Although I’m pretty confident in my knowledge to speak up about most series in the JRPG genre, I am still letting what has emerged as one of the most frequently releasing franchises go unplayed. Gust has developed one new Atelier game each year for the last decade, and that rate will see it pass the main Final Fantasy series after just four more years.

How can a small team like Gust make a full HD style JRPG, one of the largest and clunkiest style of games on the Earth, in such a short time frame? It’s a secret to everybody, and Gust just keeps getting better and better at it too.

This once simple looking series, back when it was sporting traditional sprites on the PlayStation 2, has been improving its graphical output remarkably with each passing game. Atelier Shallie: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea, the latest in this series seen in the screenshots, is home to the best graphics the series has seen yet, and I’m even starting to dig the character design too.

Japanese anime is fine and all when looking for a style to define your series, but an aesthetic can’t survive on cutesy looks alone. There has to be an extra draw like exceptional use of color or elaborate costume design. This latest game scores in both categories, especially with this green haired cat girl or her long dark haired companion. I’d be more tempted to jump into a game starring them than I would with another generic looking Tales game.

The old-fashioned gameplay doesn’t look too far removed from a normal JRPG, but as most fans of the genre know, the line fighting is only the face of the deeper mechanics which act behind the scenes and truly define the game’s value.

Will this Atelier Shallie: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea be the one which finally tempts to join along with the Atelier series? If I want to be able to comment on the JRPG genre, it’s becoming simply too big and too popular to turn the other cheek to, so it very might well be.

More than just a passing interest in  a blossoming series, Atelier represents a viable future for the JRPG genre, one where big quality games take only a year to make. They don’t come with the most or best new ideas, but there is enough here to teach the big boys how to clamp down on development time.

Square Enix can definitely take a few tips from Gust if it wants to effectively make games in a timely manner and still have them resonate with the fan base. One year is enough to make this cheap series like Atelier, but it’s hardly enough time to dedicate to making a full-blown Final Fantasy game. Now that Final Fantasy XIV and the Final Fantasy XIII sequels have halved HD development time to about two years, who’s to say that Gust can’t help Square Enix get that figure even lower?

Atelier Shallie: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea also has the advantage of remaining on the PlayStation 3, something Square Enix is not willing to do with Final Fantasy if it wants its popular series to regain its front-runner status of the JRPG world. It is scheduled to be released this July in Japan, meaning that it will be available next March stateside if we are following the pattern established by the last few games.