please, Aurel, it's a location without enemies. This is the Old Kingdom Checkpoint, just south of Arls. We didn't see this place in Atelier Meruru, but apparently it was here the entire time. I don't know what it is, but the masonry textures in this game are really good. Very appealing.
I wasn't kidding, there aren't any enemies here and never will be. However, there are certainly materials to gather and places to fish. In addition, this checkpoint had peddlers setting up shop here, as you can see in front of Lulua, to the right. I didn't stop by on this particular visit but you can certainly shop if you want, and are able. The materials for sale change...somehow. Maybe what chapter it is. That would make the most sense.
Hm, seems the infrastructure around here is also not great.
Once you hit 50% map completion, you'll notice there are some chests squirreled away in corners. Although they just contain normal materials, no sense not to pick them up while you're here.
The rural kingdom
Ah, good ol' Arls. Our first location from a previous game, but of course not the last.
Music: Welcome to Arls
Ah man. Kingdom or not, this place never changes. By the way, what happened to that massive metropolis Meruru allegedly built? The Meruru statue is indeed still there (albeit a lot smaller than I would have thought), but where's the coliseum? Where's the massive alchemy laboratory district? Definitely out of character but I like to think Meruru's ego had her build the statue but not invest in much other infrastructure.
AAAARLS!!! Wow, wow, oh my gosh! It's really Arls! This is really the place where Princess Meruru used her alchemy to--Oof!
Oww... I mean, I'm so sorry! Are you all right?!
Yes, I'm fine. I'm sorry, I was in such a rush, I just...
Lulua! You can't just run out without--! Oh my goodness, Keina! It's been so long!
Piana! I'm glad to see you looking so well!
Eh? Huh? Um... You know each other...?
Oh yes! This is Keina! She's working for the Arls' government, a very competent official!
It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Keina Swaya.
Rufus, huh? While we won't be seeing him in this game, unfortunately, it appears he's basically doing the same things he's always been doing. In the very final sequence of Meruru, when you're going to the castle to attend the ceremony that ended the kingdom, you could talk to him and he said that, although Meruru would no longer be a princess, he would nonetheless treat her the same as always and continue his work for the kingdom. He certainly seems to have fulfilled that promise.
As for Keina here, seems like she didn't go far from home, but she grew up nicely. She previously was employed by the castle as Meruru's retainer, but was also her beloved childhood friend.
As Piana said, I work for the government office here, though I don't know about the "very competent" part...
Wow, an official! I'm Lulua! Elmerulia Frixell!
Frixell? Oh, does that mean you're--
Yes, very true. She's Rorona's daughter and my apprentice! Isn't this great, Lulua?
Huh? What do you mean?
The truth is, Keina here is Princess Meruru's dear childhood friend! Sooo... You can go ahead and ask her whatever you like, heehee!
Really?! Wow, Ms. Keina, that's so cool! Please, please tell me about Princess Meruru!
Ahaha... I don't mind, but... I'm sorry, now isn't the best time...
Right, you did mention you were in a hurry. Has something happened?
Ah, yes... We've received word that the checkpoint between here and Arland has been overrun by monsters. We had to shut it down without any warning, so I'm assisting the merchants and travelers who've been stuck...
The checkpoint's been overrun by monsters?! That's terrible! Oh, but! Princess Meruru must be off getting rid of them all now, right?
Oh, no... I'm afraid Meruru isn't in Arls right now...
Oh? So right now... You don't have any way to fix the problem?
Yes, I'm afraid so. We did reach out to the citizen guard for help, but...
The citizen guard has all of Arland to protect. I doubt they'll be able to help quickly, they're so understaffed...
Then it's settled! WE'LL go and deal with those monsters! I mean, we won't be able to go on to Arland with them in the way anyway, right?
Hm, not a bad idea at all! That's my apprentice! So, Keina, how about it? Will you let us deal with your monster problem?
Thank you so much! That would be such a help! But, I should warn you, the monsters at the checkpoint are quite vicious... Please be very careful! I'm sorry to have to ask this of you, but I am grateful for your help!
