While people often talk about the usual annual franchises such as Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed, they never talk about the Atelier series. It’s true: since 2010, Gust has been putting these games out consistently every year. This series may not be well known but it has a strong and loyal following who can’t get enough of it.
Fans of this series are no doubt happy that this year they’ve gotten two games. Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky was released a few months back (check out my review) and now we see the release of Atelier Rorona Plus: Alchemists of Arland. Unlike Escha & Logy, which was a brand new entry in the series, Rorona is actually a remake (as if the Plus didn’t give that away). Unlike a lot of other remakes, which tend to just receive a new coat of paint, this one has been almost entirely overhauled.
I admittedly never played the original game so I had to do a little researching before I dove into this baby. I found out that all of the game’s characters were completely redone. The original in-game characters had a more “chibi” style to them and didn’t exactly resemble the ones seen in the still shots. Now, however, the in-game characters and the hand drawn interpretations match which makes everything nice and visually consistent.
The menu system was simplified as well. The original had a clunkier interface, which you had to really work with before you could finally understand it. There are a ton of in-depth guides within the game that show you how the various mechanics work. When these mechanics are first presented they’re given tutorials that walk you through the steps of alchemizing and battles. As a relative newcomer to this series, I found all of this extremely useful.
Having played Escha & Logy prepared me for this game. Although this is a JRPG in the truest sense, it is not typical. The focus of this game is on alchemy and creating items rather than on combat. Even the story itself is unlike most other RPGs, since you’re not the chosen one and you’re not trying to save the world. Interacting with the townsfolk, saving your business and overcoming your own insecurities is what the story of this game is all about.
The characters in the game are all unique and endearing in their own way. Talking to all of them and finding out more about their backstories was something that I found to be enjoyable. Doing various tasks for the townsfolk is not only useful to building your reputation but, more importantly, helps you feel as if this fictional place is real.
My favorite character in the game was Rorona herself. Despite having everyone take advantage of her generosity and naivete, she remained the same pure and innocent girl. Although her core self remained unchanged, she does gradually become more confident in herself and her determination to never give up helps her through situations that her allies wouldn’t have thought she could overcome.
The game is broken up into several chapters and your goal in each of them is to create items through alchemy and hand them in before the time expires. While I eventually found a good balance between handling my main assignment, doing side quests and leveling up, I have to admit that having a time limit constantly looming over my head like the Damocles Sword bothered me.
I’m not exactly sure why these games have this sort of time limit since it kind of kills the exploration aspect (a must for RPGs in my opinion). However, I will admit that this fixed time kept things moving at a relatively brisk pace. I could have easily spent hours in the field gathering items and leveling up if left to my own devices, so a time limit made me keep my eyes on the prize.
Creating items such as medicine, weapons, equipment and other things is at the heart of this game and it works quite well for the most part. I read that this process was a bit more complicated in the original game but I didn’t have too much of a problem figuring things out here. The only problem I had was that sometimes you could mess up alchemizing and end up losing valuable resources. Also, creating items with specific properties was sometimes hard to do if you didn’t find the specific item in the world.
Out in the field will be monsters to fight, but combat itself is pretty rudimentary. The turn based battles aren’t much different than those found in other RPGs. To be honest, the battles were kind of boring. Some of the flashier special attacks were nice and being able to call in allies to aid you with follow up attacks after you did one was cool, but for the most part things were pretty bland. While this would be a big detriment in any other RPG, here it wasn’t since combat isn’t what the Atelier series is about.
While the graphics did receive an upgrade from the original, this game is still graphically pretty simple. There’s nothing wrong with that of course but it didn’t look as visually impressive as Escha & Logy. I won’t really hold this against it though as it now matches its sequels in terms of visuals. The hand drawn pictures on the other hand were great looking and I liked how much detail was put into them. I also liked seeing all of the various versions of the artwork.
On the musical front this game really shines. I admit that I’m a sucker for Japanese RPG soundtracks so I really enjoyed the music a lot. One cool thing is that you can actually play music from previous Atelier games, including Escha & Logy. This was definitely a nice addition for fans of the series.
From what I’ve found out and what I’ve played, I think that it’s worth it for fans of the original Atelier Rorona to pick this title up. The various additions and updates make it almost like a new entry in the series. The game is also available for the PlayStation Vita so if you wish to play it on that platform you can. This game is also a nice starting point for those who are new to the series as well, which is good considering that this is the first part of the Arland trilogy.
Not every JRPG needs to be about great heroes accomplishing great deeds. Atelier Rorona shows that a smaller and more simple story can be just as engaging as a grand one. Although this series may not be for everyone and can get boring at times, it is worthy of being out there and certainly deserves the fans that it has gained.
Note: The score given to this game is based on my review and doesn’t reflect on the score Chad Awkerman gave it when he reviewed the original.