Refining the formula
At first glance, the Atelier games may look like cutesy Japanese RPGs and are often dismissed as something creepy for daring to have pretty anime girls, but there is more to them than what is on the box art. For those unfamiliar, the series focuses on deep and involved item synthesis framed by a story that often features an alchemist on a journey to improve their skills in the field along with a larger goal.
Atelier Shallie Plus for the PlayStation Vita is an enhanced edition of the third and final entry in what is referred to as the “Dusk Trilogy” of the Atelier games. It’s set in the Land of Dusk, where all three games take place one after another in a world almost covered with vast deserts.
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea (PS3, Vita [reviewed])
Developer: Gust Co. Ltd
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Released: March 10, 2015 (PS3) / January 17, 2017 (Vita)
MSRP: $39.99 (Vita)
Atelier Shallie is named after the two protagonists whom both share the same nickname “Shallie”: Shallistera, an alchemist and the daughter of the Chief of a faraway remote village; and Shallote, a beginner just trying to make something of herself in the field of alchemy.
There is no grand quest or impending world-ending doom here — but one of the two eponymous protagonists, Shallistera, is on a quest to save her village from losing all its water. I’ve only played her side for now, but reading up on information for the game, it seems like both lead characters have similar stories with only slight differences. This is similar to the prequel, Atelier Escha and Logy, where one character’s path focuses on a style that is more traditional to the series while the other caters to something a bit different.
Since this is the third entry in a trilogy, there will be plenty of character appearances from the previous titles and maybe even references, but no prior experience is needed to get into the game. For those wanting some history, there is an anime adaptation of the previous game, Atelier Escha and Logy, available on streaming services that can help flesh out the world a bit more.
Newcomers to the series are more welcome than ever before thanks to some of the drastic changes in Atelier Shallie. It’s even friendlier than the already beginner-friendly previous game, Atelier Escha and Logy. Gone are the in-game calendar events and deadlines. The previous Atelier games were on a system where many of the actions — such as traveling on the map, completing quests, and even item gathering and synthesis — moved time forward.
Atelier Shallie Plus adopts something similar to traditional JRPGs where accomplishing tasks or goals will allow for progression in the story. This is part of a new system introduced in the game called “Life Task System” that shows you all the tasks you need to accomplish to proceed as well as smaller goals that will net you extra experience points. This system also adapts to the individual’s play style. For instance, those who prefer the combat side of Atelier Shallie will be able to obtain tasks related to that while those who want to make items will have more item synthesis tasks.
Combat is a simple affair and unchanged from prior games. It’s a traditional turn-based JRPG combat system, where each combatant takes turns according to their agility. It’s another part of the item gathering and rarely done for any other reason but still adds a bit of peril to the process.
Fans of the Atelier series might not like the removal of the strict time-management mechanics, or the fact that cranking up the difficulty only affects the combat side of things. I’ve only played one of the previous games, Atelier Totori, and this is a big change to the formula. The shift in Atelier Shallie allows for a more relaxed pace and is certainly very suited for those wanting to chill with a portable game about item gathering and synthesis with some turn-based combat.
I’m still pretty early in Atelier Shallie Plus, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. According to online sources, it isn’t that long compared to standard JRPGs (clocking around 30 hours for the base game), and the new story content should delight fans who have played the previous games in the trilogy. I’m enjoying the journey in the Land of Dusk for now and will come back with a full review soon.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]