Atelier Totori ~The Adventurer of Arland~ DX (PS4) Review

Atelier Totori ~The Adventurer of Arland~ DX is the second game in the Arland collection. This is yet another rather minimalistic port of the PS3 and PS Vita ‘Plus’ version which debuted in Japan in 2012. As this game actually came out before the ‘Plus’ version of Atelier Rorona, the previous game, it feels less advanced and more cumbersome in certain areas. 

Atelier Totori has an even stronger emphasis on its in-game timer this time around as it steps it up to the next level and doesn’t mess around with its requirements you need to meet. As such, my experience with this particular title isn’t as joyful or productive as the other two.

We’ll embark on an adventure which spans across all of Arland as we try and juggle far too many commitments at the same time. It’s an enjoyable experience but there are a few things missing which I wish Gust and Koei Tecmo would have fixed before porting over the game, let’s see what those are…

Atelier Totori 1

Hello! Erm, did you forget your clothes?

Atelier Totori takes place five years after the events of Atelier Rorona, yet we’re still within the magnificent land of Arland. Totori, aka Totooria Helmold, has been studying under Rorona for a number of years and is already a competent alchemist. However, Totori’s mother was an adventurer who set out on a mighty adventure many years ago and never came back. Everyone in the village believes her mother is dead yet Totori refuses to believe this and vows to become a mighty adventurer so she can set out in search of her and bring her back safely.

However, in order to be an adventurer you must have a valid license, a license you must obtain from the same council Rorona was tasked to help out in our previous adventure (do you see where this is going?). Once you’ve raised enough funds and found a safe way to travel to Arland, you’ll soon be in possession of your new, shiny license. There’s one small catch though – if you haven’t progressed to a certain level within three years, the license will be revoked and you’ll lose your only chance at being an adventurer like your mother. That may not sound like much, but without the license Totori literally can’t venture to certain areas, thus stopping her search dead in its tracks.

So, we’re once again at the mercy of a rather strict time limit in order to progress through the ranks and satisfy our provider! A lot of people say this ones time limit is more relaxed as you can literally do what you want for three years as long as you meet the goal by the end – I personally found this to be the strictest of the three time limits and as a result, I did not succeed (spoiler). However, that’s not the only issue I have with this game, so let’s start with the basics…

Atelier Totori 2

Nothing like a bit of banter!

Gameplay
Atelier Totori is very similar to Atelier Rorona in terms of the core mechanics. The game consists of the same four core ‘gameplay’ aspects yet they are slightly different; 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 Totori 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 simpler within Atelier Totori. 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 Totori were unlocked by buying them. You do get the odd one here and there when you trigger a cutscene (as above) and when you level up your alchemy level as well.

One of the first things I really didn’t like about Atelier Totori is the synthesis process, it feels like it’s gone backwards – maybe this is what the non-plus version of Rorona was like?  First of all, when picking an item to synthesise, it doesn’t display on screen what your alchemy level is – this is important as if you make something higher than your level it’ll end up as trash. Secondly, If you don’t have a component for your chosen creation, it won’t let you press Triangle as a shortcut to creating it like we can in the others, AND it won’t tell you the name of the item, just an image! This means you have to remember the image as you back out and search manually for the item. Also, there are default images for things like food, fuel, wood, water etc… but they also aren’t labelled so you don’t always know what you actually need. 

This was my biggest issue with Atelier Totori, for a game about alchemy and synthesising a lot, it really annoyed me after a while – especially when Atelier Rorona was so simple yet had more advanced and helpful features included.

Atelier Totori 3

Awww, isn’t it cute!

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. Also, Atelier Totori introduces the annoying continued time reduction mechanic. Once you enter a field or cavern, if you start a fight then you’ll lose time, based on how many rounds it takes to kill the enemy, and gathering any ingredients will see a big reduction to the time as well. 

This is a mechanic which we’ll see in the third game as well, it’s not a massive issue but it does mean you have to plan out what you want to do much more tightly. It’s a lot easier to run out of time with this mechanic in play and I wish there was an option to turn it off – but if there was then Atelier Totori wouldn’t really be true to the original.

Combat: This is your standard JRPG combat segment. Once initiated (by running into an enemy, smacking it with your staff in the field or randomly as you travel the map), 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 buy attacking with each ally first.

Atelier Totori 4

Chim!

The characters in Atelier Totori
One thing I will praise Atelier Totori for is its characters – I love them all. The game is full of comedic moments and some rather ‘questionable’ conversations which take place between various characters. Also, as advised in my Atelier Rorona review, a lot of the people we saw in that game are also within this game. As you’re regularly travelling to Arland to report on your tasks, you’ll enter the same shops as Rorona did, thus seeing the same owners. Pamela makes an appearance, you’ll be able to hire some favourites from the first game to help you out in battle, and even Rorona will turn up and join you after a few months into the game. 

