The last instalment of the Koei Tecmo and Gust’s Atelier “Dusk Trilogy” returns in the improved “Plus” version of the game – Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea. Originally released on the PlayStation 3, the plus version now brings the game to PlayStation Vita with a range of brand new content and, of course, improvements.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have extensive experience with the Atelier series and the only game I’ve played prior to this is the second game in the Dusk Trilogy – Atelier Escha and Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. While I really enjoyed this game I haven’t experienced the entire trilogy up to this point. Just to be clear this hasn’t affected my enjoyment of either game, far from it, though I will say the Time Limit system in Atelier Escha and Logy did add a level of stress that I’m glad is absent this time round. You can read my review for Atelier Escha and Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky here, and with that out of the way let’s get into the game at hand Atelier Shallie Plus.
In this game, as with the previous Atelier Escha and Logy, and I’m assuming all Atelier games you begin the game as an alchemist. In this game, and after the prologue, you’ll assume the role of either Shallistera or Shallotte (you get to choose). Both Shallies are looking for a way to help solve the issues their respective villages are having with a drought that appears to be affecting the world. In my initial playthrough I took on the role of Shallistera and I’m assuming that Shallotte’s route will largely follow the same formula. As the story progresses both Shallies work together to help discover the secret behind the Dusk and reverse the drought issue currently plaguing their villages. The Plus version of the game also features additional story chapters revolving around the Shallies daily lives as well as familiar returning characters like Ayesha, Keithgrif, Escha and Logy. There are also additional dungeons and bosses to tackle.
The game features a solid turn-based battle system which will see you cutting down groups of enemies. During a battle, you’ll fill your burst meter that allows you to perform strong attacks which can really help if you find yourself in a bind. You’ll be in control of a party of three during battles but you can have up to another three in reserve. These reserve characters can be switched out to defend against attacks in an assist style fashion or called into battle to take over for another character. It’s a great system and really allows for adaptability during battles.
Outside of battles, you’ll be exploring areas and collecting items to use for synthesis and fulfilling requests. The game features plenty of side-quests to get stuck into so you’re never lacking for things to do. The Life Tasks system also works in a similar way, as Shallie will have a list of things to do that relate to her personally such as combat and synthesis growth. If you spend time clearing these personal quests much like the side-quests you’re handsomely rewarded so it’s definitely worth spending the time to do them. Speaking of time, because we no longer have the Time Limit system in place, you’re free to explore and battle, basically doing as you see fit without feeling like you’re wasting or running out of time.
The synthesis system, as you would expect, is simple yet overflowing with depth. Selecting an item and then throwing some ingredients at it is literally as simple as it can get but the quality of ingredients and any special traits they might have is where you’ll really be delving into the brilliance of this system. Being the main focus of the gameplay mechanics, synthesis comes in different forms and is how you’ll be equipping yourself with weapons, armour and consumables. Thankfully, given how fast and deep the system can be it never feels like a chore when synthesising items. If you’re a fan of Atelier then you’ll know how this works and how enjoyable it is, but for newcomers be prepared for something a little different to what you’re used to.
As I mentioned in my review for Atelier Escha and Logy Plus, the visuals for Atelier games are very impressive. Granted they aren’t the Triple-A experience but Gust produce some stunning visuals and they look great on the PlayStation Vita. Character designs look fantastic, as do enemies and the environments and from a visual standpoint; Atelier games are probably some of my favourites for that alone. If you’re starting up an Atelier game for the first time then like me, although it’s my second, you’ll be absolutely blown away by the opening animation; they are visual brilliance and the music is right up there alongside it. Such a great way to start off a game and I can’t think of any developer or game series that does it better.
If the visual style of Atelier games was one of its best selling points then another would be the music. I was very impressed by what Atelier Escha and Logy had to offer and Atelier Shallie is no different. It was a joy to listen to and the variety of different themes meant that they weren’t samey or overused. I praised the use of both Japanese and English language audio options in Atelier Escha and Logy and I’m going to do so again here. Koei Tecmo are really giving fans exactly what they want when other publishers try to throw out excuses. Options are what we want and I’m glad Atelier continues to provide.