The Atelier series’ Arland trilogy was a memorable one. It came after a trilogy and a duo that felt more like traditional JRPGs at times and returned the series to a formula where more of the focus was on the actual creation of items and heroines attempting to better themselves. People grew attached to Rorona, Totori and Meruru, so much so that Gust and Koei Tecmo would return with slightly updated version. Now, ten years later, we go back again. This time, we are doing so with Rorona’s daughter, Lulua, in Atelier Lulua. The result is a game that is a warm and inviting nook filled with all of the things people who enjoyed those original three games would appreciate.
The Atelier Lulua format and formula is an inviting return to a routine. Lulua heads out to a nearby location, which is clearly labeled and offers information on all materials found there, then gets what she needs for her creations. If she has to fight enemies, the battles are simplistic and don’t have any overcomplicated mechanics. When she returns to an atelier, she walks over to a pot and begins working on either the recipes that have appeared as needed or found in one of the books she happened to buy. There are no grids that involve hitting certain marks or placing blocks to spawn a successful synthesis, such as in the Mysterious trilogy. It is a callback to less complicated times.
Lulua’s interactions with familiar faces bring back memories of our experiences with older Arland trilogy characters. From the very first moments, people we knew are coming back, and we get to see what effect they might have on Lulua’s life. Piana was an NPC in Atelier Totori. She’s Lulua’s alchemy teacher here. Keina, Princess Meruru’s childhood friend in Atelier Meruru, holds a government position and assigns quests to Lulua after she reaches Arls. In Arland, we learn Lulua is something of a Totori fangirl, after she discovers the senior alchemist is now a government employee working in certification. All of these characters, when we first met them, were teenagers. Now, they’re fully functional adults whose skills have helped them find roles that keep the Arland republic running.
But, even more important are the interactions giving hints to how characters behaved in the past. When we first meet Totori again, she’s behind a desk in an administrative role. However, when Lulua gets into trouble on a mission, we see her team up with Sterk to save the day. It shows she still has her skills going. Lionela is a party member who only showed up back in the original Atelier Rorona. If you spend time with her here, we see references to her special ability and notice her puppets, Aranya and Horoholo, in her pub. Pamela notes that she always has been able to get by when Lulua questions how she’ll survive, referencing all of the prior games where she has run shops.
Then, there are the endings. Like the original Atelier Rorona, and many other entries in the Arland trilogy, Atelier Lulua has character-focused endings. Lulua can be paired up with certain people for the incredibly brief peeks into her future. Who did she interact with? What extra activities did she participate in? Did she train with Aurel? Did she spend a lot of time at the orphanage with Eva? Some entries don’t offer these sorts of insights. But here, we get the chance to see how relationships shape Lulua’s future.
Atelier Lulua is a chance to go back. It is a way to appreciate what we once had and look forward to what could be. We get to see how people we knew and loved have grown. It even brings back characters we might have never thought we would see again, like Lionela and Piana. It is a chance to fall in love with the series again.