Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX (PS4) Review

Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX is an enhanced port of Atelier Rorona Plus ~The Alchemist of Arland~, which in itself was an advanced version of the original game which was re-released on the PS3 and PS Vita back in 2014 here in the UK. This new version offers very little in terms of ‘extras’ or ‘enhancements’, but it’s now playable on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Steam – why? Because there is a fourth game in the series due out in Spring 2019, so what better way to prepare you for its arrival than for Koei Tecmo and Gust to port over all of the previous games!

You’ll find a much higher resolution, smoother framerates (although still capped at 30), cleaner textures, and access to ‘most’ of the DLC which was once purchasable within the original version. Not only that, those out there who love their trophies will be happy to hear that it has its own platinum. So, come with me as I venture into the magical land of Arland as we try and save our beloved atelier…

Atelier Rorona 1

Surely not!

Atelier Rorona begins with a rather tragic event which we must try and resolve within the confines of a time limit (which I’ll talk about later). We’ve received notice of the closure of our dear atelier (alchemist store) which is run by Astrid, a master in the art, and Rorona, a clumsy apprentice. Upon hearing this dreadful news, Rorona pleas with the city council to give them more time to prove that they are a benefit to the city and must remain open for business as a valued part of the community.

A deal is struck, you can remain open as long as you can complete certain ‘requests’ within a set time limit which have been set by the one who wishes to close you down. Completing these will not only show the higher-ups that you’re too valuable to close, but you’ll grow as an alchemist as you learn new recipes, fend off mighty beasts, get very green fingers, and create bonds which cannot be broken with great allies. However, failing just one of these set requests will see the Atelier shut down and your story come to an end.

Our story takes place over three years and, depending on your overall performance throughout those 36 months, can lead to a few different endings. I’ll let you know which one I got later on…

Atelier Rorona 2

You win one contest and you’re branded for life!

Gameplay
Atelier Rorona is a great JRPG in both its mechanics and aesthetic. The game consists of four core ‘gameplay’ aspects; it has a visual novel, alchemy, exploration, and combat segments. Let’s take a look at each of these…

Visual novel: If you’re a regular on my site then you’ll know how I’ve become a big fan of visual novels throughout 2018. I’ve played, and loved, games such as Death Mark, Punch Line, and The Midnight Sanctuary for their amazing story and interesting settings. Atelier Rorona has a lot of visual novel scenes within it – just like we’ve seen in most NIS games like The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2, The Lost Child, and Labyrinth of Refrain.

These tend to trigger when you enter a certain location after a set time or you’ve completed something. The game is fully voiced in both Japanese and English (on the PS4) and the whole thing is really charming and the game is held together by the delightful, and funny, dialogue presented within these.

Alchemy: If you’ve played any of the more recent ‘Mysterious’ Atelier games, the alchemy is much, much simpler within Atelier Rorona. When in your atelier, just open up your menu, pick the item you wish to create (providing you know the recipe), choose which items you wish to use to create it, and boom – the item is created. Well, as long as you’re at or above the required level and you have enough MP – if not, you’ll probably create some trash!

I found that a lot of the recipe books in Atelier Rorona were unlocked via completing your required timed tasks and bought in the local shops. I also love the fact that Atelier Rorona lets you press Triangle on an item you don’t have (if you’re trying to create something and you’re missing an item) and you can do a side-synthesis and create it there and then. 

Atelier Rorona 3

Puni!

Exploration: Once the game has truly begun, you have access to a world map, a map which costs ‘days’ in order to traverse across. Remember how you’re on a tight deadline to complete your tasks? Well, considering travelling to the various locations to fight and gather items costs time, it all soon adds up as the deadlines creep closer. However, in Atelier Rorona, once you’ve entered a location there will be no more passing of time until you leave the area.

Initiating fights or gathering items won’t advance the clock, unlike in the next two games. Because of this, I actually found this to be one of the most relaxed games out of all three of them. 

Combat: This is your standard JRPG combat segment. Once initiated (by running into an enemy or smacking it with your staff in the field), the whole segment is turn-based as you choose what attacks or items to use based on your characters speed. Only certain characters can use items but they all can unlock skills as their levels increase, these are much more powerful attacks which will help take down the enemies much faster.

You can also initiate a super attack by using a skill or item with Rorona then using the shoulder buttons to call in each ally one at a time and then finish it off with Cross as Rorona performs her initial attack but as a critical strike. This is only possible if you’ve built up assist points by attacking with each ally first.

Atelier Rorona 4

Two fat ladies, 88…

Atelier Rorona’s unique aspects
As I stated above, you’re given tasks to complete throughout your playthrough over the initial three years, these come every three months and must be completed to a satisfactory level. Along with your main task, you’re given a bunch of secondary tasks which you’re free to complete if you wish – these are tasks such as killing a certain high-level creature, collecting a certain amount of something or creating a number of items. If you manage to achieve any of these and go and see Stark (the guy in charge), you’ll get a stamp on a bingo card! As you complete lines on this 3×3 grid, you’ll unlock new recipes, obtain more money, increase your stats, or get given tokens. Tokens can then be spent on rare and very high-level items which you can use during synthesis.

Atelier Rorona grants us with three additional mechanics, one of which is used in another game but the others aren’t as far as I could see. Later on in the game, you’re given access to ‘Hom’, a homunculus who will go out and gather items or synthesis for you in order to make your life easier. This unit will return in the third game when you meet up with Rorona once again. You can also plant seeds in your own garden in order to grow your own crops to use in your alchemy tasks. Finally, you can craft special items which can be placed within your atelier. These will automatically contain random items each time you return after a few days out in the field. 