One very easy to overlook gameplay mechanic are these signs, which are posted in every town, and essentially act as a warp between towns, although the charged number of days remains the same regardless of whether you travel via the world map like normal or the signs here. There's no particular reason to do so, unless you want to skip world map travel instantly for some reason.
Music: Castle Town in a Small Land: For Lulua
But hey, now that we're in Arls, why not check the place out?
If you are really in-tune with minor NPCs from 6 games ago, you'll remember that there were two kids playing just outside Atelier Meruru with the unis, and this is apparently what became of them. That's some lore.
Actually, speaking of continuity, they did get something wrong around here. Do you remember what it was? Almost certainly not, but I did.
I could probably find a more illustrative example from the old thread, but suffice to say that Mt. Velus was visible from just outside the atelier, but it's not in this game. Maybe it's for the best, since Velus being so visible from Arls means the volcano actually seemed to be really close to town, which wouldn't exactly track. Let's just move on from that...
Marie is still here, too. She was in Meruru too, but aside from having a name, there was really nothing else we knew about her. Well, she's actually a reference to Marie, one of the vocalists in Gust's rolodex. Her first Atelier was Atelier Viorate, but she also showed up in Meruru, of course, and later on in Escha & Logy.
The girl you could talk to in Ayesha to change the workshop theme was Haruka, for the record. Another of those vocalists on-call.
Music: Atelier Meruru: For Lulua
Nice to know Meruru doesn't keep this place locked. There's nothing to do here right now, but it makes sense. This is Meruru's atelier, not ours. Would be overly familiar to use her cauldrons to stir. Well, almost nothing to do here. The chest in the corner contains...
Someone needs some more practice...
By the way, Arls? It really is very small. In her game, Meruru traveled between different areas of town, like the area just outside her workshop, the area with the town hall, downtown, the castle gate, etc. and there were transitions between those areas, like around where Lulua is running here. In her game that could at least be explained by the short load times between areas as covering unimportant transit and the playable areas were somewhat spread out from each other, but thanks to Arls being all one area in this game, that was never actually the case.
They did get the area in front of town hall paved, so that's something at least. Speaking of town hall, why don't we stop in?
Hi, Ms. Keina! Wow. You look really busy.
Oh. Hello, Lulua. Sorry for the way this looks. We're just getting so many requests these days.
Huh? Requests? But, this is the Town Hall, right? You handle requests here?
Hehe. This might surprise you, but in Arls, all requests run through the Town Hall. *explains*
Wow, I had no idea! Hmm. All right. So anyone who wants to do requests in Arls has to come here.
That's correct. Of course, we handle payment for any request completed for us as well. If you ever feel like taking on a request for us, Lulua, it would be very much appreciated!
Sure thing! Hehe. Just leave it to me!
My! Your confidence is quite reassuring. I'll be looking forward to working with you!
It's important to talk to this woman for reasons you can probably guess, but other than that the above scene opens up Arls requests. Keina also has a series of events related to taking on more and more jobs from here, but I don't actually know if that means accepting from her, reporting completed jobs to her, or what. Keina is a bit special in that she represents a more connected area of the map than Arklys or eventually Arland will, so you'll be frequently be coming back here to accept jobs.
Quite some valuable real estate being taken up by this dais.
Further on, we find a more valuable area of town in Atelier Meruru. Pamela was on the right and she was that game's wholesaler. Hagel, who was right next door to her, and Astrid in the little alley to the left. Let's start with good ol' Pamela. Ghost girl
Let's take a peek, shall we... *does so*
Music: Ghost Girl: For Lulua
Hellooo? Anyone...home...? Doesn't look like it... And I'm not really sure what most of this stuff is... I guess it's some kind of general goods store...
Oh my, what a shriek that was... Hoho! Did I frighten you?
O-Of c-course, you did! Um... And you are...
Hehe. My name is Pamela. Pamela Ibis...!
