Atelier Series Moves to New Platform, Location

Gust Interactive has gained some notoriety over the past few years with its Atelier series, which chronicles the adventures of young women as they try to master the secrets of alchemy in order to divine various compounds. Now, the company is planning to burst onto the PlayStation2 platform with the fourth entry in the series, Atelier Judie. While the aim of the game will remain the same -- Judie must divine a magical compound in order to succeed in her quest -- many things will change with the new game, of which Gust is already well into development.

For starters, the previous titles in the series took place in the city of Zarburg. This will not be the locale in Atelier Judie. This game's story is set in a small village of around 100 people. The game's timeframe is set somewhere between Atelier Lilie and Atelier Marie, and few people in the land of Nato have any knowledge of Zarburg. In fact, there are only two people at the start who will have any idea of where this city is: a merchant who has traded there, and an old man who has passing knowledge of the city.

Gameplay will also be very different. In the first three games, Atelier's main characters did not venture outside their hometown in the search for compounds. In Atelier Judie, players will venture throughout the kingdom of Finden, between five different cities: the commercial city of Metroburg, the mining city Sutaku, the agricultural town of Lisa, Artenort, the city of adventurers, and finally, the ancient city of Verun. Each of these towns will hold several of the items needed for alchemy, and they are not necessarily in any order. As with most RPGs, there will be the potential for adventure in between towns as well, making Atelier Judie a big step forward for the series in terms of diversity of gameplay.

Of course, no Atelier title would be complete without item creation, and Atelier Judie takes this to a new level. Items, armour, weapons, jewels and all manner of things purchased from shops in the towns can be combined, and players with experience in the series will be able to experiment at will, creating some potentially high-power items. The ultimate goal will be to successfully prepare an item that caused a disaster 200 years ago, and to do this will not be easy. In addition to the items available in town, there will be a new item exploration system which will require players to search both the world map and dungeons for items. Even monsters will sometimes hold key compounds, requiring Judie to develop a tough side along with her alchemical skills.

Cast of Characters

The game will feature several characters in addition to the main character, Judith Volltone. Judith, at 16 years of age, has managed the small alchemy shop in her home village since her adoptive parents disappeared while experimenting years ago. She is tomboyish and scatterbrained, and her ultimate goal is to return the past, where she was thrown from 200 years ago in a failed alchemical experiment along with her associate Fink.

As previously mentioned, the game will feature a merchant with some knowledge of Zarburg. This merchant, Witoss Lotps, is a 20-year-old from Metroburg, and has made many connections throughout the kingdom of Finden. Despite his slender build (at 5'7 and 120 pounds, he's definitely a featherweight), he is a powerful fighter, and not one to be trifled with. He carries a slight air of undependability and danger, and despite his wealth of knowledge and contacts, he does not part with information lightly. Witoss would like nothing more than to be the richest man in Finden, and he is not above usury.

Metroburg is also home to Rastel Biheusen, the 16-year-old daughter of a nobleman. Enchanted by songs and fairy tales, Rastel is touched by Judith's story, and her interest in magic inspires her to try and help Judith find her way back to her own time. She enjoys children's stories, and possesses a talent for memorizing music and then singing it herself. The only thing that Rastel doesn't like is people without a dream, and she refuses to grow up.

Finally, there is the fairy, which has appeared in other Atelier games. There are actually many of these tiny creatures throughout the world, and they come to help alchemists and others in times of need. The fairy that will assist Judith will not appear easily, and when it does show up, it is in quite an unexpected form. Despite their flighty natures, the fairies are committed to their work, and they dream to be like the people they aid. Unfortunately, at less than three feet tall, physically achieving this is more or less impossible.

Gust is well into the development of Atelier Judie, under the planning direction of Shin-Ichi Yoshiike, who also served in this capacity on other Atelier titles. With this in mind, it is unsurprising that the game's planned release date, sometime this May, is rapidly approaching. Also unsurprising has been the absence of any announcement of a localization for this game. If such an announcement came, it would be the first game in the series to make it to North America, so hopeful gamers shouldn't hold their breath.

by Andrew Long    
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