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Video version of this review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO8bj8Z4PrQ
The atelier series unlike other RPG’s doesn’t focus on combat. Instead the games are about gathering items and synthesising them using magic. Another unique aspect to many of the games in the series was the clock. If you let it run down before completing all your tasks it was game over. Atelier Shallie removes the time aspect entirely giving you as long as you want to finish objectives, which must off put some hardcore fans of the series. But how is the game otherwise? Lets find out in the review.
The game allows you to play as either Shallote, or Shalliesta. No seriously there is a playable character named after a type of onion. Shallote is the obvious choice since Shallistera has about as much character as a plank of wood. So if you picked best girl your story will revolve around learning the basics of alchemy, gathering items, synthesising them and some typical RPG battling and exploration although I assume it isn’t much different with Shallistera. Either way don’t expect deep plots.
Shallote has a lot of scenes where we get to hear her thoughts which is actually adds adds a little bit of depth to an otherwise fun yet predominately one-note character. Otherwise the narrative won’t surprise you, its very much by the numbers for a Japanese role playing game.
The soundtrack in Atelier Shallie is terrific. You’ll hear some of the same tracks dozens of times as you explore the hub that connects everything in town or explore the World map. The last atelier game I played was Rorona plus on the Vita and I found the English dub to be pretty poor so far Shallie I just stuck to the original Japanese language for the whole game and found it to be good Shalllote especially so.
Like with every other Atelier game on the PlayStation 3 way more attention is payed to the character designs then to the environment. The series didn’t even embrace full 3 dimensional graphics until 2009 so this is hardly a surprise.
That said Atelier Shallie has some definite improvements over past games. Whilst the environments are still under-detailed there is some half decent lighting and shadowing. This is put to especially good use in the mid ground and background, giving us a pretty clear delineation of space. Instead of having the playable area just sort of disappear into a fog like it did in some of the earlier games. Battle animations are also better than they have ever been.
The animation for lip synching could be a whole lot better, mouths just kind of open and close without a variety of different movements to express particular sounds. I wasn’t expecting anything realistic and I have seen worse but you can’t help but notice this during the cutscenes.
The battle system is paired down in this game compared to other JRPG’s. You can’t customise your parties attacks and spells in anyway whatsoever, you just have to rely on what abilities you get given when you level up.
To mix things up a little you have a burst meter which builds up for every attack you make. This can give you the edge in longer battles by increasing your damage when the meter is filled. You also have some quick time style events in battles where you can swap the character about to receive a hit from the enemy by using an on screen button prompt. Basically this comes down to allowing one of your party members to tank more damage. The battling is completely turn based, there is no movement so the burst and QTE mechanics are extremely important for strategising.
The meat of the game is synthesising. For every item you pick up in the game World the item meter fills. Once this meter is full you can choose what special item you receive such as a relic from the past, increase the number of a particular item and so on. It cuts down on the item collecting and adds a bit of a random element to which is much needed since you will collect many hundreds of similar items during the game.
Once back to your atelier its time to synthesise these items into something useful, be it for completing a quest, creating a healing potion, an attack item, or just creating something for the sake of increasing your alchemy level. Simply combining items isn’t enough, since every item has individual properties, skills that can be attached to it, effects and a cost level which goes into determining can be synthesised.
Atelier Shallie does a good job of explaining all the nuances of synthesis to you in its in game tutorials. And it never expects you to learn too much at once. Even so since a lot of synthesis is basically grinding to increase your alchemy level there will be plenty of times when you won’t pay attention to most of the stats on screen. This goes for creating more powerful items as well. A lot of the time I went for a quantity over quality approach since I was almost never short on crafting items.
The game manages to scale the level of its complexity for synthesising almost perfectly making it ideal for newcomers. The music you have for questing is terrific, and Shallote adds to much character to the game, since personally I always hated Shallistera. The environments while a lot better than previous games can still be incredibly bland at times and this detracts a lot from the game World and the battle system could have been deeper in so many ways.
Review taken from my Japanese pop-culture website: http://extramana.com/
YouTube > http://tinyurl.com/n35wtnr <
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