HAPPY BELATED NEW YEAR Doods!
May 2015 be a good year for you all!
While I don’t consider myself a fan of the Atelier series (played Rorona and Totori on the PS3, failed both of the miserably) I did end up enjoying them in the end so I was excited to see these games being ported and enhanced onto the Vita. Ayesha Plus is a completely new game to me but being familiar with the series, I decided to give it a shot.
Atelier Ayesha Plus is created by Gust, localized by Tecmo Koei for the PS Vita. The original (PS3) was released back in June 2012, followed by the localization in March 2013 . Fast forward 1 year, Plus comes out in Japan on March 2014. Fast forward another 10 months… and here we are!
Ayesha is the 14th title in the Atelier series, but the first in a trilogy called the Dusk series. Each game in this trilogy share recurring themes and characters, and are all connected story-wise (each game takes place sometime after one another).
The game has a similar story format to some of the more recent games in the series: The main character is a teenage girl who is involved in the works of alchemy one way or another. Often they will become an alchemist (whether willingly or not) to achieve some sort of goal or solution. In this case: the main girl (Ayesha) is looking for her lost sister Nio after hearing of rumours that she may still be alive (according to the events prior to the beginning of the game), so Ayesha sets of a journey to hopefully be reunited with her.
If you are familiar with the PS3 Atelier games, you will recognize a few recurring elements found in the game such as:
- The turn-based battle system.
The MC + 2 companions are in battle at a time. This type of system is different from other RPGs in the sense that only the MC (Ayesha) can use items but does not have any active skills to use, while her companions can use skills but cannot use items.
There is also an element found in this game called Positioning. There are 4 zones that each character can move to. By moving the characters around, it is possible to hit enemies from behind and deal more damage. Certain reaction commands are also possible depending on position, such as Protection (anyone can block an ally’s incoming attack if they are adjacent) and Pursuit (a follow-up attack).
- A mixture of exploration and item creation
Exploring different areas and fulfilling different tasks often helps pushes the story forward and brings Ayesha 1 step closer into finding her sister. There are materials to gather, enemies to battle, character events and skits to find, and new areas to discover.
Another important aspect of the game is item creation, or “synthesizing”. Synthesizing items can help you accomplish certain quests and tasks, and also creating usable items such as healing / support, attack items and equip-able accessories. It starts off very basic, only able to create a few items but as you play along and have more and more items to discover… it gets tricky and things such as traits, alchemy abilities and stats become important factors as you synthesize.
- A basic Day / Month time system.
There is a time limit in this game of 3 years, following a 12 month, 30 days system. The main goal of the game is to find Nio and hopefully bring back alive in that time limit. Doing certain actions such as synthesizing items or travelling pushes the time forward. While exploring, gathering items and battling consumes time (there is a bar located at the top right). When the bar depletes, time also pushes forward by 1 day and the bar repeats.
There are a few more, but these 3 are the main elements often seen throughout the Atelier series, sometimes changed or enhanced upon differing from the games. While I’m not a big fan of time management, the game is rather lenient with it and as there is no solid objective for you to be stuck with, you technically have the freedom to do whatever you want. You don’t need to finish a story-related objective to progress for example, you can play the game at your own pace.
Exploration screen. The current date is seen at the top right, along with the time bar mentioned above.
I really like the setting of this game: a good mixture of the rural, agricultural, medieval style (with a little fantasy / supernatural. Eg: Nio as a spirit, a witch character who uses magic, a robot librarian) compared to other JRPGs where they tend to have more of a focus on sci-fi, futuristic or fantasy. There’s a good variety of characters and they are sort of interesting, but they do start off pretty basic in terms of personality but they do develop as you spend time with them travelling. Some of their events are pretty entertaining.
JRPGs often tends to suffer from consistent frame rate issues… and Atelier Ayesha is no different. This is noticeable during areas where it has too much scenery going on, and also during battles certain animations may cause the game to slow down. Don’t get me wrong, the animations and effects during these moments are pretty cool though so it’s worth the FPS drop. There are also moments where, inside towns, it will take a few seconds for the scenery and people to actually load up before you can interact with them.
Other than that, there aren’t any major problems which would otherwise ruin the game. I do appreciate the change of music that plays in the background as you explore different areas, the different instruments and such used (there’s a character who plays the bagpipe) and the battle theme also changes.
Battle screen. Linca (in one of her swimsuit costume) is performing a back attack. The purple gauge determines if Reaction commands can be used or not
Atelier Ayesha Plus is a nice big game that does encourage multiple playthroughs (to get the different endings and all the character events [assuming without a guide]) and while it does sound a bit complex due to the whole time management factor and item synthesis deal, a decently experienced gamer should be able to navigate through the game if they just want to focus on the main task.