By Steve Baltimore / July 3rd, 2014
|Title||Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland|
|Release Date||June 24, 2014|
|Platform||PlayStation 3, Vita|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
I played the original release of Atelier Rorona not long after it launched back in 2010. I thought at the time it was a decent title, but it had a few issues that held it back. This is mostly because I thought the interface was a bit clunky. When I heard Atelier Rorona Plus was being localized, I was very curious to see if it would be better this time around. Let’s find out if it was.
The story revolves around a young alchemist named, yep, you guessed it, Rorona. She has been in training for years under her master, Astrid. However, Astrid doesn’t really do much of the work; she instead pawns it off on her young apprentice. It was decided that her workshop would be closed down, but, instead of just closing it right away, the king decided to give them a chance to prove themselves by performing certain assignments over the next three years. In the face of this, Astrid gives the workshop to Rorona, and she must now do her best to show the king what she can accomplish.
That is the basic story of the game, but there is really a whole lot more to flesh it out. Depending on which companions you keep, and several other factors, the story will change slightly. There is a ton of events to view and over twenty different endings to unlock. So, the basic story may seem a bit light, but, trust me, there is plenty here for you to discover.
Before we dig into the gameplay, let’s talk about the graphics and sound a bit. Graphically, this is so much improved over the original I don’t even know where to begin. It looks simply wonderful. In fact, rather than me trying to describe all that, some pictures are worth a thousand words.
The music in the game is great, as you would expect from a GUST title, but the really cool thing here is they let you customize that soundtrack any way you would wish right from the start. You can customize all of the battle themes, shop themes and many others. You can change pretty much any piece of music in the game. There are tons of tracks to choose from, and they include tracks from previous Atelier games, even the ones not released here; Atelier Iris series, the Mana Khemia series and more. I really loved this. If you thought the battle theme was too laid back, no problem. Go pick out one of the hard rocking guitar-filled themes. Want something softer? There are some of those available, as well. There is a ton of voiced dialogue to be found here, and, yes, the game is dual audio if you prefer the Japanese voices.
The basics of gameplay are pretty simple. As I mentioned before, the king gave you a chance for the workshop to prove itself. This is done through assignments, and these tasks can vary from gathering a certain kind of item to making a several different items and so forth. You will be given somewhere between 70 to 90 days to complete each assignment, and you will need to pay attention to the grade and traits of items you turn in for these assignments. We’ll talk more on this a bit later on. It may seem like this game is always working under a strict time limit, but I can assure this is not nearly as bad as it seems. Most of these tasks can be completed within a few days, giving you the rest of the time to build up characters or do other side jobs.
So, now that we have our main assignment, you will likely want to check out the castle front desk. From here, you can take on various tasks from the people around town. These will include tasks such as monster hunts, making a certain item or gathering materials. It’s important to take on some of these tasks for several reasons. It will give you some cash to work with, it helps build your friendship with your allies and it will help you complete some of the optional tasks in each chapter. Players of the original game may be asking themselves, “What optional tasks?” This is something new to this version, and will help you out quite a bit.
As you complete the optional tasks, you will earn a stamp that is then placed on something like a bingo card. As you fill out lines on this card, you will gain some very helpful items, stat bonuses and more. As these tasks are completed, you will earn vouchers that can be turned in at the castle front desk for some nice items.
Before heading out into the world to start working on our tasks, there are a few things we should check out. First off, you should check out all the different shops in town. They sell a variety of helpful items and ingredients to get you started. You can very easily move around town now by pressing the R1 button and selecting where you want to go. This is much better than having to walk to each location time and time again as you did in the original. Also, if there is an event that will take place in a certain area, there will be a small icon beside it on the menu. This keeps you from having to check every place all the time to see if there is an event there.
After checking out all the different shops, you should form a party before venturing out. There are several characters you can choose to hire to help Rorona. Some of them you will have to pay a small fee to help you out, while others will help you out as a friend. You can have up to two allies in a party at a time, and you can trade these out at any point you wish. Players of the original will notice you can hire characters you couldn’t the first time around.
It will take time to travel to each different location on the world map. As you explore each location, it will take additional time to move to each different area. You will need to keep track of this in case your assignment or a quest deadline is approaching. Though, one of the new features here is around the date display in the top-left corner that will show an icon for each active quest you have. If the deadline is close the icon will turn red. You will want to explore as much of each location as possible since this will raise your adventurer level and unlock new places for you to explore.
As you explore each location, you will notice the monsters will appear on screen. You can attack them with your staff to gain the upper hand or simply avoid them. The choice is yours, but I do suggest getting in some combat whenever possible because the monsters in the later part of the game can be quite vicious. You will also notice a little bubble over certain areas in the field. These are gathering points, and, from here, you will gather Alchemy materials. As you gather items, they will have a grade in the top right-corner and a list of traits. You may also obtain some items as battle spoils — these will be displayed in the same manner. This will be important later on when we talk about synthesizing items.
Anyone that has ever played a game in Atelier series will feel right at home with the combat. This works basically the same way it did in the rest of the Arland trilogy. Everything is turn-based, and you have basic Fight, Skill and Run commands, but only your alchemist can use items. Your alchemist is in the the middle, and the two allies on either side can block for her or perform a follow-up attack. Now, you will need to build an assist gauge do to this. This gauge appears right beside Rorona’s health bar, and fills as party members take action, so it builds pretty quickly. If you have more gauge stored, you can have your allies do multiple follow-up attacks, which lead to special attacks that can do some massive damage. Note: you can only perform a follow-up attack if Rorona either uses an attack item or casts attack magic, but not after a standard attack.
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