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Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia

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Information
DeveloperGust
PublisherBanpresto (JP)
NIS America (US)
505 Games (EU)
PlatformPlayStation 2
Release DateJanuary 26th, 2006 (JP)
February 6th, 2007 (US)
May 22nd, 2007 (EU)
RatingB (JP)
T (US)
7+ (EU)

Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia (アルトネリコ世界の終わりで詩い続ける少女, Arutoneriko Sekai no Owari de Utai Tsuzukeru Shōjo?, lit. "Ar tonelico: The Girl Who Continues to Sing at the End of the World") is a PlayStation 2 console role-playing game produced by Banpresto and Gust. There were other media releases based on the game, including the comic Ar tonelico -arpeggio-, the OVA Ar tonelico, and several drama CDs.

The setting for the game is an extremely tall tower named Ar tonelico, located in the region of Sol Ciel (ソル・シエール), and the plot is mainly about relationships between humans and an artificial race called Reyvateil (レーヴァテイル).

At E3 2006, Nippon Ichi Software America (NIS America) announced that it would pick up Ar tonelico, with an expected release date on October 31, 2006.[1] However, that release was delayed until February 6 2007 to provide more time for localization.[2]

The European version was released by 505 Games on May 22, 2007. However, it was released in very limited quantities only in France, Italy and Spain and as such European copies of the game are rare and the very existence of the PAL-version remained widely unnoticed.

A sequel under the name Ar tonelico II: Sekai ni Hibiku Shoujotachi no Metafalica which was released in Japan on October 25, 2007, was released January 20, 2009 in the U.S. under the title Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica.[3][4]

Development

Ar tonelico itself began to be created around 2004, roughly at the same time as Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana. However, the ideas and universe of the game were established since around 1995, when the director and father of the series, Akira Tsuchiya, was still in college.

During that time, he made a world for a pen and paper RPG, and although it contained several of the elements present in the final game, there were several differences: the setting was a world sunk under the sea instead of floating landmasses above a cloud of toxic gas, the Reyvateils didn't exist back then, and some characters, such as Spica Neal and Shurelia, had different appearances and/or roles. Additionally, the people were divided in two races: the People of the Sky and the People of the Sea. Tsuchiya's friends apparently didn't like much this world due to being too different from standard fantasy worlds, and thus, after three roleplaying sessions, it was canned.

Later on, after Tsuchiya began working at Gust, he took the first chance he was offered to direct a game, back in the 2000, and began making one based on the world he had made back in college. This was different from the current Ar tonelico as well: the protagonists were two girls called Decibel and Mallet, the spells were called Bels and were created by synthesizing various types of Orgel Discs together. However, the synthesis system was deemed as too complicated, and under the pretext that the game wouldn't sell due to magic being so widespread in it, the director of the Atelier Iris games, Masuda, ordered Tsuchiya to cancel the game.

Finally, Tsuchiya saw his golden chance when in 2004 he was offered again a chance to make a game, and leaving the music composition and arranging roles he had serving at Gust ever since he joined the company in the hands of fellow musicians Ken Nakagawa and Daisuke Achiwa, he began working in it with all his efforts. This time, Tsuchiya created the concept of Reyvateils and redesigned the world setting to be as we currently know, always being inspired by the songs of Akiko Shikata, Haruka Shimotsuki, and Noriko Mitose.

After the world setting was completed and the game was at a decent level of progress, Tsuchiya began asking personally to the singers that had inspired him for their collaboration in the project, as well as being introduced to Yuko Ishibashi, who he asked to sing for the game as well. All of the singers were glad to accept the offering, and thus, the team that developed Ar tonelico came to be.

The game itself was made and runs on a modified version of the engine used for Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, while the sprites were mostly taken from the ones used for previous Gust games, excepting for some ones that were created especially for Ar tonelico, so they share the same visual style that has characterized the Atelier games from Atelier Judie and until Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny.

Gameplay

Exploration

Field maps

Players may explore dungeons and other areas by moving in any direction and jumping. Depending on the abilities of the Reyvateils in the party, various spells can also be cast to light candles, remove obstacles, and trigger switches.

