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Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland Review

blake_peterson By:
GENRE Action / RPG 
T Contains Fantasy Violence, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol

What do these ratings mean?

How can aJRPGthat's 90 percent crafting be so fun and engaging?

I'll completely admit that I had never played an Atelier game before AtelierRoronaPlus: The Alchemist ofArland, aremasteredversion of Gust's 2009PS3game, so I had no idea what I was getting into beyond that it was a nicheJRPGseries with intensely cute soundtracks. It turns out everything else is cutetoo, which proves to deliver a great deal of the charm.Roronais the first in a three-part series (most of the Atelier games are trilogies, set in their own worlds) and is a bit odd in that this remaster follows the remastered releases of the following games on PS Vita.

I could also see why some people intensely dislike these games, sinceRoronais probably one of the mostun-JRPG-liketitles when comparedto classic Japanese role-playing games. There's no quest to displace an evil lordhellbenton taking over the world andit's more like an anime ormangaseries thatfocuseson the trials and tribulations ofshopkeeping. InRoronayou play as an alchemy apprentice whose lazy master has let things get so out of hand, the local government ofArlandis threatening to replace the alchemy shop with a factory unlessRoronacan prove that it benefits the land.

The game has a measure of exploration and turn-based combat asRoronaventures out to gather the materials necessary for alchemy from nearby dungeons and natural environments. However,the bulk of the game is alchemy, which is essentially crafting. The government, through the totally dreamy knight-representativeSterk, gives you missions to create certain items with alchemy. Fulfill these missions and the shop can stay.

In practice, the game combines crafting with dating-simelements.Roronacan raise her rank both in town and with individual companions, friends, and merchants by crafting specific items for them. This leads to more encounters with those characters, which can lead to character-specific endings (the game is all about endings,with specific endings for each character, as well as normal, good, bad, and "true" endings). Crafting items takes up a certain number of days, which slowly tick down for the duration of an assignment.

RoronaPlus is clearly a big update to the original game, even to a gamer new to the series like myself. Cosmetically the developers have updated the cel-shaded 3D models, though they aren't much to look at considering contemporary graphics, thoughthey are cute and more in line with the2D-illustrated talking heads used in cut-scenes. Additionally, the alchemy and synthesizing systems have been upgraded; instead of usingRorona'sHP for alchemy, younow useMPsimilar to later gameswhich adds to the challenge since restoring MP requires a few days rest instead of simplehealing items used to recover without consequences.

Since the game was originally released onPS3, Tecmo Koeibought the developer, Gust, and has released "plus" versions of its two sequels on PS Vita (these games are generationaland focus onRorona'sown apprenticeTotori, andTotori'sapprenticeMeruru). In creatingRoronaPlus, they had a novel approach to keep the game relevant to fans who had already played the "Plus" versions of the following games, add a new section of gameplay about a third of the size in which Totori and Meruru are accidentally transported back in time byRorona'steacher, Astrid, andRorona—still a fresh apprentice herself—has to figure out how to send them back.

As a quick note on Astrid,if there's one place where AtelierRoronaveers into creepy territory, it's with this character. There are references to Astrid joking about molestingRoronain her sleep, and having chosen to take onRoronaas an apprentice due to her sexual preference for children. It's all handled very lightly and with thatmoe-touch ofinappropriate that doesn't seem totally morally wrong, but it is still really creepy if you stop and think about a grown woman who makes sexual advances towards a pupil she has been in charge of since childhood. This is a very small part of the gameand is handled as a part of how Astrid's relationship withRorona, teasing and tormenting her for comedicpurposes.

I was absolutely surprised at how much I got sucked into AtelierRorona Plus. It's not a perfect game: The visuals are dated, the combat spikes wildly at the end of the game, and the character interactions can be total anime cheese. However, it's a game in whichI cared more about the characters and story than most boilerplate save-the-world JRPG melodramas.

AtelierRoronaPlus: The Alchemist of Arland is available on thePS3and PS Vita, and is optimized forcrossplaybetween thosedevices. If you have a Vita, I suggest purchasing it for thatplatform asthe crafting-alchemy gameplay is perfect forbite-sized chunks that don't require a lot of emotional investment, and the visuals will look less sparingon a smaller screen.

Code provided by publisher. Available on the PS3and PS Vita.
Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland
  • Addictive Crafting Gameplay
  • Engaging characters.
  • Almost disgustingly cute.
  • Visually dated.
  • Interesting prosaic storyline.
  • Difficulty spikes heavily near the end.
  • Multiple endings.
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