Disregarding the returning cast, who are once again all voiced in both English and Japanese, the new cast is also comprised of some rather interesting folk – many of which we’ll get to see again in our next adventure as well! If I’m being honest, JRPGs are very plentiful on the PlayStation 4, yet Gust manages to give each and every one of their named characters their own personality and presence which makes their games really stand out in the crowd.

Finally, Atelier Rorona gave us Hom, the servant homunculus which would go out and gather or synthesise for us. Atelier Totori gives us some incredibly cute mini-Homs called ‘Chim’. These basically perform the same duties but they’re so small and precious!

Atelier Totori 5

Ahhh, the smell of our teacher!

The Adventurers license
Atelier Totori‘s time-based tasks are different to the ones we saw in Atelier Rorona. You’re not given the main task and a few optional ones, you’re basically given a blank document with a few unlockable tasks which are worth various points. As you complete these, more appear for you to try and achieve. These come in four categories, Battle, Quest, Explore and Library.

• Battle will see tasks like kill X amount of Y enemy or achieve level X as an adventurer (by fighting).
• Exploration wants you to find all gather points in a certain location (which is a pain due to each one draining your time) or locating landmarks in set locations.
• Quest is quite simple, complete X amount of quests for the locals whilst at each license rank and also complete certain types of quests.
• Finally, Library is all about synthesising items, upgrading your alchemy level and becoming friends with the locals. 

Once you have enough combined points to upgrade, you can level up the license and unlock new areas to visit, new tasks and new cutscenes. As I’ve said previously, there isn’t a set “you must do X amount in so many months” in Atelier Totori, yet it feels a lot more strict and restricted due to everything you do eating away at your time. I also found it quite difficult as once you’ve done a lot of the quests, all that’ll be left are ones requiring you to combat difficult enemies or to synthesis things you don’t know about – thus making it even harder.

I’m not going to lie, I failed this game as I became sidetracked by my ambition to discover what had happened to my mother. So, whilst I crafted some parts my father wanted in order to help me seek her out, I didn’t realise the timer had run out and I was 1 level off completing the license. As such, there was no wiggle room and I was promptly shamed and humiliated as the license was stripped from me and the game ended. My second playthrough will consist of me planning things out a lot better.

Atelier Totori 6

I’m guessing this is a bad ending?

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 Totori 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.

Mechanically though, Atelier Totori feels like it’s taken a step backwards – I found it hard to adapt to the synthesis mechanics in this one as it had no helpful options and the fact you had to keep leaving the menu to check your alchemy level was really annoying. This ‘Plus’ version came out before the first games ‘Plus’ version though, so I imagine that’s why Atelier Rorona feels more advanced and user-friendly than Atelier Totori.

Atelier Totori 7

My loving sister…

Personal Opinion
Personally, I enjoyed my time with Atelier Totori but it’s far from my favourite out of the six Atelier games I’ve played. The story is very good, I like the whole ‘is my mother dead or not’ aspect, and the feeling of joy when you manage to level up your license, but it felt there was too much going on with little direction. I liked Atelier Rorona as I always had something to do and I had an almost strict path which I was following – Atelier Totori is a lot more open and you’re free to do a lot more, but without direction comes distraction and failure. 

That said, Atelier Totori isn’t a bad game – it follows on from Atelier Rorona and does a good job of continuing the adventure really well, especially with the regular characters popping up to help you out. I just got annoyed at the smallest things, such as the synthesis window not showing me my current level or even telling me which items I’m missing, instead, it shows a picture and no quick link to synth the item. These may just be small aspects which I’m being picky about and they won’t affect you at all, I just found it upsetting as the first game left a great impression on me, even if I did end up leading a boring life at the end. 

Now, I never got to see this, but the Plus version of Atelier Totori has an additional dungeon, new locations and extra enemies and bosses in the post-game content. I imagine all of these are also present in this version of the game but I believe you need to get a decent ending before you’re able to access them. 

PS3 Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Atelier Totori ~The Adventurer of Arland~ DX has a brilliant story but feels like a step backwards with its mechanics. The narrative and overall gameplay aspect of this second title in the Arland collection is great, I couldn’t ask for more. My only issues lie with the backwards step the game took over the first game in the series, Atelier Rorona, although I imagine that’s because that one was touched up AFTER this game. Sure, there are some aspects of the game I would have asked Koei Tecmo and Gust to bring in line with the other games before releasing this in the DX collection, but they never really impacted my enjoyment that much.

Even though Atelier Totori didn’t impress me as much as Atelier Rorona, I still had a fantastic adventure with both new and old allies as we embarked on a very memorable journey. I can’t wait to face my final challenge as Meruru within this magical trilogy.

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Atelier Totori ~The Adventurer of Arland~ DX

£32.99
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • - Brilliant voice acting and music
  • - Great story, even though it felt there was so much going on at once
  • - Lots of content with multiple endings and things to see
  • - Has a timer but no strict tasks - do what you want as long as you do everything
  • - Chim!

The Bad:

  • - Feels like it's taken a step backwards regarding synthesis and various menus
  • - Introduces a time reduction in everything you do, making it much harder
  • - No wiggle room for being a tiny bit short come the final deadline
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