Enemy creatures may be encountered at random as the player explores an area. A gauge in the lower-right corner of the screen indicates the likelihood of encountering an enemy, as well as the number of random encounters remaining in the current area. Once enough battles have been fought to empty the gauge, no further random encounters will take place until the player leaves and returns to the area.

Town maps

Each town presents several points of interest that may be reached by selecting their name on a menu, then navigated like a field map. Additional points of interest may become available after certain conditions are met.

World map

The world map provides a 3D view of the world, which lists all of the locations currently accessible by the player. Most previously visited locations can be reached simply by scrolling the map to its entrance, then choosing to enter it.

Battle

Ar tonelico features a turn-based battle system akin to those of the Atelier Iris series, in which two groups take turns executing commands until one has the hit points of all its members depleted, ending in victory if the player party depletes the HP of all the enemies, and a Game Over in case the opposite occurs.

The active party consists of up to three Vanguards in the front and one Reyvateil in the back. An action can be chosen for each fighter as their turn arrives. An action bar at the top of the screen indicates the turn order for every character and opponent involved in the battle. Vanguards may choose to attack the enemy, skip their turns, use a skill, use an item, or to Guard the Reyvateil, the last being available only when an enemy prepares an Stored Attack.

As long as any fighters remain alive, the Reyvateil can't be attacked directly by the enemy, and can only be targeted by Stored Attacks. When targeted, a number of circles are shown around her to indicate the number of fighters that must protect her (instead of attacking) before the enemy's next turn to completely block the attack. A successful defense grants the fighters an option to mount a devastating counter-attack at the cost of one harmocrystal, which the number of hits and total power of the counter depending on how many circles surrounded the Reyvateil and how many Vanguards were allowed to counter-attack the enemy. If the attack required all three vanguards to be blocked and all of them counter-attack the enemy, the last one performing the counter will execute a special attack known as the Super Counter.

Harmocrystals are activated when the Reyvateil and the rest of the party work well together, a measure of which is represented by the two Harmonics bars at the bottom of the screen. Harmonics improve with each successful attack from the Vanguards, filling the blue bar, while guarding the Reyvateil and merely maintaining the Vanguards active gradually fill the pink bar, but the blue bar decreases whenever an enemy lands a successful attack. When both bars meet, the party's attacks become stronger and one Harmocrystal is activated. The number of active Harmocrystals affects the number of counter-attacks the party can mount, the skills available to each Vanguard, as well as the types of items received at the end of a battle, and having two active Harmocrystals also changes the normal attack of each Vanguard into a more powerful version of itself. A higher level of Harmonics also allows the Reyvateil to sing faster. However, at the start of the battle, there's only one empty Harmocrystal, and to make more appear, it's necessary to fill the red Limit Bar by using Song Magic, which will allow to make up to three Harmocrystals.

Unlike Vanguards, the Reyvateil doesn't need to wait for her turn and can be given commands at any time during the battle. Instead of attacking directly, she supports the party by using Song Magic. Her MP will decrease as long as she is singing, and stopping the Song will cause her MP to recover over time. Red Magic can be charged for any length of time before being released onto the enemy as an attack, whereas Blue Magic immediately takes effect and continues to remain in effect as long as the singing continues. Both kinds of magic become progressively stronger as the Reyvateil continues to sing the same Song, and power up faster with each incremental level of Harmonics. Stopping or changing the Song will cause the next spell to begin powering up from its basic level. The charge level of the current song is shown by the Burst Gauge at the right of the Reyvateil, which also controls the rate at which each particular Song Magic has its level raised.

At the end of each battle, experience points are awarded to all party members regardless of whether they participated in battle, and extra points are granted to those who gave the final blow to each enemy.

Dive Points are awarded to all Reyvateils currently in the party, which can then be used for Diving.

Items are awarded based on the number of activated Harmocrystals at the end of each battle. Each enemy has a potential of dropping up to 4 items, with the fourth item usually being the most desirable.

