Against the Elements
There are also objects littered throughout the world that can be smashed with Klein’s cane and be extracted for mana, which can then be used towards alchemic items (found in ornate treasure chests) that only Klein can create and use. There are 14 kinds of mana that can be extracted which are mixed by (stay with me) mana elementals. Not only can these elementals be equipped to up your stats but they also have their own unique stats for mixing mana. For example, in order for an item to be created, it requires three wood mana and four water mana. The forest elemental can work with both wood and water, though with water he works at a rate of 1.5. So to make the item, it would cost three wood mana and six water mana. So it's up to the player to decide: make the item now, or wait until you a mana elemental that works better with water. It may not seem like a hard decision but consider that I found time mana in only one place in the world (the other times I found it, I think it was when I let Klein deal the last strike to a monster, who automatically extracts whatever mana their carcass may have), you become careful with your mana.
And this isn't like other item-creation RPGs where some things are too powerful and a bunch are too weak to bother with; you can only carry nine of each item and since you don't even get things like revives or cures until later into the game, you value whatever you can get, of both regular items and alchemized items. Lacking major heal items does keep you on your toes, especially since you're often outnumbered. And when you get sucked into a battle where all the enemies have higher speed and get to attack before you can make a move - whoa, nelly. It's always smart to try to beef up at least one character's speed and have her in the lineup so she can get the jump on everybody else.)
The battle system is as basic as modern RPGs are allowed to get: you have three characters and, as mentioned, turns are taken based on whoever has the highest speed stat. Because often there are so many enemies on-screen, one goal is to inflict as much damage on as many as possible. The bow and arrow guy can hit enemies that are lined up straight, while the claw chick can hit people who are clumped together. Characters can be swapped during battle so you can customize your team to whatever foes you're fighting and a 10% experience point bonus is given to however kills the last enemy. Characters that weren't in the lineup get half experience points (I'm glad Atelier Iris gets this right; not much lamer than when characters that weren't in battle get either the full amount or none at all).
Fun Springs Eternal
You just kind of have to sit back and admire how much mileage Atelier Iris gets out of its modest item-collecting system, while slowly complicating itself with a bunch of other ideas all the while – small flashes of brilliance, each implemented perfectly (except for a weapon strengthening system, which is cumbersome, half-assed, and isn’t very important anyways).
Not to carbon date this review too badly, but as of publication, there is no major FAQ or walkthrough to tempt you and there's no strategy guide planned, except for a 16-page mini-guide. This is your best window of opportunity! The game's a trip, and it’s one best taken without a map. No game out right now benefits more from not knowing a single thing about..