Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea Review – Full Metal (PS3)
I have to hand it to Gust, they really do try. That’s not meant as a negative thing either – in fact, it’s far from it. Throughout the past generation I feel like they’ve grown quite a bit – from the harsh beginnings with Atelier Rorona to the more refined style we see from them to day – Gust has managed to build upon their strengths with their yearly PlayStation 3 releases.
This year – or rather, last year if we’re looking at Japan – the company released Atelier Shallie, which has now come to English speaking thanks to the folks at Koei Tecmo. For those that follow the series, Shallie is the final chapter in the on-going Dusk volume of the series taking place six years after the end of the previous title Escha & Logy. While previous knowledge of the other games is helpful, Gust has ensured it’s not entirely necessary – instead providing a traditional RPG experience for both newcomers and old fans alike.
A Tale of Two Shallies
Atelier Shallie opens with little fanfare — opting instead to focus in on the daily lives of two very different girls who happen to have the same nickname. Shallistera is the first of the pair you’ll meet and is a princess out traveling to save her homeland. The other is Shallotte, the mossy green-haired girl who just wants to be famous some day. Both girls just happened to be skilled with alchemy, and after a brief introduction of both the game tasks you toward the beginning to choose one to follow through their adventure. Each path is decidedly different but both Shallies share a singular goal: to save the world from the impending doom of the Dusk and the death of living things. As a result the two will cross paths more than once but Gust has ensured the stories for both display their own differences and side characters to follow.
It’s a Whole New World
The world of Atelier Shallie has painted in its water color style a land of desolation. Without water, the seas have been laid bare to dry up and expose the landscapes beneath. Gust’s 3D world is a delight to explore and easy to get a handle on for anyone familiar with recent RPGs. The bulk of the game operates in a hub like system for its world map — allowing you to select various locations. Throughout the story Shallie is given particular goals, making sure you’ll never be at a loss of what to do next. You’re given a literal thought bubble called the Life Task system to look at with main quests populating the center of Shallie’s head with side panels leading to a wealth of activities that can strengthen different aspects of her character through gathering or other mini-games. Completing everything in the main quest section will advance the story.
Unlike other games in the Atelier series, Shallie has elected to forgo any time limit — instead allowing players to move around and complete tasks at their own pace. The aforementioned Life Task system instead substitutes the classic time system allowing for a a more relaxed style of play.
Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken
Battles are equally simple in Shallie, focusing on a traditional turn-based battle system with player and enemy characters taking turns attacking, pulling out defense moves and more. Shallie can initiate battles on the field by approaching a given enemy, striking them for a possible bonus. Eventually, further combat abilities will open up as you explore the game, allowing different skills to use and party advantages. It’s not the most unique of systems by any means, but it’s simplicity shouldn’t be taken likely. It’s still extremely easy to encounter a tough boss who’ll knock you off your feet.
The main draw from a gameplay perspective in Atelier Shallie, however, is its crafting. Crafting actually plays the biggest role in the game outside of battles. It’s here you’ll be spending a great deal of time creating items based on materials you’ve gathered all over the world. Using these items Shallie can synthesize different things and depending on the type of material you can potentially increase the quality of a given item. In a lot of games such a system can seem overwhelming but here you’re at least given a decent amount of direction before you’ve got to get to work. I would argue crafting is actually the main draw of the game given its intricacy so if sifting through menus is your thing you’ll be right at home.
Isn’t It Wonderful?
All of these things are wrapped up in a colorful style that really is quite pleasing. Gust has worked hard to ensure their art has come alive in the 3D space by using vibrant colors and cel-shading techniques. While it’s not the most technically advanced game out there it’s these little things that make it stand out above the rest. Shallie also sports a beautiful soundtrack, opting for a fanciful theme-driven score that accents the different characters and locations in the game. If there’s one thing Gust usually gets right, it’s the music.
Presentation aside, Atelier Shallie is a blast to play and proves that sometimes things don’t really need to change. Its traditional battle system and crafting systems are what it does well and Gust has worked to refine both throughout the life of the series. It certainly shows because Shallie may just be the best one yet. The story — while nothing ground breaking — is enjoyable for what it is and the cast of characters along with the choice of two different “Shallies” make for a decent amount of replay value just so you can experience the different perspectives.
Atelier Shallie is a game both fans of the series and traditional RPG fans can enjoy alike. As someone new to the series myself, I most certainly did so.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.