Diving

Main article: Dive

Diving is the most unique aspect of Ar tonelico's gameplay experience, which also ended being an essential elemen of its sequels. By visiting a Dive Shop, the player can enter a Reyvateil's mind, also called a Cosmosphere or a Soulspace. The Diving experience shares many similarities with Japanese visual novels, which puts great emphasis on dialogue and character development. The player spends Dive Points to enter different locations within the Cosmosphere. The most important locations will be marked by a star pointer, and visiting them is required to progress inside the Cosmosphere, while there are also other minor locations that aren't marked by stars, but serve to learn more about that particular Reyvateil. However, if the location has a cost of 1 DP to go in, it won't serve either to progress or to see additional scenes.

In order to enter deeper levels of the Cosmosphere, the player must improve their relationship with the Reyvateil by gaining Dive Points from combat and watching Talk Topics with her while resting at inns and camps. Each Topic is assigned to an specific level in an special grid that can be seen in the Reyvateil's status screen, and once a certain number for that specific level has been watched, the Cosmosphere of that same level will be available for Diving. Additional Topics won't open anything else, but will allow the player to learn more about the Reyvateil's personality and background.

Despite being similar to a visual novel, the objective is not to date the Reyvateils, but to help them resolve their inner doubts and concerns. Doing so will allow the Reyvateils to craft new Song Magic as well as unlock new outfits, which acts like improved equipment in battle. Said outfits, called Costumes, serve as representations of the many facets hidden in the personality of the Reyvateil, and aside of changing her stats, hey also change their appearance in-battle.

Plot

Phase I

The game opens by explaining to the player part of the backstory of the world of Sol Ciel: a long time ago, the world used to have both an abundant sky and land, but after the two large catastrophes, the Grathnode Inferia, and the Reyvateil Rebellion, the world lost its land and sky. The surface of the land was completely covered by the Sea of Death, and the sky was sealed off by the Blastline. Those who survived these catastrophes had to cling to the Tower of Ar tonelico and the floating landmass of the Wings of Horus to survive, and lost much of their technology and knowledge due to this.

We are then shown that the Floating City Platina is under attack by unknown viruses. Leard Barsett, the current commander asks the Knights of Elemia for an inform of the situation, but the knights are confused and unable to report any information due to the virus' unknown characteristics. Then, Lyner Barsett, the main character and other of the Knights of Elemia, rushes into the scene, and after asking his father about the situation, he attempts to run to confron to viruses. However, Leard berates him for trying to go without waiting for the Tower Administrator, Shurelia, which would be against orders. Shurelia then shows up, and orders Lyner to accompany her to confront the new type of virus.

Lyner and Shurelia, now accompanied by another Knight of Elemia called Ayatane Michitaka, head to the Symphonic Reactor, and witness the virus ELMA-DS creating havoc from inside the center of the facility. They attempt at combating it, but end being powerless due to the virus' ability to use Flip-Flop Conversion, which allows it to become impervious to attacks. Due to this, Lyner and Shurelia are forced to run away while Ayatane stalls the virus. Then, Shurelia explains to Lyner about the Hymn Crystals, and gives him a task: go to the Lower World and find the Hymn Crystal Purger, which is the only thing that could defeat the virus. Shurelia then leads him to the Gather, Platina's airport, and after giving him an Hymn Brooch to serve as a reference for him in his search, Lyner departs for the Wings of Horus. However, shortly after the airship took off, Lyner was shot down by the demon of the Blastline, a dragon called Sleipnir.

Lyner crashes into the Viola Forest, in the Wings of Horus, gets ejected from his airship, and is left on the brink of death. However, he was saved by a Reyvateil who witnessed his airship crashing, called Aurica Nestmile, and after secretly healing him with her Song Magic, she ran off. Lyner then woke up, faintly remembering that someone saved him, and after making sure he still had the Hymn Brooch, he ran off to see if he could find the remains of his airship. He managed to find it, but to his dismay, someone else was trying to see if the airship could be sold off as scrap. Lyner berated the unknown man, and after he rudely told him that anyone who found it would keep it, he went off. Lyner got disappointed that the rumors about the rudeness of the Lower World people were true, and then he began going off in the direction of the nearest town.

To be continued...

