Atelier Iris – Eternal Mana

by Amanda and Colin
author awarded score: 70/100

Atelier Iris – Eternal Mana Review
Published by: Koei
Format Reviewed: PS2
Reviewed by: Amanda and Colin

The first thing that will strike you when turning on Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is its very strange and yet very compelling intro sequence. Although it’s strange, it is also unusually cute, and the combination of fancy 3D graphics and attractive 2D animation is oddly attractively too. It’s almost like controlling the actions of Anime characters from a TV show.

Before going any further, it’s necessary to make clear that players who love fast-paced adventure games should perhaps steer well wide of Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana. It is not the game for you! By definition, this is a slow moving yet highly addictive title; it’s a stop-start game where battle action is only encountered whilst walking around. When it comes to in-game battling, Eternal Mana is very similar to the Final Fantasy series—though it lacks that “Oh my God! This game is stunning!” quality so evident throughout Squaresoft’s enduring franchise. But it certainly is an attractive game, with cute, youthful, and thoroughly likable characters.

You play as alchemist, Klein, he is a rare and talented young fellow who lives in a world where alchemy has been long forgotten; this means that he’s a real treat for the good guys and bad guys alike. The main threat to Klein and his friends are the Alkavana Knights, who are villains keen on ‘policing’ towns and local villages while instilling fear into the populace. Klein refuses to join forces with the head of the Alkavana Knights and subsequently he becomes a fugitive. Although Klein and his friends are considered to be a troublesome group by the Knights, they are also viewed as heroes by the oppressed local people—and this is where the real adventure begins.

Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana contains a massive central storyline, but it is sometimes easy to forget exactly what it is, or where you are within it, because the game requires players to seek mini-adventures here there and everywhere. This naturally means a lot of patient backtracking and careful memory work.

This RPG-based game is a cross between Golden Sun on the GBA and the established Final Fantasy series. Everything about Eternal Mana literally screams ‘Anime’; the corny wit will have any Anime fan smiling, whereas some non-familiar gamers will likely be cringing at the overacted voice work. Despite the exaggerated dialogue, it is actually a joy to watch the game’s complicated story unfold before you. Eternal Mana is extremely dialogue heavy, but fortunately for those gamers who are hearing impaired, complete subtitles accompany the ongoing character chatter.

Comical moments are not lacking throughout Eternal Mana’s magical adventure; though, oddly, shadows are. And this proves to be the game’s major weakness. As a 2D-based game it requires Klein to accurately jump on from place to place on numerous occasions, and without the assistance of character and/or environmental shadows it’s often a complete nightmare to move with assurance. After a spell of trial and error positioning, it’s fair to say that it is possible to judge with relative accuracy where exactly Klein will land—yet, with no real sense of depth perception, jumping can become an exercise in frustration.

Although Klein is the game’s central (male) character there are also other non-playable female characters to be seen. The main female character in Klein’s loyal party is Lita, who’s a fantastic character and hilarious to watch; she’s a veritable take-no-prisoners chick who wields ‘Wolverine-esque’ claws during the heat of battle. Eternal Mana’s guiding plotline involves Lita extensively as she possesses a secret that no one in the party knows about…yet.

Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana places considerable onus on potion usage; the game doesn’t insist on mere brute strength in its characters—although it is still needed. Indeed, it’s quite a tactical game and there are points during the adventure where physical combat isn’t enough to ensure progression. This is where the party’s handy ‘Mana Spirits’ come in. Important items such as bombs, health remedies, and Mana refills don’t simply sit around waiting to be picked up; however, the simple components that make up bombs and health do. This is where the use of the Mana Spirits becomes essential. These Spirits create your party’s usable items—but only if they ‘like’ you—and Klein can offer them food and other treats to better gain their affections. During battle it is very important to be stocked up on items, as you can never quite be sure when an ultra-nasty enemy may be lurking in the long grass.

Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana is a charming little Anime adventure with a lot to offer fans of plot-driven RPGs. However, and as mentioned earlier, those players who enjoy the industry’s faster paced videogame releases really should consider giving this title a miss. The constant reading and lengthy dialogue—when not spoken—can become very tiresome to those not 100% dedicated to the genre.