Atelier Shallie: Alchemists releases in Japan next week, continuing the unbroken chain of annual releases that goes all the way back to 2001. Geez, eat your heart out Call of Duty!

My mind is still boggled about how Gust can turn these games out every year and still have the loyal fans gawk with glee, but then I remembered that Koei Tecmo is the publisher. This is the same company which has Dynasty Warriors and Samurai Warriors enthusiasts lining up to buy the latest game in those series year in and year out as well. Gust must have picked up a few pointers along the way.

Still, Atelier is no cheap action game. It is a full blown JRPG with deep mechanics, characters, and plotlines. If not just to experience all that, Atelier Shallie: Alchemists could be the first time I jump in to the series just to see how they do it. How does a single small company churn out an HD JRPG every year when Square Enix struggles to get one out every decade?

Recycled character models and battle animations? Recycled programming and ideas? What is it?

That aside, the game has a nice soft aesthetic, charming music and great character design, especially the two female leads. There might be a decent game buried in here somewhere, so I'll finally have to check it out once the inevitable niche American release happens.