Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland Review

Rorona Plus logo

Atelier Rorona Plus is a shot at redemption for a franchise title that so desperately wants it, would benefit from it, but not necessarily because it is in need of it. Either way, it is a fine chance for those new to the Arland saga to jump in and veterans to come back to more of the same, if they so desire to.

Information

Title: Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland
Genre: RPG
Developer: Gust, Koei Tecmo
System: PS3, PSVITA (PS3 retail, Vita digital only)
Length: 45+ hrs

Review

Reminiscing back to when I brought my Playstation 3 around 3 years ago, the first game that I purchased for it was an Atelier title – an RPG series that centers around gathering raw material, using alchemy to turn those materials into items, and using said items to beat up monsters, explore new areas, yet still retaining a relatively slice-of-life atmosphere focused on affable characters interactions and achieving goals in a specific time limit. In a nutshell, that was what Atelier Rorona was supposed to be when it was first introduced, but turned out to be a stressful micromanagement nightmare from hell with unflattering graphics and ridiculous mechanics (from what I hear anyway) and primarily the reason why I picked up its sequel, Atelier Totori instead. Of course, fast-forward to this year, many North American and European fans get to experience the reboot: “Atelier Rorona Plus”, that claims to overhaul many undesirable pieces of the predecessor, add from its successors, and include new content such as playable party members. That all sounds just wonderful and swell, doesn’t it! The question is: Is it really any better?

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Like the original, the story follows the journey of a girl named Rorona out to save her workshop (well, her teacher’s) in the kingdom of Arland from shutting down. In order to do so, she must complete 12 task over the course of 3 years that will test her alchemical abilities as well as prove is their any place for alchemist and alchemy in a world slowly coming to contact with technological marvels known as “machines”.  As aforementioned, while the game progression is built upon completion of task, character interaction is another facet, letting you get know various individuals that will be of use to you throughout and even determine what endings you get provided certain criteria are met. Many of them are likeable such as: Rorona’s diminutive childhood friend Cordelia (nicknamed Cory) to a few that you might find irksome like Astrid, Rorona’s lazy and irresponsible alchemy teacher. Regardless of your stance, these interactions are pleasant to come across as you learn about about favorites and add to the slice-of-life atmosphere the game wishes to create.

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Typical Astrid..with fondling and the touchy-feely stuff…

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Accomplishing the required kingdom quest given to you isn’t at all difficult – with one given to you every 3 months. A majority just ask you turn specific items you have to make (or can buy) and upon doing so satisfactory, awarded a stamp on a bingo card. To better your score, you can always turn in more. You also have other optional task like: hunt this monster, create this item, or use this item in battle that will also grant you stamp on a bingo-like card and getting three in row will grant you nice stat bonus, items, and even new alchemy recipes. However, the greatest reward for doing these request are vouchers – tickets that are exchangeable for even valuable items via Esty, the palace receptionist. Along with redeeming vouchers, she can also give you optional task that come in 3 different flavors: Friendship request, Syn (or Alchemy) request, and Monster hunts – with the two latter offering vouchers, if extra requirements are fulfilled and popularity points, another metric for determining endings.  While you will be doing request frequently, most time will likely be spent on Friendship request foremost, since most characters have scenes that can only be viewed with a certain number points accumulated and ultimately, seeing key ones will lead to their own ending. Your party members do gain points with as they travel with you, but it is slow and caps at an certain limit that only request can remedy. Add to that, popularity points that can also play a role, it does and can be frustrating if your going for a particular ending and don’t known what to look for or do. It’s a mechanic that becomes more understandable and enjoyable as you play, but new players most likely won’t be clearing all endings on their first run – even though it is possible.

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Anyone up for a rousing game of bingo?

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Besides that portion of the game, gathering your own ingredients for alchemy also plays an integral role and where most the importance lie. Unlike the previous games in the “Arland” trilogy, Atelier Rorona Plus and time management in the field has become more lenient and taking pressure off worry about the clock. Fighting monsters and gathering at destined points used to take up a prescribed amount of time, but that is no longer the case giving you as much time as you need to do whatever you in please. However, since field and areas are segmented, whenever you travel to the next, it will take up a certain number of days based on the area you going to next and departed. So for example, if I leave to the right of Forest 1 it will take a day to go to Forest 2, but to leave there, 3 days. Likewise, going to the left will take a day, but maybe 2 days from there. It certainly is a welcomed change from the format of what the Atelier series has been doing and makes it more comfortable to a degree, yet really didn’t make much of a difference to me. As for combat, expect from taking a page from Atelier Totori and Meruru, it is still largely the same: turn-based and featuring the assist system, allowing you to pull off devastating attacks once gauge has been filled at the bottom through attacking. Nothing much more to add here.