Setting

Ar tonelico takes place in the region of Sol Ciel, which literally translates to "Sun Sky" in Latin and French, respectively, but means "Shining Sky/World" in the game's own language. Sol Ciel is part of Planet Ar Ciel, and is one of the three regions that survived the catastrophe of the Grathnode Inferia. This particular region consists of the living Tower of Ar tonelico and the Wings of Horus, a landmass connected to the lower portion of the Tower. Additionally, the world itself is divided in two parts: the Lower World, which encompasses all the areas in Sol Ciel below the Teru town of Em Pheyna, known for its small towns and not being considered to be very technologically advanced; and the Upper World, which encompasses all the areas of the Tower above Em Pheyna, is very advanced, and the Floating City of Platina is even considered to be a holy sanctuary by the Church of Elemia from the lower world.

The Tower exists at the center of the world and is made from technology that was available prior to the world-destroying catastrophe known as the Grathnode Inferia. There is little land left after the two catastrophes of the past, so people have become increasingly dependent on Ar tonelico. The Tower functions much like a computer program, and is susceptible to viruses, which are emerging at an alarming rate to wreak havoc on both the upper and lower worlds.

The world of Sol Ciel is inhabited by three main races: Humans, Teru and Reyvateils. Teru are beings that seem to be a cross between humans and dragons, and are capable of using magical powers that Wave Science, the type of science practiced in Ar Ciel, can't explain yet, while Reyvateils are a manufactured race who were originally created to maintain Ar tonelico. They are designed to resemble humans in every way except for their lifespan and their ability to communicate with the Tower. All Reyvateils are female regardless of their birth history.

There are three different types of Reyvateils. Reyvateil Origins are the original Reyvateils who were created with a specific purpose in mind. They have a perfect connection to the Tower. They are considered the parents of all β-type and Third Generation Reyvateils because the lower class Reyvateils are in some way related to them[5].

The second type, β-type Reyvateils, are clones of Reyvateil Origins[6]. They are mortal, though they still live significantly longer than humans; approximately 150 years[7].

The last type, Third Generation Reyvateils, are born from relationships between humans and Reyvateils. Due to the strain that the power of Ar tonelico puts on their bodies, they tend to have naturally short life spans of only 14 to 20 years[8]. There is a life-extending agent called Diquility that can only be produced by the Church of El Elemia and the Tenba Conglomerate, but it must be applied every 3 months, and the cost of obtaining it is prohibitive. Consequently, many Third Generation Reyvateils choose to join one of the above-mentioned organizations in order to obtain Diquility for free.

Characters

Ar tonelico has eight playable characters, but many more are important to the storyline. The main protagonist is Lyner Barsett, a Knight of Elemia who fell from Platina when attempting to destroy one of the viruses, who was then saved by a reyvateil, Aurica Nestmile. He meets Aurica Nestmile and Misha Arsellec Lune in the lower world, both of whom are Reyvateils. These two become very important characters, and the player must interact with them on a regular basis by conversing and Diving in order to progress through the game.

Other playable characters include Jack Hamilton, a lone gunner; Krusche Elendia, an airship grathmelder; Radolf Schnaizen, a Cardinal with the Church of Elemia; Shurelia, the Tower's administrator; and Ayatane Michitaka, a fellow Knight of Elemia.

The main antagonist is Mir, a β-type Reyvateil who was created as a selfless servant to humanity, but has since developed a genocidal hatred for the human race as a result of her mistreatment at their hands.

Music

The soundtrack of the game was mostly composed by the members of the Gust Sound Team - Akira Tsuchiya, Ken Nakagawa and Daisuke Achiwa, who are best known for composing music for Gust's Atelier series. Haruka Shimotsuki, Takashige Inagaki and Akiko Shikata and Haruka Shimotsuki also contributed composition and arrangements for several of the songs and Hymns in the game.

The music of the game was released across 3 albums: a 2-disc Original Soundtrack and the two Hymmnos Concert CDs. The Hymmnos Concert CDs contained all the Hymns and songs which were absent from the OST.

In the story, the Reyvateils practice magic by “singing it". Hymns and Song Magic are powerful, and can be used for killing and healing. Therefore, unlike many other games, the songs form an integral part of the gameplay and story.