Like with Hagel, Pamela is a recurring Atelier character, but I'm not exactly sure at the moment which game she first showed up in (Hagel is a true OG and first showed up Atelier Marie, the first one). Haven't played Ryza so I can't swear to that, but she and Hagel were definitely both in the Mysterious Trilogy, although both only showing up in the same game in Lydie & Suelle. Pamela was actually a nun in those games, but her mannerisms were basically the same as they are in her Arland Quadrilogy appearances. As for this Pamela, well, she, as mentioned, was a shopkeeper in Meruru and seems she stayed that way, although her store is looking a lot more empty without the Chims.
OK, Ms. Pamela... I'm Lulua. I'm an alchemist.
Oh my...! You're an alchemist? In that case, my shop is absolutely perfect for you!
Um, absolutely perfect...? What do you mean?
Come now! Don't you alchemists need to use the strangest things? Here in my shop, we have plenty of the strangest things...! I just love collecting the strangest things! This shop is just full of things I've collected for fun...!
Ah, I see... I guess you're right about one thing. This shop certainly is strange.
Absolutely. Recently, though, the business has been rather slow... Tehehe! In any case, feel free to buy as much as you like!
Alright! I'll try to drop by once in a while.
Yes, absolutely, dear...! Hehehe!
Music: No Overbuying, Now!
Again, I have to mentally talk myself into the proposition these recipe books are a lot more expensive than they are, but Pamela indeed sells a lot of strange things otherwise. Like with most other shopkeepers, unless you are in just desperate need for a certain material, buying things should not be necessary, but might as well stop by every now and then. I think we can give her that much considering her in-series pedigree.
As for right now, I bought Super Simple Alchemy. We'll accept some easy quests from Keina to make up for it.
The alley where Astrid's store used to be is pretty quiet these days, but it does have a chest with...mushrooms in it. Meruru...
No trips to the castle, unfortunately. Wonder if Lias is still employed.
But since our world is getting bigger, we'll need some bigger firepower to match. I had to fuss over these traits a bit, but I went with Destruction+ and Fixed Power Buff here. Destruction should be obvious, but Fixed Power has a bit of a strange effect, in that it increases the power of an item, but the effect is stronger on a weaker item, which I presume means Quality. Well, there aren't actually many traits to pick from this early in the game, so anything to buff damage sounds good to me.
Also, one fun little feature before synthesis is, if you don't feel like doing some quick math, you can use a button to pre-check traits, to see if the final synthesis can handle all those traits before you make it. User-friendly interfaces are an art form.
But the most important thing right now is making a good healing item. "Good" of course, being relative for the rest of the game, but this'll make upcoming fights a lot easier. So the two traits we want are Clever Heal and Forest Solace on a healing item, but the cost of having both is a rather high 26 TP. So, appropriately, we'll need to be a little clever about this, and utilize a gameplay mechanic you'll probably accidentally discover, if you ever do, since the game doesn't tell you it exists. Allow me to demonstrate.
*clears throat* Just ignore these items and press whatever button on your version of Lulua it's mapped to access the full Container at a glance. Once you're in that screen, go to Filter -> Traits to access all the traits present on any item in your Container instantly. Really helps for quickly finding the trait you want, if you have it. You can also do the same when adding a specific material to a synthesis by, again, using Filter -> Traits. For now, what we want is Max TP Increase+, which increases Max TP by 7. Here's where the trick comes in.
Thankfully, the Migraine Syrup can take an Ointment Water directly, which is a (Water) item, as well as a Supplement, which requires a (Water) item. So we don't have to have both traits on the same Supplement, but let's be smart about this.
For now, keep in mind this Red Supplement has Max TP Increase+.
So this is the crucial thing. Unlike in previous games, whenever you had a Cost system, traits that increased the amount of Cost usually just applied once. In this game, *crucially*, they do not. Notice that Clear Grass has the same trait as the Red Supplement. Those are added together, rather than duplicate traits only showing up once, like every other trait in the game. So the effect is +14 TP, rather than just +7. The real nice thing is that we can fit the two biggies AND Heal, which I don't think affects the Migraine Syrup because it heals MP rather than HP, but hey, might as well.
