A great entry in a series that is already great.
Looking back at my Art Academy: SketchPad review, I don't regret a single word I said. The application proved valuable for creating art and giving Miiverse users a very strong toolkit. Nintendo is still holding competitions in the game's community and enthusiasts can doodle whatever their heart desires. What it lacked was guidance, which is what Art Academy is well known for. My time with New Art Academy and Pokemon Art Academy proved extremely fun, mostly due to the characters teaching me everything along the way. Now the franchise's feature length presentation has come to the Wii U and I gave it an extensive look. The results are absolutely staggering and the final product was well worth the wait.
The first thing that Art Academy: Atelier does well is creating an environment that is inviting. You are greeted by professional artist Vince once more, who will give you advice and help you in this journey. The key difference is everything around him feels more alive and not static as is the case somewhat with the previous entries. He steps forward in an adorable handcrafted style and there are little scenes that take place between the serious talk. They are still landscapes, but you do get an impression that you are going to Vince’s workshop.
Naturally, the thing that Vince is here to offer you are his lessons. There is a broad selection of topics covered and enough for the beginner and advanced painter to uncover. While 30 courses may not sound like a lot, each of these lessons took me roughly an hour to get through. Art Academy: Atelier takes it slow and you will really have to set aside time to truly appreciate it. You won't spend those 60 minutes just painting, because Vince also drops a ton of knowledge your way. From showcasing why certain steps are needed to giving examples of the artists that make these techniques shine. This doesn't feel like padding either, as it shares the excitement behind the current topic and what makes it special. If things do take too long, you can always save midterm and come back to it when the next chance arrives.
The driving force behind these lessons are the tools that you will be using. With SketchPad, you had the choice out of three distinct options: pencils, colored pencils and pastels. These tools allowed the player to make some sweet stuff. Atelier expands that horizon by including charcoal and paint, which creates new oppertunies for newcomers and SketchPads veterans alike. It is good to note that unfamiliar folk can go through a tutorial and learn everything about the various tools at hand. All of these work as well as you would expect and there is a sense of realism that makes it feel right. When you do quick strikes with the brush, the paint appears as thin lines all across the board. The fine details of this home console version makes it all possible, but there is more to it than just plain realism.
In art, expression is everything and that is also a key element here. With the powerful Free Paint options, you will be able to draw whatever you set your mind to. What makes the Wii U game stand out is that you can easily import images via the SD card slot, which is a nice thing to have. You will be able to display your inspiration on the television and look up from the Wii U GamePad to look what you should do next. If you aren’t that creative yet, the game does luckily offer its own set of images, but only a few really reign surpreme. There are five 360 degrees landscapes to explore, which use a rather Wii U Panorama View-esque control scheme. You can take a snap from anywhere in the environment and use that as your starting point. It is quite cool, but I do wish there were more landscapes to choose from.
After creating some fine art on your Wii U GamePad, you naturally want the world to see it. For starters, you can hang your art in a local 3D gallery, which you can walk around in and make changes as you see fit. This is a fun feature that returns from New Art Academy, but unlike that game, you can’t share your gallery over SpotPass. Neither can you create lessons for others to download and give them some brand new ideas in the process. That is my biggest disappointment with the game as that would have made it the ultimate version of this series. Of course, you can share your art by exporting it to a SD Card, but the highlight in this game are the social options. Miiverse allows you to tag your work and send it out to the world, while YouTube gives the power to upload time lapses of various lengths. You can even choose the music that people will hear in the background!
Talking about tunes, there is no music while drawing. This continues to be a slight complaint of mine with the series, though it is not a major issue by any stretch. The soundtrack is fantastic though, and it makes the tutorials seem more alive. As far as the visuals are concerned though, Art Academy: Atelier proves rock solid and it is quite a technically sound game. I was particularly fond of the gallery, because that 3D environment is so crisp and clear.
Art Academy: Atelier is a great entry in the franchise. With 30 new lessons and some pretty powerful tools, painters of all skill levels will have a good time. While the sharing functions really could have been expanded, the social features really make up for it and allow you to share the fun with the world. Add to that some great visuals and music, you have the best way to relax and unwind on the Wii U.