Gust's Atelier series offers plenty of lighthearted fun so let's see whether Totori or Meruru has the more worthwhile adventure.
Atelier Totori stars the ambitious titular heroine who goes on an adventure in search of her missing mother. Beginning in the humble town of Alanya Village and ending up in the capital of Arland and beyond, Totori eventually befriends Rorona who teaches her alchemy. After that, her skills allow her to become more self-sufficient but will she ever find her mother? Meanwhile, Atelier Meruru has you play as the charming princess of Arls who doesn't care much about being stuck in her castle yet she desires to help her kingdom prosper after discovering the power of alchemy. She meets both Totori and Rorona who gladly assist in her endeavours. Although both tales are definitely simple and engaging, I found Atelier Totori to be much more compelling so it wins here.
Both Totori and Meruru are fantastic heroines so it's hard for me to pick a winner based on them alone. However, you do meet plenty of other chums in both games. In Atelier Totori, you'll meet Totori's sister Cecilia who is reluctantly supportive yet protective of Totori, her optimistic friend Gino, and the impressively strong Melvia. You'll also become reacquainted with a few familiar characters like Sterk and Cordelia. Atelier Meruru features the princess' kindly confidante Keina, her unlucky pal Lias, and returning characters Mimi, Esty (who gave up being a receptionist to become an adventurer), and Gino. However, its best returning character is Rorona who is now a little girl after she drank a potion of youth. This is a tough one but I think Atelier Meruru wins due to its larger cast of stand-out personalities.
Of course, Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru feature very similar gameplay. There's a turn-based battle system, plenty of main and optional quests, rewarding alchemy, and lots of fun locations to explore. That being said, I found everything in Atelier Meruru to become much more interesting early on while Atelier Totori definitely took its time to ramp up. More specifically, you get a full party much earlier, have lively and somewhat large areas to explore almost right off the bat, and can do much more within its game world before you'd expect. Even some of the later areas in Atelier Totori are rather generic and small in comparison. Plus, I found Atelier Meruru's battle system to be more rewarding, especially when you throw a bomb then have allies perform follow-up attacks only for Meruru to throw another one and inflict a ton of damage. Without a doubt, Atelier Meruru wins this category although Atelier Totori is definitely a ton of fun.
An important aspect of any Atelier game is its progression systems. Again, Atelier Totori and Atelier Meruru are fairly similar. In Atelier Totori, you basically journey across the node-based world map while completing optional quests as well as filling out your adventurer's license by completing in-game achievements. Doing so to earn points and eventually increase your rank is pretty fun and the campaign is surprisingly open-ended, too. Atelier Meruru may be similar yet completing optional quests increases her popularity and reading the frequently updated gossip column about her to see what the townspeople are saying is both funny and rewarding. My favourite aspect is that completing the main goals earns her points that she can use to actually build her kingdom. Watching it slowly develop and provide helpful boosts is incredibly satisfying stuff. Even though I'd like it to be a closer call, Atelier Meruru clearly wins here, too.
Some of these Versus pieces are harder than others but this one is definitely on the easy side. The winner is clearly...
Winner Atelier Meruru
Although I thoroughly enjoy Atelier Totori and it makes for a worthwhile game for any fan of the series, Atelier Meruru's fantastic cast of familiar and fresh faces, impressively rewarding progression system, and more immediately gratifying gameplay make it one of the best games in the series. That being said, you really can't go wrong with either game if you enjoy laidback RPGs.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!