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Geek Out

Imperfect Nostalgia

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STATISTICALLY SPEAKING, those born in the '80s and early '90s discovered the roleplaying genre thanks to Sony's first PlayStation. The success of Final Fantasy VII spawned a wealth of Japanese-style RPGs throughout the mid-'90s, and as a result, big-eyed, angsty youths battling existential angst has become its own subgenre. Though that type of game has, in recent years, been supplanted by Western-style RPGs, there's still something comfortable about a game that adheres to tradition. A game, say, like Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland.

For the most part, Atelier Meruru strictly adheres to its classic JRPG roots: Battles are turn-based, enemies are adorably stylized, and the majority of its cast members are bubbly teenagers with fantastic powers. That said, this is also a game that relies heavily on its item-crafting component, so while it is superficially a lighthearted, traditional fantasy adventure, the game's replayability and novelty is heavily bolstered by the fact that you'll spend much of your time searching for rare components to use in new item recipes. The mechanic doesn't have quite the addictive appeal of, say, Pokémon, but it certainly offers something unique in a title that's largely derivative of genre tropes.

Normally, such a reliance on archaic ideas would be a turnoff—but Atelier Meruru works because, despite a few minor technical glitches, this game offers a now-rare experience. The characters are all likeable, if two-dimensional, and the adherence to tradition means that Atelier Meruru is instantly accessible to a huge audience. Though it won't overshadow modern blockbuster titles like Mass Effect 3, Atelier Meruru seems content to offer players a glimpse of how things used to be—and I'd be lying if I said that doesn't have a certain appeal.

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