By Phil Schipper / February 17th, 2016
|Title||Atelier Escha & Logy Plus|
|Release Date||January 19, 2016|
|Age Rating||E10+ (ESRB), 12 (PEGI)|
It’s been almost a year since the original Atelier Escha & Logy came out on the PS3. Our review of it was handled by David Fernandes, a clear veteran of the series. Let me note here that, for Atelier Escha & Logy Plus, the Vita version full of new content, I’m offering the opposite perspective: I’m totally new to this, guys. Knowing that, let’s jump in.
When you start the game, the first thing you do is to choose between the two titular characters, Escha and Logy, as your point of view. While I wouldn’t say that it doesn’t matter at all, each character really just gets a short introduction before meeting up with the other, as the two become part of the local Research and Development team. It’s a serious job: every four months, they receive a new set of assignments, exploring the world and eventually preparing to discover the mysterious Unexplored Ruins nearby.
Thus, you have 120 in-game days to accomplish some main objective, keeping several side missions in mind. Once you do all of those, your mission board will expand with a lot more potential side quests, which range from finding or crafting new items to trying out certain game features to defeating deadly optional monsters. 120 days may sound like a long time, but it can take several days just to travel across the world map or create a single item. Despite that, you’ll usually have plenty of time to complete the whole mission board, and some completely optional requests besides.
The Atelier series as I understand it is all about items, and Atelier Escha & Logy Plus is no exception. Once you’ve scoured the world for the right materials and recipe books, it’s time to get into one of the deepest and most intuitive crafting systems I’ve ever seen. There is a small learning curve if you, like myself, haven’t played one of these games, but soon you’ll be armed with the knowledge to carefully consider your materials, fire off crafting skills in the optimum order, and choose the right properties to fit your final item. I didn’t think crafting an item could be intrinsically fun, but this game proved me wrong.
Not that it would make sense to put in the effort if you didn’t need the items for combat. Only Escha and Logy themselves can use the items, but they’re replenished every time you go back to town, so sometimes it’s worth just using a bomb to get through that random battle. Up to six party members can be in battle at once, with three in the front row and the other three ready to swap in at any time, so it gets pretty crazy at times. All six members are able to use the Support Gauge for extra attacks and guards at any time, and the back row gets HP and MP regeneration, so there’s plenty of reason to consider who to put where.
Other than the main character you picked, you can swap the other five slots among the eleven characters total in this game. That’s way up from the original PS3 edition, since all the DLC characters from that game are included already, and there’s even a new party member in Nio, who you might already know if you’re a series fan. All these new party members start flooding into your group very quickly at an early point in the game, and unfortunately, some of them are noticeably missing from important cut scenes since they weren’t around originally. That said, their stories are pretty compelling, if you take the time to watch the side scenes.
Speaking of story, there’s one very interesting addition to Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: short, cute little scenes where the two main characters bond. Some of these are part of the main plot and some appear seemingly at random, but during them, you’ll usually have a dialogue choice, where one suggests a friendship and the other leads the protagonists towards a budding romance. Both are marked clearly, so you won’t have to guess. When I found out that all this was new to the Plus edition, I was pretty shocked-it seemed so important to see their relationship that I can’t really imagine going to the PS3 version and not having the scenes there.
Besides characters, there are a few other cool extras that started as DLC and are now included in Plus. A lot of these are alternate costumes and accessories for certain characters, allowing me to give Logy the too-cool-for-you look a serious guy like him needs. On top of that, if you didn’t absolutely love the already-amazing soundtrack for this game (which would be a crime if you ask me), you can replace the music with a selection of literally hundreds of tracks from four of the past Atelier games. You can even select multiple tracks for each situation, including the original ones, in order to have the game choose randomly.
Though it’s not included in the default game to save space, the Japanese voice pack for the game is free DLC, and I consider it a must-download. I don’t dislike the English voices-they’re fine but they don’t cover everything, while the Japanese voices can be heard at every little juncture, every step of the way. That said, if it sounds annoying to have Escha comment on every single step during crafting, then there’s nothing wrong with sticking to English. I won’t judge you!
Visually, it’s a work of art on the Vita. I haven’t been able to make a screen-to-screen comparison with the PS3 or anything, but I really don’t think anything has been lost. Everything in the game looks good all the time, even when ludicrously zoomed in, which is more than I can expect from most games even now. The characters’ bright and happy faces, monsters big and small, the environments-everything here is obviously crafted with love, and I appreciate that a lot.
As I had said before, there’s not a massive difference between the two characters, as they experience the main story together. However, many scenes involve only your main character talking to someone else, and at times you’ll get your character’s inner thoughts. The scenes between the two are also noticeably different, giving you a choice for the character you’re playing as. There are one or two endings that are different or even exclusive to each character, and the true ending requires beating it as both, adding huge replay value. Plus, once you’re on the second playthrough, the self-imposed goal of getting things done more efficiently than before means you’ll actually have a new challenge on the New Game Plus. I could hardly tear myself away from the second playthrough to write this!
And really, that pretty much sums up my whole experience with this game. It wasn’t just the 50 hours of enjoyment to play it once. I’ve been reviewing games for three years now, and that causes me to come to every game I play with a critical eye, especially ones I’m about to review. But for the first time in, well, a really long time, a game has actually caused me to forget I have to review it, and just enjoy playing, for hours at a time. If you’re like me and didn’t know if you would really like the Atelier series as much as others do, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus is an amazing game to jump right in. And, even if you feel like you exhausted the original version, there’s definitely enough new stuff here that you’ll want to come back. I can’t recommend it enough.
All this and the ability to take it on the go with your Vita is just $39.99 USD.
Review copy supplied by the publisher.