A Lesson in Macro-Management

(My apologies for the late post. Anime Boston had me very busy and then I had the delight of finals right after that and then moving back home.)

About a year ago I walked into Gamestop and started browsing. I have a natural bias for RPGs and anime-style graphics, so I tend to take those games off of the shelf to get a closer look. I found Atelier Annie for the Nintendo DS during this trip and--on a whim--I bought it. I had never heard of the Atelier games before and wasn't even sure what kind of alchemy I would be doing (Fullmetal Alchemist changed my perspective on alchemy).

And then fast forward a year to the present when my finals are over. I'm bored in my dorm room with most of my things packed and most of my games finished. I pulled out Atelier Annie and decided I'd give it a chance.

Annie is the lazy granddaughter of a skilled and famous alchemist. One night when her grandfather is sick of her shenanigans, he ships her off--in her sleep--to a remote island to learn alchemy from a fairy. Before long, she finds herself a contestant in a alchemy contest that will span three years. She has no interest until the king mentions that whoever wins the contest will marry his son or daughter. Cue Annie's love for handsome boys and an even greater love for rich, handsome boys. With her new motivation, she sets out to become the greatest alchemist of Sera Island.

 Ladies and gentleman, our protagonist.

This game may span three years of Annie's life, but time passes quickly. It unfortunately does not take very long to finish, but the quick passing of days keeps you on your toes as you have several deadlines to meet. Your ultimate goal in addition to creating items for the competition is to create a fabulous resort for the island, including building and improving attractions such as a park, bakery, or beach. You also have your own shop's reputation to keep in mind. By taking on requests and jobs, you increase your alchemy skill and can improve your fame.

Fighting is also a feature in Atelier Annie. Two more people can join your party to protect you from monsters as you go out to places to gather materials for synthesis. The fighting is simple and straightforward, but could use a few tweaks to make it more challenging.

You'll also be fighting monsters that resemble a colorful Japanese dessert.

This game is more about management than leveling up and fighting monsters--and that's a good thing. You can blindly pick up a game from the shelf and chances are that you'll be spending a great amount of time focusing on fighting. And then several other games that stray away from fighting monsters are either childish or have a different aim entirely (Animal Crossing, Nintendogs, puzzle games, etc.). Atelier Annie challenges you to multi-task: collecting materials for several tasks at once, planning your travels so that you don't waste time, knowing which requests to ignore and which ones to take. Everything you do is an element of both time and money, both of which do not grow on trees.

The dialogue is all in the original Japanese, but it was translated for the localization. You meet several characters who just make Annie's life more frustrating, but they're definitely...characters. Love them or hate them, they make Atelier Annie funny. Sometimes their dialogue becomes pointless and only made me forget what I was about to do, but you can skip the unnecessary parts by pressing the Y button.

Atelier Annie isn't a fantastic game, but it's better than you would expect. If you like games that force you to think--and if you're into economics and management--you should give it or the other Atelier games a try.