By David Fernandes / March 12th, 2014
Unlike past entries, playable characters, instead of having to be left behind and hired again if needed, are now in your party permanently. Whether in the reserves or not, they can be optionally switched in and out of your six-character team for battles, even out in the field. Also to the advantage to players is the ability to activate a “Field Event.” This is indicated by a meter that shows various benefits that can occur when at 100% or above. This meter is filled by doing some fighting, gathering or talking with party members. Benefits include getting every item on the field without the need to use up any time, fighting rare and tough monsters, area effects, or obtaining rare documents or relics. Speaking of time, every action, whether developing items and improving equipment, or performing the various aforementioned actions out in field, will gradually pass time, gauge or not, so time management and planning is also key to how it all comes together.
Gust knew this scared off players in previous games, so, starting with Ayesha, they decided to make the schedule a lot more lenient. This continued with Escha & Logy. You’re given a plentiful amount of time to complete tasks, and have free reign after a certain plot event, which allows you to basically do whatever you want to prepare, or just fool around. New fans and those who liked Ayesha’s approach will likely be satisfied, but veterans looking for a challenge, outside of a few bosses, may feel neglected. Having to constantly improve your items with higher-level materials on the field, synthesizing better materials and imbuing certain effects or properties on equipment can make the difference in sustainability with boss fights and traveling. So, there are quite a few things to do to pass the time, and not just side tasks, I assure you. Both combat and synthesizing have been given layers of depth and nuance that make for a potentially time-consuming, but still enjoyable experience.
Lastly, I want to point out something that I must get out of the way. The whole “Escha is for veterans of the Atelier series, Logy is for people who love RPG but are new to the series,” claim is not true. Both characters play exactly the same – the exact same! Narration-wise, the tone is also the same. Escha and Logy have different personalities, yes, but it’s nothing hugely substantial like that of Mana Khemia. The changes are superficial, so you’ll hardly notice a difference, besides both characters, at times, in their own perspective, show an inner monologue at the end of a cutscene. Both protagonists need to be played, and finished, to get every character ending since some are exclusive to each. This is also necessary to achieve the true ending. So, it does have a good dose of replay value, and, this time around, New Game + has a little more going for it, though restrictions on what you carry over are still present.
The acquisition of Gust from Tecmo Koei in 2011 shows the impact in this game when it comes to the graphic fidelity. For Escha & Logy, Gust utilized the current Koei Warrior titles’ engine, LTGL. To put it simply, character models have never looked so good. It’s a touch similar to that of Ayesha, but to a lesser extent for the aesthetics of the setting and the characters. They don’t have the same hand-drawn look in with a style of water coloring, which is a shame. The game lacks that sense of the atmosphere that benefited Ayesha so heavily. Areas feel constricted and dense, losing that feel of a living environment. However, while losing one thing, they gain another. Instead, Escha & Logy opts for a brighter glossy look that makes out such touches like the hair, the clothing and expressions on the faces in much greater detail.
The environments, while also losing a bit of the unique look of the previous game, have fewer rough textures abound–though it doesn’t exactly impress either. They are more adequate in terms of quality, and the aesthetics are more pleasing to the eyes. Hidari’s character designs continue to impress, with not only the quality of the CG still up to standard, but character designs for not only the main characters, but also the supporting cast, returning and new, getting the same amount of attention. They all, while being unique, fit with their own unique personalities and position, as well as giving off a sense of the changing times since Ayesha. The connection with Central City being the focus this time around, and the designs do a good job in themselves to show this.
The game’s musical score is a highlight in and of itself. To put it simply: it delivers on all levels. The game’s opening is impressive visually – almost as if animation company Shaft was involved, with its psychedelic slideshow and close up face shots. Musically, the accompanied track is the best opening of the series by far. Now, the soundtrack, I can say with confidence, is easily one of the best that Gust has composed. Coming right off of Ayesha, which itself had a memorable score, and being able to stand tall on its own merit or even surpass it, is quite an impressive feat. The Dusk series uses more mature and serious tones to fit with its new setting, tone and atmosphere. Each character has their own individual themes, and boss battles have tracks that are comparable to Falcom’s catchy and melodic tunes. Insert vocal tracks weren’t too shabby either, and they also made for some nifty boss music. I can only hope they continue to strive towards outdoing their previous work, as I can only see things going up.
The localization effort is fine, but, unfortunately, is not without its share of problems. Actill left a few errors in the process. For instance, a task in one of the later periods asks players to synthesize a bomb with the “Meteor” effect. After trying a few times to no avail, I thought it was a mistake on my part. Perhaps I was wrong in trying to get this effect some way through property, and not from gaining it through the “effects.” In the end, I found, through trial and error, that the actual issue wasn’t with me, but the description of the task. Instead of “Meteor,” it was actually “Falling Star.” Unfortunately, that’s just one example of a few inconsistencies and issues that I found.
Other issues include a few misspellings and grammar issues in the dialogue, even added lines like “Haha”, when the original voices never say this, making it a little awkward when using the Japanese voices. It seems like an odd choice when localizing, considering the characters have plenty of instances of saying that exact line without the need to add more of them. Some descriptions have the translated lines go outside the intended box, as if the editor forgot to properly size the text or lessen them to an extent. Thankfully, the game was given dual audio, so both dub and sub fans will be satisfied – everyone wins! Though for dub fans, like Ayesha, the game is sadly not 100% dubbed, so be advised.
Escha & Logy does more than just simply go out and try to improve on Ayesha’s faults and spicing up what worked. More than that, they added multiple layers in a combination of good new ideas, and blended them together to make a highly replayable and entertaining entry. I can personally say it pushes the Dusk series forward with great gusto. It’s more than just a great sequel – it’s not only one of the best entries in the franchise, it’s one of Gust’s best developed games, period.
It took me about 40 hours to complete the game, and I still have plenty to do as both characters. They truly have outdone themselves in all fields, and I honestly can’t wait to see what’s in store next for the third installment. It’s hard to say if this game, while easier and having a more streamlined time management system, will change the minds of anyone who played the Arland trilogy, and couldn’t get past it. As for being turned off by the idea of being pressured to plan and utilize your time wisely; this isn’t new, but understandable – it’s not for everyone. But, for those willing to take a shot at the series, or even give it another chance, if there is any suitable entry point – this is the one for sure.
Review copy supplied by publisher.
Pages: 1 2Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk SkyGustTecmo Koei