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Review: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in playing the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get off your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. As a matter of fact, she didn’t get off her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years, she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make a profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further questions.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot in your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with getting more character development.

Now, during my playthrough, the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but overall I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing, and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-01-ps4-us-04dec2018

Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives off a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant at the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fare. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new areas and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. At the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration, you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid upfront. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration, you can go to various locations. Each location has several areas you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and areas takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise, you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always pay attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high-quality items. For some reason, I always found a mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the crafting menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub-item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about the visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now, something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have the need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that prompt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients were at a certain location before I actually traveled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersion reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed in the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing, while the clock ticked over, would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is, in my opinion, a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know, these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. Here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese on the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a post-game chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post-game, there is no free-roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during my writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface of a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a different article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Gaming History: The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle Of Seasons ~ A Look Back

The_Legend_of_Zelda_Oracle_of_Seasons_and_Oracle_of_Ages_Game_CoverMy review of the game

So, today we take a look at the history that the game The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons has. The Oracle games are my favorite Zelda games. I’m only going to write about Seasons. If you are interested in the article about Ages, you should go to AdventureRules, since it’s there. For this article, I took out my Hyrule Encyclopedia and started reading all over the internet. So, I can tell you about this game that originally started as a trilogy but got split into two games. Let’s go to Holodrum again, together and let’s take a look at how this game got created. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or if I have missed anything interesting.

First third party Zelda games.

I remember the time I first booted up this game quite well. This game got released in late 2001 here in Europe. I was introduced to the Zelda series, two years later. When the Gameboy Advance SP dropped. At first, I picked up an “NES Classics: The Legend of Zelda I” from my local video game store. When I played that game, I fell in love with the Zelda series. A month after that, I went to the seaside with my family.

presentation2There, I went to a garage sale and saw “The Legend Of Zelda – Oracle of Ages”. I didn’t think twice and I picked the game up. I finished the game a month later. That’s when I saw the “TO BE CONTINUED IN SEASONS”-screen. It took me several garage sales, but I could hunt my own copy of Seasons down in 2004. Sadly, it was a fake cartridge. But in 2005, a friend of mine sold his boxed copy of the game for 10€ to me and I had the original cartridge boxed. Now, I own both the cartridge and the 3DS eShop version.

That’s how I acquired my very own copy of the game. I don’t own the fake cartridge anymore since I sold it on a garage sale after I got the real copy. During my playthrough of the game, I always felt that this game could be part of a trilogy. I mean, how two Goddesses are represented in the Oracle games. So, I went digging.

I was right, this game was, in fact, going to be part of the trilogy. In fact, back in 1999, this game was called “The Mystical Seed of Courage”. Capcom made a demo for the Space World Expo. Wait, what? Capcom? Is this a mistake? No, actually it isn’t. Capcom created this game. The Oracle games are actually the first third party Zelda games planned to be externally created. The Zelda CDi games might be developed and published a few years earlier, but those weren’t planned by Nintendo.

Development Hell

I could talk a bit more about the development history of this game, but I think that the Zelda Wiki has covered it quite well. You can read about it here. So, if you want to know more about the development of this game, read that article. It has sources too. But here is a summary of what’s said on that page:

Capcom proposed to Nintendo to re-create the original The Legend Of Zelda I NES game. Yoshiki Okamoto pitched his idea to Shigeru Miyamoto. Yet, the development team said “NO!” to Okamoto’s ideas and started to create a new title in the series.

ZeldacourageThe subsidiary Flagship was tasked to write the story. This didn’t prove successful since they prioritized story over gameplay. Thankfully, Miyamoto’s help came to the rescue. Miyamoto had the idea to create the “Triforce Series”. The Zelda formula as we know and love would be split into three.

So, in 1999 the more action-based game was presented to the public. The subtitle the game got was “Mystical Seed of Power” and on the 1999 Space World Expo, it even had a different subtitle “Chapter of Power” or “Tale of Power”. The demo started with Ganon kidnapping Princess Zelda and the Rod of Seasons.  The demo itself has a lot of elements that made it into the final version of the game. There are some major differences though.

The first difference is that in the final game, Onox is introduced as the big villain who kidnaps the Oracle of Seasons, Din. The second difference is that the game doesn’t take place in Hyrule but in Holodrum. And the 3rd difference is that it’s not Hyrule Castle that sinks into the underworld, but it’s the castle of Holodrum.

So, why did we get two games instead of three? The reason for that is the game-linking system. You could interact with the other games via codes. But, this proved too difficult to develop, so only two games were to be developed. Everything from “The Mystical Seed of Power” got into the game we now know as “The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Seasons”.

Yet, you can still see signs of the first Zelda game in this title. Remember, this game first started out as a remake of the original Zelda game back on the NES. Take the old men, several recurring bosses and the Gnarled Root Dungeon.

The Goddess that didn’t get her own game, the “Mystical Seed of Courage” which got canceled, appears in both Oracle titles. She is in the Hall of Secrets.

My personal memories

I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Oracle games are my favorite Zelda games. I have beaten them repeatedly. I enjoy them so much. I especially love the mechanic where you can transfer over some progress from one game to the other. I can’t choose my favorite game between both Oracle games.

To finish my article, I want to give 5 memories I have with this game. So, here we go.

  1. There is one dungeon boss I always have trouble beating. That’s the boss Manhandla in the 6th dungeon called Ancient Ruins. This boss is so difficult since you need to hit his head with the boomerang and getting to the boss door is such an ordeal. It’s highly recommended to get the LVL2 shield and sword to defeat this boss. I remember one time when I finally had beaten that boss, I shouted in excitement. But, I had forgotten that it was past my bed time. My parents weren’t too pleased when they caught me. My Gameboy was taken from me for a month.
  2. When I was 12, I used to make maps and write guides for all my games. I also wrote each level code I had down on a list. All these guides and such were bundles in a folder that set on my shelf. I still remember writing a complete step-by-step guide how to get the LVL2 sword. But, I did the quest so much, I can now do it in the game. Apart from the maze bit at the end, I always forget the sequence.
  3. To get access to a dungeon, you need to collect a certain number of gems. I found two of them before I knew what they were for. I was so proud of myself.
  4. I seriously love how the Natzu area differs from the animal buddy you get. But, I feel that Dimitri’s one is a bit useless. Since not too long after that, you get the flippers which make the unique ability of Dimitri useless. Since you can swim in the water now. The only thing you can still use him for is to eat enemies while you are in the water.
  5. I have beaten Veran, Oracle of Ages main villain, multiple times. But, I have only beaten Onox twice. I always have trouble in his boss battle. But, I have beaten Ganon on my cartridge of Seasons… but, disaster struck. The internal battery died and I lost my save file.

In any case, thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog, but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

One final thing, if you enjoyed reading this look back on the development and my personal memories of this game and you would love to read more articles like this from other games in the Zelda series? Well, don’t think twice of reading the hub article! Since this article is part of a big collaboration I did with various other bloggers! You can check that out here.