As sweet and simple as it is, Atelier Ayesha still manages to capture the quintessential essence of the “Atelier” series and remains just as enjoyable as ever.
From the days of Iris to the Arland Trilogy, I have seen the Atelier series grow and mature in amazing ways. Admittedly, it took some time to get used to the standards and aim that the Arland trilogy set forth, but after digesting it and playing Ayesha, I must say that it is just as impressive, if not better than its predecessors, despite becoming more streamlined in the process.
Taking on the role of a young girl named Ayesha Altugle, an apothecary by way of her grandfather, she embarks on a quest to save her sister, Nio after learning a clue that she still maybe alive. Meeting new friends and discovering new places along the way, Ayesha only has three years to learn the truth of her sister’s whereabouts and save her.
Just like its predecessors, Atelier Ayesha ranges between questing (which advance the story through battles or fetching items and earn you rewards), alchemy (which allows you create items and equipment), and other small events, which are fun interactions and help you unlock multiple endings. All of these require you to be adept in your time management skills, since you only have three years to complete the main storyline, but due to the streamlined approach and ease, you will have more than enough time to accomplish that goal and still play afterwards. Traveling, gathering ingredients for alchemy, performing alchemy, and battling monsters, all consume time, but thanks to some special additions and equipment, time will be a factor you will most likely ignore than obsessive over.
With alchemy being the heart of the game, it gains some surprisingly new components that makes it both streamlined to use and enjoyable to play around with. The formula largely remains the same: with ingredients that you gathered, you pick them out; each with different traits and abilities and combine them to make an item from a recipe. However, as Ayesha gains alchemy levels, she also gets alchemy skills, abilities that allow you to manipulate how you are able to make items as well as how you do it. Everything from choosing items in a different order from pulling traits out of the “trait pool” are all granted to Ayesha over the course of the game as you level up in alchemy and allows for some interesting items to be made. And if you not please with the first combination, you can try again before synthesizing, allowing the player to find out what works best. Once you are done with your new creations, you can register them at stores like always, use them in battle, and even complete request with the towns people based on what they want. The only thing that does change radically in Atelier Ayesha, is that you no longer create items that do not match your alchemy level. This means no more broken items and mistakes, but also no more trying to advance your levels quickly either. For the most part, the benefits far outweigh this trivial bit , since you able to create more useful items and at higher quality than achievable in the previous titles.
Battles and adventuring are also like the former series, but again, come with mechanic changes for the better. You still are allowed to take two other allies with you as you adventure around and pummel monsters; yet only Ayesha can use items, but your friends can use skills, each that cover specific specialties. The biggest change in battles have to do with positioning on the map, since you also have the ability to move, this also effects how effective you will be in combat. Have an ally attack from the back or sides to increase damage, have an allies cover for each other when a big is coming to reduce damage, or use opportune times to use follow up attacks like “back attacks” or “pursuits” to throw your enemy off guard. However, your allies are not just effective in combat, but also skilled with helping Ayesha gather items. Taking different allies around with you will help you get different items from gathering spots, depending on that characters aptitude and the place of gathering. Often times, using the right character and choosing the right spot results in rare items and more of them, and sometimes get items that even Ayesha can not get alone.
If you find that combat is not yielding you any benefit, you also have the ability to get bonus upgrade stats from Ayesha’s diary by using something called “Memory points”, a new system that replaces the adventure rank from Totori and kingdom system from Meruru, but deemed optional and easy to use. Talking to towns people, completing fetch request, battling monsters, and other actions will earn you memory points and once you have enough, you can unlock a certain entries in Ayesha’s diary received from various portions of the story. With each entry requiring a specific amount of points, you can also see the details of what you get before you decide to use them on: physical defense bonuses, extra experience points for allies not in combat, and magical defense – just a to name few. While these bonuses are helpful, it is even more interesting to read the entries that Ayesha’s writes and follows her personal growth as the story develops. Filled with plenty of wacky humor and slice-of-life moments that you actively experience over the course of the story itself, reading Ayesha’s inner thoughts definitely gives off a more poignant feeling that doesn’t quite hit the emotional mark of Atelier Totori or vibrant atmosphere of Atelier Meruru, but definitely great in its own right.
Hidari replaces Mel Kishida as the illustrator and artist for Atelier series, but also leads to some impressive backdrops and CG art when combined with its graphics engines, but sadly, also experiences a few minor problems frame rate wise. With the previous Arland series putting more emphasis on lively colors and developing into a modern take; Ayesha focuses more on neutral colors and a emphasis on nature, as alchemy itself is becoming lost to time itself. The artwork and animation itself definitely does make a fine case for this point and shows up excellently. Music from the series largely remains the same, still incorporating its baroque-equese themes, ancient and traditional timbre with woodwinds, percussion, and vocals – but also hint of modern times with some tracks featuring a little rock hard with electric guitars. Since the game was handled differently within the localization and distribution level, the game only includes English voices, a fact that irked some gamers. Despite the irksome qualm, the English voices are definitely, in a personal take, not bad and quite fitting. Some voices go with their respective character while others don’t, but either way, I am indifferent and do not mind the choices.
For all the changes that Atelier Ayesha makes and some the elements that remain the same, the Atelier series itself feels like a new experience, but definitely not far removed from what gives it that indelible charm. Watered down in some respects when it comes to more of its hallmark features such as: alchemy and time management, but definitely improving upon it and other features such as combat, it is hard to fault the series for much that the previous predecessors have/have not done/tried before. If you liked the previous entries (I.E Arland Trilogy) and did not find those bothersome or even a fan of visual novels, Atelier Ayesha is definitely worth picking up and very accessible for newcomers. It still manages to capture the quintessential essence of the “Atelier” series and remains just as enjoyable as ever.
Note: For more videos and my playthrough, you can check my Youtube account found HERE.