Do you need to use these traits on a Migraine Syrup specifically? No, but it's the first recipe I had that could handle just traits, but you can also get a Meister Tarte recipe that heals HP initially from Pamela that heals HP where the Syrup heals MP, but the most important part is adding a crucial HP / MP regen effect. We're going to be making good use of this as Lulua's Interrupt item, I shall tell you.
So close to fulfilling all of Chapter 2's riddles...or are we? Anyway, all we need to do now is to defeat a Wolf in Nearby Forest and visit the castle garrison, east of Arls. Since we have to pass through there anyway on the road to the checkpoint, I think we can manage that.
Speaking of, now we have two new locations to visit now that we know what's going on at that checkpoint. Nearby Forest there is not on the path, but the garrison certainly is.
In addition, now we can fully tour the world map screen. Recognize that sprite on the map? It's the hometown of good ol' Totori, Alanya. And there's the Primordial Island she could visit by ship late in her adventure, too. Sadly...We can't visit either in this game at any point. And if Alanya is here, that means that Arland can't be far away. To the north, specifically.
Nearby Forest was, in typical Atelier fashion, the first place Meruru could go to, and it seems mushrooms have largely taken over the place. Also thanks to Meruru. It's a bit hard to see at this distance, but there is a blue bear on the far side of the bridge, and be very wary of this enemy, since it can wreck a party pretty fast at this point in the game. There's no need to fight it right now if you ask me.
I had to advance time a bit since the wolves only come out at night, but these guys are the main reason I'm here.
That Bomb packs quite a punch against an enemy weak to Fire. We should be getting some good mileage in the early game out of this. These guys have 636 HP on Very Hard, for the record. Strange thing is, though, that they're weak to Fire but the game doesn't tell you that via the enemy status screen. Very odd. This bomb does about 80-88 damage against an enemy neutral to Fire.
Yeah, 30 HP / MP might not seem impressive, but consider Piana's stats at this point. She's recovering nearly half her max MP and a third of her HP every turn, for free. That adds up to a lot, especially considering you don't have a lot of options at this point in the game.
Unfortunately, the Bomb doesn't stack up nearly as well against enemies with this much Fire resistance. It was a very poor decision to fight these guys, considering it took me nearly 6 minutes to win. Eva did get an...interesting ability after this fight, though. After I went back to town, I got this scene. I should add that scenes that take place in the atelier, like this one, can happen in any of the towns. I didn't have to be in Arls for this scene to come up. Taste test
Eh, Aurel?! Did you come to hang out?
You could say that. I also came by to make sure you aren't neglecting your training.
Come on, I won't be lazy anymore! But now that you're here... Let's have some sweets! So, time for a break!
Hey, you're already going on a break?! Oh well.
Hm? Is something wrong? I thought you'd prefer coffee over tea.
No, it's not that... Sorry. I can't drink coffee.
Yes... I'm not fond of bitter tastes. Coffee is the most bitter of them all, isn't it?
Right... Hrmmm... Aurel, you might be more child-like than I thought, huh...
Wh-Who are you calling child-like?! Liking and disliking things has nothing to do with maturity! Besides... Hmph. I can handle a little coffee if I try--AGH!
Hey, you don't have to if you don't want to! I'll get some tea for you instead.
Extra sugar, please.
Yeah, yeah, loud and clear. A little high maintenance, aren't you?
Damn, that was embarrassing. I'll remember this, Lulua.
Music Lulua Chasing Stars: Wasteland
Lulua has no idea the epic battles that occurred here, though maybe that's for the best. Coming here has the added benefit of us finally finishing all of Chapter 2's bonus Alchemyriddle entries.
There are lots of materials hidden in breakable rocks (unbreakable for now) and crates around here, like up on the main rampart. Unfortunately, Lulua isn't quite as daring as Meruru and you can't make her jump off to the ground below.
