To start, your party consists of her young lifelong nanny and the reluctant younger brother of the King’s butler/chief advisor. They serve as a healer and warrior respectively. A new time card system allows for a little more strategy and quick assists to balance out the effectiveness of your team. Each character is limited to the choice of attacking, using a skill, guarding or fleeing from the battle area. Prior to the battle, enemies roam around the areas and can be preemptively swatted to start the battle with the upper hand.
The real improvement to the game borrows a bit from the Level 5 classic, Dark Cloud. Because Princess Meruru has the dual responsibility of improving the kingdom, many of the quests she fulfills will alter the map. In addition to unlocking new areas, her efforts improve and provide needed infrastructure to Arls. Early adventures result in the addition of basics like a weapon shop. To travel around all of these areas Atelier Meruru offers a quick travel system that allows the princess to instantly teleport almost anywhere and saving from the world map view.
Even with all of these improvements, Atelier Meruru is not for everyone. The mostly subtle sexualization of young teens will turn many off and though never overt, the fixed camera and occasional pans are strategic. The art direction and previously pastel heavy palette has been brightened and adjusted to give a more typical fantasy feel. There are also more and better animations but a good chunk of the story is still told through static panels, most without voicing, available in English or the original Japanese. On the subject of sound, the saccharine music is still just as likely to annoy gamers or those in the room while you’re playing.
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