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Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm (PlayStation 2) artwork

Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm (PlayStation 2) review


"Most people today overlook the real beauty of what the 2D RPG is all about. Sure, there are lots of pretty looking RPGs these days like Star Ocean 3 or Final Fantasy X. But a 2D RPG has the beauty of the old days, when games didn't have to look pretty to catch an interest from someone. It gives you that feel of when you were playing games like Breath of Fire or Lufia II or maybe even Dragon View. Thankfully, Atelier Iris 3 still holds that charm of 2D RPGs, something that Atelier Iris 2 couldn't..."



Most people today overlook the real beauty of what the 2D RPG is all about. Sure, there are lots of pretty looking RPGs these days like Star Ocean 3 or Final Fantasy X. But a 2D RPG has the beauty of the old days, when games didn't have to look pretty to catch an interest from someone. It gives you that feel of when you were playing games like Breath of Fire or Lufia II or maybe even Dragon View. Thankfully, Atelier Iris 3 still holds that charm of 2D RPGs, something that Atelier Iris 2 couldn't do.

The story revolves around two childhood friends, Edge and Iris. Edge and Iris are Raiders for a town named Zey Meruze. A Raider basically accepts quests and visits Alterworlds to do those quests. Along the way, Iris learns of her book being the legendary Escalario, the book that is said to grant any wish if all the pieces were formed together. Because of this, Iris decides to set out and look for the other fragments of the Escalario. While the story may seem a bit cliche, I think it was nicely done on how it was told although the story does get a bit dry near the end of the game. The story stays consistent though, and the story is told while shuffling through quests, and I thought that was a great idea.

Visual wise, Atelier Iris 3 is a hit and miss really. The sprites are well done and look really nice, especially when you get into a battle. The enemies look just as great close up, especially the Pot type enemies and the Dragon type enemies. However, the environments themselves, while not entirely bad, are on the lacking side as they just don't seem to really stand out all that much. A problem with this is that since there are only 5 Alterworlds and 1 town to visit, the environments will wear on you really quickly and since they're not all that great to begin with, you'll get tired of having to go through these same environments over and over again.

Atelier Iris 3 is certainly better this time around with the soundtrack and voice acting. Like with the previous games, you have an option to use either the English or Japanese dialogue, so I'm sure Japanophiles will be happy about this even though most of them don't even understand what the characters are saying if they set it to the Japanese version. Atelier Iris 3 sports a semi all-star VA cast (Michelle Ruff, Kirk Thornton, Vic Mignogna, Wendee Lee, Jennifer Sekiguchi just to name a few) that's actually pretty well done. Granted it's far from perfect, but the voice acting is more tolerable than it was in Atelier Iris 2. For the soundtrack, it's also better than Atelier Iris 2. There are a lot of great tracks that stand out above the rest, such as Rain of Blossoms. Each track seems to be unique in its own way and the way they're composed was just great. This is easily one of the strongest points of the game, but then again, Gust is known for making high quality soundtracks.

Atelier Iris 3 focuses around the quest system, which is pretty well done. Basically, you go to the Guild in town and you check out the bulletin board to see some quest cards. These quests can range from fetching an item for a certain person to bounty hunting certain monsters. There are over 60 quests for you to complete, but most of these quests require you to go back to each Alterworld numerous times, which can get pretty tedious and old really fast. Thankfully though that once you get about halfway through the game, these quests that make you go back to Alterworld after Alterworld have uncommon to rare item rewards which help in alchemy. This certainly makes up for all the walking back and forth between the Alterworlds that you need to do.

The Alterworlds are pretty much different dungeons, but there are only 5 in total, so it's pretty easy to memorize most of them. While you're in the Alterworlds doing quests, there's a time limit that's given to how long you can stay in said Alterworld. Because of this, it sometimes feel like you can be rushed especially when some of the objectives of your quest have mulitple things to do, such as chasing a person around or exploring every inch of the Alterworld. After returning from each Alterworld, you'll see a list of bonuses that you are able to complete to earn extra points, which in turn nets you certain items after you reach 2500, 5000, 7500, and 10,000 points in that Alterworld. These give you a reason to actually do certain things in the Alterworld rather than just going to point B from point A.

The battle system in Atelier Iris 3 is turn based, just like with the previous games. The cards at the top of the screen determine the order in which a character or enemy will act in battle which gives you time to plan ahead and make a little strategy on how to give the most damage possible, or receive the least amount of damage possible, so I thought this was a good idea. However, the real treat of the battle system is the Burst feature. At the bottom of the screen, there's a letter meter with the word Burst on it. As you attack, it fills up. Depending on the number of attacks you do, and if you hit the weakness or resistance, the burst gauge will increase that number of times or more if you hit the weakness of an enemy. Once the Burst Meter is full, you'll go into Burst mode which sets your skill meter at 9 and increases the damage of all of your skills by a lot and also stuns the enemies on the screen for a set amount of time. This is a great part of the game, but it seems like you need to depend on the burst gauge in order to bring down most of the bosses in the game.

Like with the previous games, Atelier Iris 3 also revolves around the concept of making items with alchemy. These items can range from making healing items to making ingredients to making equipment. Alchemy is the most important feature in the game as quests tend to ask you to make something from alchemy and then deliver it to that person. Using alchemy is a simple procedure. You simply just gather the ingredients to make the item, combine them together, and just make the item just like that. However, you're also able to use different ingredients in a recipe which leads to different properties, which are like stat boosters, or different items. Each time you make an item with Alchemy, you'll gain Alchemy experience. Once you gain an alchemy level, Iris's stats will increase and she'll think of new ideas for recipes. These ideas aren't complete. In order to complete them, you first need to find the item that Iris thought of. You can usually look at the idea itself to find a small hint as to where you can find the said idea. Once you find the idea, you'll notice a little bubble with Iris's head in it. Approach it and you'll learn that new recipe. Alchemy is such an easy procedure that it's easy to learn and pick up, but the game also revolves around it.

Another new thing with Atelier Iris 3 is the Blades system. Think of Blades as a class changing type of thing. Each time you find a new Mana, Iris will make a pact with it, which in the end gives either Edge or the third character a new Blade. Changing into a new Blade will change your stats around according to that Mana's strong and weak points, and you'll learn a new set of skills as well as you level that Blade up. Finding out what Blade to use in certain situations is a good idea, but most of the time it doesn't really matter which Blade you use at all, so it pretty much comes down to personal taste until near the end of the game.

Difficulty wise, Atelier Iris 3 isn't that hard of a game. It's not on the same level as easy as Ar tonelico or Atelier Iris 2 was, as there's a couple of challenging bosses, but as you progress through the game, you'll realize that most fights can be won easily just by using your burst gauge, so it doesn't take a lot of strategy to win a fight in this game. The game itself can last about 40-50 hours, possibly more if you're a perfectionist and want to try to learn every alchemy item you possibly can, but aside from an optional boss and maybe some repeatable quests, there's not exactly that much to do in the game other than do quests to make the storyline advance.

All in all, after the disappointment that was Atelier Iris 2, Atelier Iris 3 fixed everything that was wrong with AI2 and made it even better. With a pretty decent story, a great battle system and soundtrack and voice overs, and with the quest system, this game is certainly a real treat to any Atelier Iris fan, or maybe even someone looking for a new game to play that wouldn't mind playing a 2D RPG that certainly brings you back to the old days.

Rating: 8/10

peterl90's avatar
Community review by peterl90 (August 21, 2007)

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