Nice thing about walking mushrooms, which have apparently infested this place, is that almost all of them are weak to Fire. But let's not let Meruru hear about this. While the mushrooms can be easily vanquished, the demons are another story and I'd recommend ignoring them for now. When you're done around here, go to the other exit to continue on.
The Trombe Plateau is another recurring location, but the geography doesn't quite line up, since it was southeast of Hart Outpost in Meruru but northeast of it in this game. In any case, there are super dangerous rabbits around here you absolutely should avoid, but the birds, that come out in the daytime, are much more manageable. If you took on a request from Keina to gather Audra Feathers, keep in mind you can get them as drops from birds or find them in nests. They probably won't mind.
Finally. Let's go see what this big monster problem supposedly is... Squishy things
Don't tell me this place was overrun by...
Man, how embarrassing.
Hmm... No doubt about it. Just a bunch of punis.
For the record, the seiyuus almost always say "puni puni" instead of just "puni". The name of the goofy slime creatures is based on the Japanese onomatopoeia for squishy things, aka puni puni. The typical attitude of Atelier characters toward these things seems to be treating them collectively akin to a house pet, as in, finding them cute but impossible to take seriously. They're *puni*, after all.
Looks that way. Well, this shouldn't be hard! It'll all work out! Ready, guys? Let's take 'em down!
Unfortunately, they have a *lot* more HP than when Eva and Lulua first fought one of them at the start of the game. Adding Fire resistance on top of that just means an extended mop-up sequence against them. I'll spare you the details.
Well, all but two details. Once Aurel gets Mirage Step at level 20, his evasion gets quite high and he'll dodge a lot of attacks. This apparently has a pretty powerful effect since even against the highest tier of enemies in this game, they'll whiff a lot of attacks against Aurel. Makes him quite useful.
The other is Eva's Range Shift, which changes all of her single target skills, which normally is all of them, into attacks that hit the entire field, albeit at reduced power, as you might expect. It doesn't affect her normal attacks, but it's definitely better at handling mobs of enemies, like we have here, than Eva's typical skill line-up. It's one of the rare status effects that never goes away until Eva uses Range Shift again or gets KO'd.
We did it! Take that, punis! Sheehs, Ms. Keina has us all worried over nothing. Why would they be so worked up over a bunch of punis...
Um... Lulua? You...might want to take a look around.
This is a bit more delicate of a situation...
Whoa! How many of them are there?! A-And how'd they surround us?!
This doesn't look good... They may be punis, but in a group this big...
Aurel's right... We need to find a way out of here!
He actually slides into the frame from the right very quickly.
Everybody, cool it. Both humans and punis. I'm here now, so let's all just calm down. Yes?
The punis are pulling back. Thank you! If you hadn't shown up...
Music: A Trick Up My Sleeve
Please. When someone's in need, it's only natural to turn a blind--I mean, uh, lend a helping hand! Hahaha!
*sigh* ... So, uh, who are you exactly?
No reason to worry yourselves over me! I'm merely a handsome, upstanding passerby. Besides, I could ask you the same! What are you doing out here, picking fights with punis?
Well, see, the punis took over the checkpoint, and we're trying to get it back...
Hmm... "Took over", huh? Seems like a matter of opinion to me. Surely the punis have their reason to be here.
Excuse me? You're suggesting we all sit down and talk?
Right! We all share the same earth, don't we? Monsters or humans, everyone has their reasons! The important thing is to hear each other out! Hah hah hah hah!
He just walked off... He was quite intense.
More like brainless, if you ask me. Come on, Lulua. We're going back to Arls. We ought to fill Keina in on what happened here. We can come back later to clear out the punis.
Talking things over with monsters... Hearing each other out...
Lulua, you hear me?
Huh?! Oh! Yeah! Back to Arls. Got it!
Sounds like she has something on her mind. Well, there's nothing else to be done around here and the gate is still down, of course. So although you might not have Punis to tangle with around here, we're not going forward just yet. Back to town we go. A dangerous home
Hm? What's up?
Well, see... Don't you ever get really BORED when we're riding around in the wagon? There aren't any windows, so we can't enjoy the view, and we just sit and talk or read books! Can't we do anything about that?
