Atelier Rorona Plus (PS3) Review
One more trip to the old atelier
Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland is a remake of the first title in the Arland series, produced by Gust and localized by Tecmo Koei. With each of the Atelier titles, players take the role of a young alchemist tasked with trying to keep their shop open for just a little while longer. Rorona first got her namesake atelier back in 2010 (in North America) and now, four years later, has come back in an expanded and refined version of her original adventures. Does Rorona Plus have the markings of a great alchemist, or is this a recipe for disaster.
Rorona Plus opens with an identical story to the original version: the kingdom of Arland is looking to close down the only alchemist in town’s doors unless they can prove that they’re worth keeping around. Tasked with twelve assignments over the course of three years, Rorona has to use her own ingenuity and skills to craft items the kingdom deems worthy enough to keep the atelier around for another few months. The original localization remains with the original Japanese dub intact, but Koei Tecmo has included a strong English dub to compliment the light-hearted and comedic nature of the story.
Despite an ever-looming timer and schedule to abide by, the time spent in Rorona Plus seems to go by quickly enough, but there never feels like a rush to get your items to market. Most anything that you do in Arland consumes time: crafting items, going out to battle beasts or scavenge for raw materials, sleeping to recover your highly coveted MP. On top of that, random events will spring up from time to time that demand Rorona’s full attention, so expect to lose some time especially a good 10 days when the Cabbage Festival rolls around the first year (this changes to a combat tournament during the second year). A noteworthy change from the original Rorona is when fast-traveling around the world, there’s now a notification of any potential events in that area. No longer will you have to scour every area on a daily basis just to catch a one-time event. Fans of Persona 4 Golden‘s time management will feel right at home in Arland.
Assignments are given to Rorona on a three-month basis with adequate leeway to accomplish any other task she might want to dive into. These assignments usually consist of crafting a specific set of items, gathering materials from one specific region in the world, or slaying enough beasts to satisfy the kingdom’s quota. Some assignments, such as one asking for Komet during the second year, can easily be accomplished just by buying the requested item from Pamela’s shop. While the kingdom sets forth a goal of ten stars for a perfect assignment, the only mandatory amount to complete a given assignment is three. Even if you end up sleeping through most of the three months, it’s quite easy to hit those three stars. Hitting a higher number of stars will benefit in the long run, as some endings are locked depending on your performance grade. Players from the original Rorona will be relieved to know that there’s no longer any need to dance around having ’88 stars’ as you can select any ending that you’ve unlocked the criteria for.
The whole crux of the Atelier series has been a heavy focus on crafting, but combat has always been somewhat an additional affair that sometimes couldn’t match the quality of the alchemy segments. Thankfully, combat has been largely overhauled in Rorona Plus, making it more of an enjoyable experience rather than just a grind. Rorona and her hireable companions no longer have to shed their own HP to use skills, instead opting for a separate MP stat. Similar to the Evolution RPGs (and later Final Fantasy X), a new turn gauge on the right side of the screen shows turn order and just what sort of delay using an item or skill would have on a player’s upcoming turn. With careful targeting, it’s quite easy to take out faster enemies and potentially wipe out an entire enemy squad without them ever getting a single turn. Use of Rorona’s items (she’s the only character that gains access to using items, at least until Overtime) and some of her higher ranked bombs, most enemies can be dispatched in relative ease. If you’re not a fan of using consumable items, there’s nothing a healthy amount of grinding and carefully stat worthy equipment can do to bolster the party’s performance.