@redswir1 Now, keep in mind that I can’t definitively speak to the modern Atelier games specifically, you might notice this is the one prior to the most recent one, so this is my reconnecting to this series. Now that the 3 stories of Ar Tonelico (one for each tower above the earth) are done it’s unlikely there will be any more ever. However, as any specialist I’m fairly well versed in much of the topic regardless, it just might not be comprehensive.
To start with GUST makes probably the best crafting systems in all JRPGS, it’s a thing they really love and that love shows in the deep roots the crafting tends to put down in each of their games, the Mana Khemia games are literally “You are a student at a school for alchemy (harry potter style), pass your classes while normal JRPG plots are applying” and a large part of those classes are altering qualities of alchemy results, using certain alchemicial ingredients at certain qualities to amplify future item’s qualities or apply certain effects to items. With proper alchemical inheritance you can set effects like ‘attack up’ or on your small all heal items, with improper inheritance you might have a megaelixer that applies blind and -1 level to each stat.
Further, In every game of theirs I’ve played so far, every single craft is accompanied by an interaction scene between the characters involved, if you make a person a new sword you get the scene of you showing it to them and their reaction which is often hilarious, (how much would you pay for the dialogue exchange of Cid’s reaction to Cloud handing him a mop to fight with?) if it’s a new piece of armor people will say it looks heavy, or silly they might comment on “hey, this thing is titanium, how did you make this with a bad hammer in a tent? WTF are you doing adding feathers? What’s the deal with the cat ears?” or “This is a component to a Reyvatail’s spinal column, you’re starting to worry me.” In fact, in the Ar Tonelico games there’s a scene for each girl depending on whose dive points you’re using to fuel the craft, and each of them will suggest a different name for the item. The scenes are often hilarious, occasionally fourth wall breaking, and always interesting
I guess the point of all that is that GUST tends to make their games extremely EXTREMELY character dense, consider Ar Toneilco again, each Reyvatail has scenes and names for every craft, 9 levels of ‘dating-sim sub-worlds that are hosted in their subconcious and populated by characters that you’re familiar with, but act as the Reyvatail believes they think, which puts interesting shades in there occasionally, then from that there’s 3 Reyvatails per game so that giant pile of content that’s separate and parallel to the full multi-act game story? triple it. So, if you ask an otaku about that, say “hey, the parts you love, seeing these characters interact with each other constantly in somewhat normal circumstances, we’re going to give you tons of that. It’s not too hard to see why they’d be eager to sign up for that.
Think of it like your favorite comic book, would you read a comic about Dr Strange, Bruce Banner and Captain America go to the bar and shoot the shit? Did you like seeing Tony Stark and Dr Reed talk tech shop at one or another disaster? Lets say that one of those fairly bland marvel legends games had say, 300 pages of various casual and not so casual interactions between the best of the marvel universe. Can you see how that would appeal? Well it’s exactly the same thing only a different theme. We just tend to love a different (often much grittier) paradigm. I notice that the Ultimates has been pretty successful. Other places in the world might venerate innocence, optimism and things like that, or at very least, be more willing to let it stand it’s simply a matter of what’s culturally palatable. I believe part of the idea behind morning musume was “These girls will be there with your morning coffee to cheer you through your day” something that was probably a welcome relief for people who clock 10+ hour days as “just a normal shift”
and hey, frankly, the whole moe business isn’t some sort of hivemind over in japan either, plenty of people there think the whole moe type of trope is tired/creepy/bizzare/unfathomable or what have you. The thing is though that the moe line is very tied into love, and you don’t get any stronger a mental impetus then love. Consider that there’s three things that humans will regularly override their survival instinct for, something that should be unheard of in an organism. Love, Patriotism, and Religion, and honestly, the last two could easily be considered derivatives of the first. Surely with that as a base, getting a dude to take a body pillow with a character bedsheet out to dinner isn’t impossible, and that’s the people who invest the largest amount of emotions into the character, the most extreme of the bunch. For your more middle of the road otaku (such as myself) you just end up with a very compelling experience that can move you regardless of the often ridiculous overstories of the set. It’s tied up a lot in empathy I think, it’s not so much as someone wants to star as a twelve year old girl or a fresh faced lad off the farm (who narrowly avoided the burning of his village, natch) It’s more that they find what they imagine to be the emotions those characters feel a sort of ‘pure drinking water’ remembering a time where they themselves might have loved unconditionally and get in touch with a feeling they might not believe exists in the normal world.
In a way it might be exploitative to some extent, remain alone long enough, and that sort of pitch is a really strong hook to get someone to be irrationally attached to a game, character, or setting. It’s a question of making something with extremely powerful intensity for a select few rather then a tolerable thing that can gain lukewarm favor over a larger population. Due to the absolutely insane game prices and population densities in japan, that’s been a totally viable business model over there, I suspect this is also why someone can afford to produce amazingly specific brands of porn (spider girls!) and find a small but dedicated consumer base to turn a profit over there. The internet might be considered a much more wide reaching example of the same thing, the internet has no problem reaching
To be honest I don’t think japan should shy away from their particular cultural spin on things, better a unique honest flavor grown from home then aping someone else’s cultural outlook. I really can’t support the idea that Japan shouldn shy away from its own unique cultural flavor in order to better imitate the US for higher market share. Besides, like anyone trying to imitate a culture from afar…. it’s just not going to be genuine.
So, we have mental hooks baited with a very dense sort of love applied to a set of amazingly lonely nerds…. aaaaand I’ve totally gone off on a completely unrelated tangent.
Well, in short then, GUST tends to do the following things, Amazingly dense amounts of character interactions, most robust crafting in the industry, combat mechanics that keep you engaged in every fight, usually by tying drops to a level of performance, often tied to timed button presses (depends on the game, think of a defensive version of Legend of the Dragoon) Extremely strange and interesting worlds (Ar tonelico is about part human part robot girls who sing digital code on carrier waves built from emotional intensity to towers who hold the last shattered remnents of the earth’s crust over the exposed core of the planet ruined by the same supertechnology, you generate new code (songs) by entering their subconscious ‘server’ and interact via dream logic to solve psychological problems and traumas. If you can connect with something like that enough times most one sentence game premises seem somewhat bland and flat.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the thing for everyone, the character interactions are anime and often moe interactions, there’s guys being Tenchi Muyo level thick, there’s girls being irrationally adorable, reacting like no human ever would, there’s scenes that are obviously male-wish fufillment. It just comes with the territory, but if you can pass that sort of thing, or like what it offers enough it’s a type of game designed not in the vein of “The Least Objectionable Experience to The Largest Number of People” but “The Strongest Possible Targeted Appeal to You People Who Feel Lonely, Marginalized, Shunned.” It’s sort of them saying “Hey, WE love you” (or more likely SHE loves you) or in the case of non-dating games “There’s emotional connections here”
It’s totally false of course
However I can understand WHY even a story of a false love well crafted is better then no love at all.
PS: this kinda went super far afield into the question of “WHY DATING SIMS 8|” but what can you do =P my poor derailed trains of thoughts… maybe you can extract some useful information from there
Edit: Also, I’d like to note that I can only really speak from this side of the Atlantic, @unmanneddrone probably has more/better demographic data. certainly being able to hit the Lonely Boy nitch + legitimately interested lasses can’t be bad for sales. Also, high five for near simultaneous posting o/\o
TL:DR, Come for the theme, stay for the Crafting, character interactions, combat and the feeling that they made a game just for you and only you