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Once you return from gathering and battling, the other half of time will go into turning those material into useful items via alchemy. Just like the rest of the “Arland” trilogy, you only be able to make things you have the recipe for and the more difficult the item is to make, the more likely you are to fail depending on your alchemy level. You will soon find out that some ingredients are better than others to use and to get desire traits like “Jumbo” (raises the item count) you might have to proceed in interesting ways to make it happen if specific items aren’t available to you. While you are out and about traveling or synthesizing, you can also ask your helper, Homunculus (or Hom) to aid in either gathering items or synthesizing goods – which is blessing since Hom can syth anything you have created without using ingredients as well gather items from anywhere you have traveled, yet the results do vary based on Hom’s own individual levels that can only be obtained as rewards through the optional kingdom quest. The game also allows you to keep a garden where you can plant seeds and harvest many different items after the plant reaches maturity or gain more seeds by choosing not to harvest them for future use.

The graphics for Rorona Plus are great on the PSVITA and unequivocally a huge improvement on the chibi-style that the PS3 first had, however it does bring with it a few problems. Lengthy loading times and choppy framerate variances are a common complaint without question, but it also extends into glitches and exception errors. As someone that has experienced the game terminating on me numerous times, I’m going to have to say that I’m extremely dissatisfied with the frequency and severity it occurs. One time, the game completely went to a black fatal error screen to shutdown and lead me to having to access my the PSVITA recovery menu just to turn it back on after nervously waiting for 15 minutes. Koei Tecmo/Gust games have had these issues in the past (especially when localized), but I am very displeased that they have yet acknowledged it, since it is a common aliment between both the PS3 and VITA versions and happens on an infrequent scale. Save often and frequently is all I can say and hope you do. The musical soundtrack is okay, albeit limited, although with thanks to the free BGM pack, you can access music from all the past Atelier games, arranged soundtracks, and even some other miscellaneous projects that I am not familiar with. A very nice touch if you tire easily of the same droning track and like past work such as Atelier Eschalogy’s “I Am Legion” or want to revel in an boss battle listening to “Delirium Roar” from Mana Khemia 2. Personally, I am a big fan of the Atelier Judie workshop track and brings back some good memories from that title.

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For those new to Rorona Plus, the new addition allows you the use of new characters such as: Esty, playable from Atelier Meruru and also use Astrid for the first time in the series. Once you finish the main game, you can also play an additional side story that will also lend you access to Rorona’s future pupils: Totori and Meruru featuring their story arc and access to two familiar dungeons that will test your skills in both combat and alchemy. Speaking from personally experience, the optional dungeons are difficult, yet they are easily doable with the right equipment and persistence. A lot of persistence. Oh, and I did mention there is this cool time capsule thing post game? You pop items in it and if you have data from Atelier Totori or Meruru Plus, you have the chance to get exclusive items from those. You really don’t need data from the other two, but the items you get are slightly more random. Okay, so maybe it isn’t that great, but it is the thought that counts, right?

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Aw, yur…I mean friendship is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Looking back to how poorly received the original title was years ago, it is a wonder what a couple of small improvements that should of been made in the first place and time could do. Although, seeing how almost all of the Atelier PS3 titles are going portable and add very little expect for the DLC, the only real reason to pick up this (or any of the other of the plus titles), is if you want to play on the go or new to the series. I highly doubt this will entice any new audience than it will the old, but for either demographic, it should provide the same level of entertainment. So, to answer that all important question: Is this version really better than it’s debut from 5 years ago, I have to say: in some ways, yes. However, since you essentially get the same content from the original that plus has (minus graphical upgrades and extras) I have to ask myself if their was anything wrong with the original in the first place other than hearsay? You likely won’t care either way and neither do I now.

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Pros: Graphical upgrade from the original, nice storyline, amicable characters/character interactions, rewarding alchemy system, kingdom task system streamlines story progression, nice soundtrack upgrade and access to free BGM of past titles.

Cons: Infrequent to frequent bugs/ fatal crashes, post-game content is uninteresting, reaching desired ending requirements can be confusing.

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15 thoughts on “Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland Review

  1. As someone who started playing from the original Rorona, I found a lot of its complaints to be overstated (okay, the 3D models do suck and terabombs were beyond broken). Totori is a massive improvement, but I never found Rorona to be really stressful or full of micromanagement. Rather, the tighter time limit made it more fun, since Escha&Logy gave you too much free time. It’s probably not something that one who has been spoiled by later games would want to go back to, though, thanks to dated graphics and a battle system where all skills were cast from HP because there was no MP bar.

    The optional kingdom assignment rewards did make things a lot easier compared to the original. Main game felt like a cakewalk (almost feels like I was on NG+), but that can also be attributed to Rorona being the kind of game that’s easy when you know what you’re doing.