Ahaha. I get how you feel, but... It's probably best to just let this one lie. The lack of windows has to do with the way we're messing around with the physics in here.
Huh? We're messing with the physics?
Well, the wagon looks way smaller from the outside than from the inside, right? The insides are all stretched out. If we add windows, the whole thing might collapse in on itself. Hehe.
Huh?! Is it even safe to be in here?! N-Now I'm sorry I even asked. F-Fine. No windows. But couldn't we at least synthesize while we're on the move?
Hmm... Afraid not. Think about it...
*horse neigh, wagon starts shaking*
This place bounces around a lot while we're traveling. If you tried synthesizing... You could end up spilling all over the place into a dangerous mess. Do you want that?
No... I definitely don't want that.
And reading isn't so bad, is it? Every little bit of study can have a big impact on your life! OK?
Frankly, if we get through this game without the wagon exploding, I'll count that as a success.Puni Team
Oh! You're back! Are you all right? Is anyone hurt?
We're OK, but... We didn't manage to clear out the checkpoint.
I can see now why you were so agitated, Keina. A group of punis that big is a real problem.
Exactly. And it's not just their numbers... The punis are exceptionally well-organized.
The "Puni Rangers"? What kind of name is that? Well, whatever. We got to do something about them. If they're organized, then they have leaders. All we have to do it take out the top punis. Ms. Keina, any idea where they're operating out of? Do they have a base of some kind?
A base...? Hmmm, well... They are often sighted around Stalhang Castle. Maybe they're focused around there.
"Stalhang Castle". Got it. We'll go take a look. Ready, Lulua?
I guess so...
Hm, our protagonist friend doesn't seem to be feeling this plan.
Lulua? Lulua! Are you OK? You seem a little down...
Hm? Yeah, I'm fine... I just can't get the idea out of my head. If humans have one point of view...and punis another... I can't stop wondering if those Puni Rangers are trying to communicate something...
Ah. Like the person at the checkpoint was saying. Hehe. You're so kind-hearted, Lulua. Anyway, let's head to Stalhang Castle for now, OK?
Yeah! You're right! OK, let's go!
Well, she's always down for doing *something*, so that's nice. After this above scene I went to go get My First Recipes from Pamela. A healthy 600 Cole but the jobs I took from Keina covered the expenses, and more recipes are always appreciated. But we do have another scene in Town Hall before we leave...again. Everyone's daughter
Oh, Lulua. Welcome! Thank you for stopping by.
How's it going? Oh, whoops, are you working?
Yes, but it's fine. I was actually just about to finish up.
Oh, nice going, Keina. You're so competent!
She's always been a good kid, but now she's grown up, she's developed some real steel!
Ho ho ho! Ain't that the truth! The pride of Arls, is our Ms. Keina!
It's true. Esty's investigation with Meruru in the previous game showed Keina was quite loved and trusted by the people of this town.
Piana?! And Anon and Macbeth too... Stop making fun of me! Grr...
No, no! I'm not making fun of you! Everything I said it totally true. You're competent enough to handle things alone even though Meruru's not here...
Ho ho ho! Ain't that the truth! Here, ave a candy.
Th-thank you... No! I mean f-forget all about this, Lulua! I can't believe you got everyone together just to come here and make fun of me.
I don't know what part of this is "making fun of you"! It's the absolute truth! Hehe. Isn't it easier to just accept that everyone loves you, Ms. Keina? Haha.
*Keina excuses herself*
That's our Keina. She's always been the bashful type.
Ho ho ho! Ain't that the truth! Endearing, though. Some'd say cute.
Cute, eh? Reminds me of someone years ago...
Ahaha. Ms. Keina's so great. Everyone thinks so highly of her.
Indeed. It's all down to her personality and hard work. If you have a problem in Arls, Keina's the one to tell! Remember that, Lulua. It's an iron-clad rule.
Haha, got it. Hehe. I hope people talk about me like that someday.
All you have to do is apply yourself.