The Atelier RPG series, famous for its focus on all things alchemical, returns on the PS3 and it is loaded with icky innuendo. It’s also strangely addictive and oddly endearing.
The story begins with Rorolina Frixell (or Rorona as she’s known), a young alchemist characterized by her cheerful personality and embarrassing lack of common sense, inheriting a monumental task: To create a supply of items for the kingdom over a three year period. The quality of her work is evaluated each quarter, and if at any time she fails to meet the king’s expectations, her alchemy workshop will be closed and she’ll be forced to practice elsewhere. It’s a simple story for what is ultimately a simple game.
Rorona marks developer Gust’s first foray into 3D territory with the Atelier series. Like previous games, much of Rorona’s activity centers on collecting ingredients and using them to create various items, both magical and mundane. Those expecting a more traditional RPG of battle and exploration may be thrown for a loop. Atelier Rorona does have these elements, but they take a great backseat to crafting items.
Rorona smacks slightly of Harvest Moon, for better or worse, and there is a profoundly social ingredient in the mix here. Much of the game’s focus lies on furthering your relationships with townsfolk. Sadly, these relationships are superficial and lacking in complexity. Simply create the items people want and deliver them before the deadline to make them like you more. Take on a job you can’t finish in time and voila! They like you less.
The cutscenes you are rewarded with can be really entertaining, though, and before the end you may find yourself having developed a great deal of care for certain characters.
Great Freedom: Few JRPGs give you the sense of freedom that Rorona does. Exploration is necessary, but only somewhat and the way you spend your time playing Rorona is your own. Ultimately, all paths lead to crafting items, but how and when you want to do these things is up to you. You have 90 days to complete each storyline task, and most can be completed far before the deadline, giving you plenty of time to try other things like gathering ingredients or completing requests for townspeople.
Inexplicably Addictive: The crafting system can feel clunky and daunting at first, but spend a little time with it and you might get hooked. The idea of creating items is pretty novel and Rorona does a good job of making it both paramount and fun. Moving around from place to place is fast and easy thanks to Rorona’s thoughtful design.
Upbeat, Funny, and Often Disturbing: Much can be said about Rorona’s sense of humor. It’s sentimental, cute, and blatantly perverted. Everyone seems to have a lewd interest in Rorona and despite being plain to see, she never truly gets it. Rorona is, how do we say, easily confused. There’s no shortage of goofy, entertaining dialog and in this sense the series stays true to itself. It’s great fun. The soundtrack is a catchy mishmash of celtic and upbeat themes, helping to further cement Atelier Rorona’s wacky attitude.
Crappy Inventory System: For a game that has you primarily creating items, the inventory system is just plain shoddy. There are sorting options but managing your ingredients can still be a pain. The item limit in your basket is smallish, which means tons of fun-sucking trips to the workshop to move things back into storage or out for delivery. A more convenient and universal inventory would have been greatly appreciated.
Time Budgeting: The most prohibitive factor to enjoying Atelier Rorona is managing your time. Every action, from creating to exploring to resting, consumes days. Here is where the challenge of Rorona is most apparent and annoying. Every request has a deadline, and there’s never enough time for you to do everything you want. It can be frustrating and give the game a very restrictive feel, despite its freedom of choice.
There is a lot of story to discover in Rorona but it’s impossible to unearth it all in just a single playthrough. There’s not much incentive to go through the game again, so it’s likely you’ll just never see all the plotlines resolve in a way that satisfies. The promise of multiple endings just isn’t enough to warrant another play. Only the most hardcore of gamers will explore Rorona in its entirety.
Subpar Presentation: Rorona’s illustrations are a visual triumph, but the same cannot be said for the 3D environments or the character models. The graphics are clearly dated and battle animations can be laughably lazy at times. While it’s true that a handful of the cell-shaded characters look pretty outstanding, most (including the main character Rorona) just look plain weird, especially in contrast with their much better artwork. Visually, the transition to 3D hasn’t been kind to the Atelier series.
Atelier Rorona doesn’t break any new ground but it is compellingly different. The bland graphics and time limitations are bothersome, but do little to mar the game’s fun factor. The slow pace may be off-putting to some, but Rorona is definitely a game that gets better as you spend more time learning the ins and outs of alchemy. It comes highly recommended for those looking for something different, who don’t mind a little goofiness in their RPGs.
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About the Author
|Mark A. Brooks uses the A. initial in his name so as to seperate himself from the teeming legions of other Mark Brookses (there are at least 65,000 in the state of Michigan alone).
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Mark A. Brooks has written 586 posts on Delta Attack.