The "Atelier" franchise isn't as popular as the heavy hitters of the Japanese role-playing game genre, but it has an intense following among players. That fandom has been strong enough to spawn 20 main titles.
Although that can be intimidating, newcomers don't need to play every entry. Each stands alone on its own merits. The latest in the line is "Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland," an entry focused on Elmerulia Frixell, who is the daughter the protagonist in the first game of the "Arland" series. (Yes, there are so many "Atelier" games that there are series within series.)
Known as Lulua to her friends, Elmerulia is an aspiring alchemist who wants to surpass her famous mother, Rorolina Frixell. Unfortunately, she's stuck as a student in the town of Arklys, which is known for its ruins of Fellsgalaxen. In the first few hours, I got a sense of the JRPG. It's more of a family-friendly affair with a strong female protagonist.
Lulua is joined on the adventure by her childhood friend, Eva Armster. The two explore the areas around Akrlys, such as Morning Dew Forest. These zones are filled with materials that players use to synthesize potions, bombs and other items. They also happen to be filled enemies such as the slimelike Puni that Lulua must battle.
The combat will be familiar to JRPG veterans. Lulua and her party can perform physical and skill attacks in turn-based battles. I assume speed and other stats influence how often and quickly each player attacks. Defeating enemies will yield crafting materials.
That means players have two ways to obtain crafting items used in the synthesizing process. The crafting is the other major gameplay element of "Atelier Lulua." Materials she picks up have different quality ratings, and that has an impact on the strength of her products. Better items come from better ingredients. The fun comes in experimenting and trying to create new recipes.
In terms of narrative, the driving force of "Atelier Lulua" is a magic book. To most people, it appears blank but it contains recipes that only the protagonist can read. The mysterious tome helps her out of tough jams.
From what I played, this JRPG offers a good introduction to the series for the curious, but whether it has enough to attract a broader audience will be determined by how well the developers at Gust write a story around her.
"Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland" released late last month on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.