Each Reyvateil has their own singer (who is different from their voice actor in both Japanese and English versions) who performed their Songs and Hymns: Aurica: Haruka Shimotsuki (霜月はるか), Misha: Akiko Shikata (志方あきこ), Shurelia: Noriko Mitose (みとせのりこ) and Claire: Yuuko Ishibashi (石橋優子).

As well as the choral Hymns, the soundtrack features a variety of musical genres ranging from rock, electronica, industrial and rap to ethnic, acoustic, orchestral and folk styles.

Opening theme

Insert Songs

Hymns

Ending themes

Other Releases

Aside of the soundtracks, the first game in the series also got two player guidebooks: the Player's Bible and the Perfect Guide; the Setting Materials Collection book, which explains a large amount of information about the game's world that can't be found in the game or anywhere else; four Drama CDs, each expanding further on the stories of each of the game's heroines and leaving a sequel hook at the end of the last one, two Hymmnos Musical albums, which explained the backstory of the characters Claire Branch and Spica Neal, each featuring completely new songs; and finally, a light novel that covers the events between the final battle and the ending movie.

Additionally, it also had a side-story manga called Ar tonelico ~Arpeggio~ featuring completely new characters, two gag-manga compilations, and a minimal part of its plot was adapted into a 30-minute OVA.

And while not directly related, the game's opening theme was given an expanded rearrangement in Akiko Shikata's RAKA album, being renamed Singing Hill ~EXEC_HARVESTASYA/.~ and its lyrics modified to tell an ancient legend of Sol Ciel about a priestess called Harvestasha.

Reception

Reviews
Publication Score
VGRC 8 out of 10[9]
Deeko 8 out of 10[10]
IGN 7.2 out of 10[11]
GameSpot 6.3 out of 10[12]
RPGamer 3 out of 5[13]
RPGFan 91%[14]
Review compilations
Game Rankings 73% (based on 27 reviews)[15]
GameStats 7.2 out of 10 (based on 7 reviews)[16]

Ar tonelico has been criticized across the board for being 'too easy' and not presenting much of a challenge. GameSpot said "There's no challenge whatsoever to the battles, constant use of overt sexual innuendo isn't the least bit clever or entertaining, and the courtship aspect of the game makes very little sense," with IGN chiming in that "Some game flaws in standard RPG elements, like the battle system and exploration keep this from being a stand out game." On the other hand, it has been looked upon kindly by other members of the press, with VGRC saying "If you're looking for the next epic RPG, you will not find it here. However, if you want something fresh in this tired and stale genre, Ar tonelico will most certainly deliver." It was also given an 8/10 by Deeko.com, stating "It is easily one of the more light-hearted role playing games on the market and the characters are interesting, to boot, but it is the unique way in which you interact with characters that truly makes this title stand out."

References to other games

During the last level of the Cosmospheres of both Aurica and Misha, there is a bonus level called Level E. These worlds are a reference to the worlds of Atelier Marie and Atelier Elie made by Gust in reference to the Atelier series featuring artwork and music from those games. Upon completion of these levels, Aurica and Misha will obtain the costumes of Marie (Marlone) and Elie (Elfir) for use in battle; and although, not available in game, the Extras menu has an unlockable image of Shurelia in Lita's costume from Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.

References

  1. Ar Tonelico Coming to North America from RPGamer.
  2. The Shipping Date of Ar Tonelico Has Been Delayed from NIS America.
  3. http://www.amazon.com/AR-Tonelico-2-MetaFalica-Premium-Playstation/dp/B001GMSHSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1223739849&sr=8-1
  4. http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/artonelicoii/index.html
  5. Template:Cite book
  6. Template:Cite book
  7. Template:Cite book
  8. Template:Cite book
  9. VGRC's review of Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 2nd August 2008.
  10. Deeko's review of Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 17th February 2007.
  11. IGN's review of Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 17th February 2007.
  12. GameSpot's review of Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 17th February 2007.
  13. RPGamer's review of Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 17th February 2007.
  14. RPGFan's review of Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 17th February 2007.
  15. GameRankings.com page for Ar tonelico. URL retrieved 13 March 2007.
  16. GameStats on Ar tonelico. URL accessed 17th February 2007.

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