    • Well, like I said, much of it is hearsay, so I wasn’t taking it that seriously. The time limit really doesn’t bother me nether, especially with playing Atelier Judie and of course continuing with Totori onward, but it is kinda weird to slip back to it after playing Eschalogy a year ago. Does make you think about your actions until you get those feathers or traveler shoes. I think Shallie is supposed to get rid of the time all together going back a more Mana Khemia style, so sure many people we will be pleased/pissed about it.

      Yup, Rorona was a little more useful than Sterk (I even out leveled him after getting Tant), so besides friendship and doing the event for him, Rorona did most of the damage sans item usage .Post game, I did run into some trouble with the extra bosses, but after leveling they went down easy. All I have to do now is continue collecting cash in overtime for the millionaire end and play through storyline for the 3rd time and I will have platinum it. Miss most endings on my first run due to low popularity and not understanding how that worked.

      • I’m not surprised at Shallie, since recent Atelier games have been so lenient on time the limits might as well not exist. Rorona was supposed to be a “back to the roots” game so many people who came straight from Mana Khemia 2 didn’t like it for its simple combat and focus on time management. I’ll be importing Shallie this month so I have that to look forward to, although it leaves me curious about what they’re going to do after Dusk.

        I only did one run of the game since I got most of the endings back in the original game and only played to see the endings I didn’t bother with originally, so I didn’t fight Ocean Kaiser/Demon Lord. I didn’t level enough to beat the thing that guards the fourth floor of the underwater dungeon (keeps healing all the way back to full whenever I knock down its HP).

        • True, but something tells me for future games they will most likely bring it back. I’ll pass on importing this round, so I will be waiting like others until it is eventually localized. Too many games coming out in August I need to save cash for this time around. Knowing Gust, they probably have A17 in the intermediate planning stages and if like other developers, ready to move to PS4. Hope the release cycle isn’t draining them of ideas, lol.

          Oh, that 4th floor boss was a pain. Pretty much leveling and having pinwheels handy is the only thing to save you, since dying gives it a stat boost. Dang forgot about Makina final boss…that one is going to be pain since healing makes the boss counter.

  2. As you know already, I reviewed the Japanese version several months back, but yes, I experienced the crashing issue too. The odd thing about it is that with Atelier Ayesha Plus, I haven’t experience any crashes and glitches yet while all the Arland Vita ports, there is always some bugs and issues with crashing. In fact, I had Totori/Meruru Plus crash several times, but I”m not sure they patched the issue since the games eventually got patches to fix that issue. Still, its kind of odd that they haven’t fixed the issue even with a localized release since one would think that they would fix it by now since the Japanese version has been out about 8 months now. It makes me think that it’s an issue with the game engine they are using.

    • Yeah, I was about to ask did the JP version have that issue, but guess it would. Well, a few people on the message boards I know at Gamefaqs inquired to Koei Tecmo about it, but they haven’t responsed, don’t care, or might can’t do anything about it. I doubt the last part. In all likelyhood, if Ayesha runs without problems, it has to be the game engine. However, I’m shocked that Quality testing didn’t catch it, if Koei has the staff for it and likely the reason why the European release got delayed a week.

    • If you already have the other two (no matter the version),your perfectly fine waiting for a discount. You won’t be missing much aside from character origins, but you might be waiting for awhile,since it took a while for Totori and Meruru Plus to get a sale if you looking into the Vita version. This one might be an exception since it is also on PS3.

      • Thanks for the info. Yeah guess i’ll wait for a discount, there is too much games to play right now haha.. I think I prefer it being on the Vita rather than PS3. Don’t think there is that much significant difference. I have a PS3 but after owning the PS4.. I don’t think I feel like starting my PS3, not sure why i’m actually doing this.

        • Your welcome and nope, shouldn’t be that big of a difference. I prefer going portable myself when possible, but I wish the memory cards would get cheaper, since they are starting to actual release more games for the thing. Don’t think I will be getting a PS4 anytime soon, but do hope they start bringing out more games for it by the time I do.

  3. Oh I just read @The Otaku Judge’s post on Atelier Rorona Plus and now I just read yours I’ll tell you what i told him. I watched the Anime Atelier and It straight up pissed me off. The concept was great however they way they proceeded with the anime, I didn’t like it one bit. But now I understand Its better in game form now I pretty much want to play the game.

      • No problem. Yeah, the anime was from the Dusk trilogy. I was slightly disappointed in the anime myself, but understandable since you can not possible get everything the game has to offer into anime format. The directors did take lot of liberties with it, but follow the game somewhat closely. Still, if it made you want to play the games, I would say it is a success in my eyes. I would suggest starting here with the Arland trilogy before tackling Dusk, even though Dusk is more lenient on some of the stresses (time management) most fans cite. I enjoy the series and hope you give it a try.

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