I found Atelier Rorona to be really user-friendly and accessible for both new and seasoned Atelier gamers. The time limit wasn’t anywhere near as bad as people made it out to be and the overall gameplay mechanics felt solid and really fun to play. You don’t have to play the Atelier games in any particular order, but I would advise you to play these three in order if you get the collection as a lot of characters you meet within this game are used in each of the following games in the trilogy. One thing which did excite and impress me though was…

Atelier Rorona 5

Is this a good ending? I guess it’s AN ending…

The endgame
Atelier Rorona gives you two options upon loading up your cleared save file once you finish the game – Start a new game with certain items carried over or continue your adventure. I thought that continue would just let me come back for an unlimited playthrough, I was wrong! I’m not sure if this was initially DLC, but the protagonists from the next two games have basically time-travelled back into Rorona’s atelier and are seeking lodging for a little while. You’re basically given a one-year extension to the game with the ability to hire both alchemists as you embark into new locations, take on new beasts, and complete new optional quests for the city. 

Speaking of the endgame, I said I would tell you about my ending! I think I got a bad ending if I’m being honest. I managed to keep the atelier open by completing all of the required tasks in time, but I didn’t make as much of a positive impression on the townsfolk as I initially planned. As such, I was basically told that even though I saved the business, we went on to live a boring and uneventful life – which was rather depressing, to be honest! I think this is because I never took notice of the town’s meter in the top corner (as I never noticed it).

Basically, as you complete random tasks for the townsfolk, the happiness meter goes up – if you fail to complete them, or you ignore them, the happiness goes down. That’s my issue, I kept ignoring them or just not finishing them. Ah well – something to work on in my second playthrough!

Atelier Rorona 6

A rather simple map.

Technical
Visually, the Arland trilogy looks great for what was essentially a PS3 and Vita game. Sure, you’re not going to get anything as advanced as the latest Atelier Lydie & Suelle, which was created with the PS4 in mind, but the upscale of the assets look on par with games such as Tokyo Xanadu eX+ and YS VIII. One thing I will mention is that I don’t think the games have any PS4 Pro enhancements within them – no ‘Supersampling’ message pops up upon loading it up, meaning the resolution is a max 1080p on the enhanced console. Also, as stated before, the framerate appears to still be 30fps rather than an enhanced 60fps – this is most likely due to the game logic being designed around it being 30. However, don’t let that put you off, it’s a turn-based combat game, it doesn’t need to be above 30.

Audio-wise, Atelier Rorona sounds amazing. The music is so delightful and charming, the voice acting is great (and in both English and Japanese), the overall sound effects are spot-on, and the entire game feels very ‘Gust-like’, which is as you’d expect. You can also re-assign literally every piece of music from your atelier background track to the music you hear in battle, these can all be set to one of the hundreds of tracks from the last 20 years of Atelier games! Gust never ceases to amaze and impress me with the quality of their work, this remastered port is no exception.

Atelier Rorona 7

Erm… what?!?

Personal Opinion:
Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX is my fourth Atelier game as I started with the recent ‘Mysterious’ series before jumping into these. Technically, I’ve had these games for about a year as I bought them on sale on the PS Vita, but I’ve never actually got around to playing them. I was always a little put off when people kept bringing up the time limits as I’m not a fan of time limits in games, Atelier Firis also annoyed me with its own one-year time limit you’re given. However, I’m not sure if it’s been relaxed a little for the plus version or if I just didn’t see what people were complaining about? I managed to get through the game without any issues, other than not pleasing the townsfolk, and I had a lot of fun.

As this was the first game I jumped into, I loved the accessibility with the quick synthesising (no Tetris cauldrons here) and the ability to just press a single button on a missing component in order to be taken to that items creation page (something the second game seems to have forgotten about). I would say this game is very simplistic with its map screen and overall mechanics, in comparison to later games, but it’s a great starting point and delivers a fun and entertaining story from beginning to end. 

Speaking of which, the additional story you unlock upon completion, with the protagonists from the next two games, is a great addition as it offers yet another 10 hours or so onto its gameplay. I didn’t get the best ending in this game, so I don’t know if the game would have continued had I done better, yet I still spent over 30 hours in my first playthrough. Was it my favourite out of the trilogy? I’d say it’s very close between this and the third game. Either way, Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX gets a shining recommendation from me, whether you chose to play it on the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC, or even the Plus version on the PS3 or PS Vita.

PS3 Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX is an amazing Atelier game which all JRPG fans should try out. From its brilliant soundtrack and voice acting to it’s very colourful and cutesy aesthetics, Atelier Rorona is a solid JRPG with its narrative, combat, story, and interesting characters. Sure, there is a time limit and you’re given a new task every three months which ultimately decides if you carry on or lose the game, however, I never had any issues meeting the deadlines and I had plenty of time to explore on my own. 

As my first venture into the Arland collection, Gust once again impresses me beyond words with an adventure I didn’t want to leave. I can’t wait to get absorbed into Atelier Totori and meet up with all my friends once again.

If you’re looking for an entry point into the Atelier games then Atelier Rorona is a great one to start with, especially if you want to get ready for the fourth game in the series which is out in Spring! Also, even if you’ve already completed the game on the PS3 or PS Vita, there’s a new trophy list for all these DX editions on the PS4.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~ DX

£32.99
9

Final Score

9.0/10

The Good:

  • - Brilliant voice acting (English and Japanese) and soundtrack
  • - Great story with constant tasks to keep you busy
  • - Really fun bonus end-game content
  • - A great introduction to the Atelier franchise
  • - Very user friendly with lots of minor but super helpful mechanics

The Bad:

  • - Some people may not like the time limit but I didn't find it that intrusive
  • - A lot of the mechanics are simplified if being held in comparison to modern Atelier games
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