The Atelier series has been around since 1997 in Japan and 2004 in North America, spanning 13 games. The latest game now out in North America, Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland is the first to bring alchemy into HD for the PlayStation 3. With the jump up to HD graphics and an emphasis on item synthesis; does Atelier Rorona mix the ingredients just right or did this potion end up being fatal?
In the game players will take on the role of Rorolina Frixell; or Rorona for short as she is known by everyone in the game. Rorona is an apprentice to the town’s alchemist, Astrid. Things change however as one day Sterkenburg, a knight of Arland, shows up to tell the Alchemy shop that it will need to close its doors unless it cane complete 12 tasks for the King. If that isn’t bad enough, Astrid drops the mess on Rorona’s lap and it is now up to her to save the shop and win over the townspeople.
As with most NIS America titles, the story and characters in the game are all very unique and the game has a very off the wall humor. Rorona and the rest of the cast of characters are all given a strong personality. The story is not the most original and at times is a footnote behind the alchemy. Voice acting is found through parts of the campaign and while most characters are well done a few tend to get on your nerves. Most of the story however is told through 3D characters popping out on top of a backdrop.
The big draw of this title is, of course, Alchemy – as you might have guessed by the first few paragraphs. Players have the 12 main missions they are handed once every 3 months along with quests from friends and townspeople. These quests will have you collecting ingredients and using synthesis to make something. If you don’t feel like making it though, you can always just buy most of the ingredients. Do pay attention though when you accept a quest as everything in the game is timed. Players will have to pay very close attention to not only the time required of something but also the materials needed. With all this time watching it is a very good thing that none of the quests feel impossible and it is usually very easy to complete most everything.
If you don’t have the money to buy materials to complete quests, then its time to go outside of the towns gates and explore some dungeons. Don’t worry about going alone as you can hire ‘friends’ to come along with you, though this will cost money. Dungeons in the game consist of one large map that is split into many tiny sections. You must complete the first section before you can move to the next and so on. Each section in the map takes a certain amount of days to travel to so again pay attention to the time. While collecting items, Rorona will only be able to carry sixty items in her basket and sadly none of these items are stackable. The reason here being that each item has specific traits and qualities, which will be important later on as quests will ask for items over 60 quality and so on. This limit on items can be a huge challenge as you will consistently be dropping items for those of higher quality and cannot stay out in the dungeons for too long.
Item synthesis is most likely where you will find the most addiction in this title as there is always something new to make. Each time you craft an item, it consumes Hit Points from your character. The number of HP lost depends on the number of items you are creating. As you create items you will level up your alchemy, allowing you to create new items. Besides just losing your HP, this process will also cost you money and days. Luckily recovering HP is as easy as taking a nap on your couch. Item synthesis is joined by equipment synthesis which will have you bringing materials to the town’s blacksmith to make new weapons and armor.
Opposite of your Alchemy level, players will also be responsible to raise their adventurer’s level. To do this you must fight a variety of enemies at the different dungeons found in the game. Combat take place in your standard turn-based way but at a much quicker pace as battles are quick and painless until later levels. Rorona and up to 2 friends at a time will have 5 commands at their disposal and they should sound familiar to most RPG players out there; Attack, Skill, Defense, Escape, and Item. Friends that Rorona brings to battle lose the option to use items however. This wouldn’t be a problem except using skills in the game depletes your characters HP and not everyone comes with a healing skill. During battle Rorona’s fellow combatants can help her by following her attack with another or defending her.
Atelier Rorona can be played in two completely different styles. You can either go through the game and focus most of your energy on Alchemy or you can pick up a weapon and spend your days adventuring. The focus on time in the game makes it very hard to do both on a consistent basis. The story will be affected different ways depending on how you focus your efforts. This provides a good reason for multiple play-throughs as the game gives players multiple endings depending on how they played the game.
This game may be Gust’s first HD game but you wouldn’t guess it by the lush visuals found in the title. The game is very colorful with the 3D models really popping out of the screen at you. I wish the same could be said for the dungeons as they are often very bland and can get repetitive. The soundtrack compliments the game well as it does not drown out the gameplay or rush players to use the mute button. Voice acting is serviceable for the most part though sadly the main character Rorona will get on your nerves. Luckily the option is present for the Japanese voice track which seems to solve many of the annoyances.
Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland is a game made for those who enjoy collecting materials and spending hours upon hours synthesizing items, looking for just that perfect mixture. Those looking for deep combat or a deep story should look elsewhere as this game will most likely not hold your attention. Not that the story is not good, however, as it provides a great slice of a tale about friendship and determination. Those hopeful of becoming an apprentice alchemist, this might just be the perfect tool to guide you in that direction. With multiple endings and an easy but deep synthesis system, this game will easily net you 25+ hours without breaking a sweat.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
Cute slice of life story and funny humor
Combat and adventuring can become stale