Author: Dany Argueta, D.G. Anders
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, September 27th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/atelier_rorona/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
Poor Rorona. The alchemy shop she works at is being threatened to be closed by the kingdom of Arland and she's been duped by her own master to take over as the new owner. Now Rorona must improve her alchemy skills to keep her newly-acquired shop running or face an early closure.
Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland throws a lot of information up front when starting for the first time. The jist of the gameplay breaks down into gathering ingredients from certain areas, using Rorona's alchemy skills to synthesize the ingredients into a new items, and delivering creations on time. The clincher here is that traveling around and synthesizing require in-game days to pass so there's quite a bit of time management involved. Also, the ingredients can affect the quality of the created items and synthesis uses up Rorona's HP so occasionally she needs to spend a few days to rest up or else there's a chance for failure.
Harvesting items is easy: visit an area, inspect certain spots, check out the items, and put them into your basket. Making items is where the fun is as Atelier gives you the freedom to choose which ingredients to add effects into the final product. Having the best or freshest ingredients on hand will increase an item's effectiveness -- for example, creating your own healing items have the potential to recover more HP at once than store-bought items so you end up saving money and don't spend so much time recovering during battles. Unfortunately, everything has a virtual expiration date so you'll only get the most out of your ingredients and creations by using them almost immediately.
While harvesting, you're going to run into your fair share of battles and they're very basic but tough. Special skills eat through the character's HP as there is no such thing as magic points in Atelier. And for some reason, Rorona is the only character who has access to items so you're going to spend longer times trying to recover and hoping the enemies won't get in enough turns to put you into a critical state. The items you collect and make can be used to give yourself an advantage in a variety of ways but the opportunities to do so aren't going to show up often. Players can also rely on the battlefield's element to amplify elemental attacks.
The presentation is a bit rough around the edges. Battle scenes resort to only showing the attackers hitting their target and you need to make some menu choices to see what enemies are on-screen. Animations should have been polished more as characters don't ease in and out to their motions so they end up looking robotic and clunky at times. If you're playing on a standard definition TV, don't; I was unable to play on an HDTV so Atelier presented me with UI text that was nearly impossible to read. The English voice actors did an alright job on the translation but feel free to switch to Japanese voices at any time.
And since you're going to be stuck with them for awhile, your party members are picked out of "Ye Olde Pool of Clichés." Rorona's a ditz, her childhood friend gets a temper at the drop of a hat, the knight in shining armor has trouble expressing himself properly... Anywho, it costs a fee to bring your party out of the city so you'll have balance doing favors for them along with your assignments to decrease the prices. Ultimately, being buddy-buddy with someone offers a different ending so multiple playthroughs are encouraged.
Atelier Rorona's item synthesis would have been much more enjoyable had the battle system not suffered so greatly. It's a joy to concoct items capable of doing pretty much whatever you want but you'll struggle trying to get any use out of them. If you think you can put up with the extra difficulty, give Atelier a rental and run through the first few chapters -- you might end up with something to tide you over until the next big RPG.
Please do not redistribute or use this article in whole, or in part, for commercial purposes.