This will be long, as it’s mostly a list!
I keep seeing a lot of people saying “TK butchered Ayesha so I won’t buy it” (TK being Tecmo Koei) or similar stuff. I want to put things straight for anyone who has any interest in the series, is a fan of it already, or who thus far has decided not to buy it because of those issues. So I felt that it would be best to list out – for those interested – the positive and negative points of this release in the Atelier series – so you don’t decide something based on something that equals out to nothing at all.
–NO TIME LIMIT; Yes, the time constraints that were very strict in Rorona, slowly loosened in Totori, and very lax in Meruru? Just gone here. Well, not entirely if you actually want the true ending, but in the strict sense it’s removed or at least drastically loosened up. This to me is more middle rather than positive or negative but at the level it was balanced I’d say a net positive.
– Graphics are the best they’ve ever been, the game looks beautiful at all times and the art style – while sadly not Mel Kishida any longer, works a lot better than previous designs in the 3D form. Settings and locales look gorgeous and the character models couldn’t be better.
– The music is, at least to me, superior to the previous titles (aside Rorona’s workshop tune, which is still my favorite). It’s seriously some damn good stuff.
– The story is actually interesting, which is something the last games lacked. It’s a real story, not something tacked on lightly like “show your daddy, the king, you’re a strong girl”. We get a deeper and more emotional story this time around, which gets you much more ‘into’ the game. Not only is it great within this game, but it sets up for a great sequel in Escha & Logy.
– It keeps its light hearted Atelier feel. Think of how Totori felt during the second half of the game and this is pretty similar (as Totori also had a more serious story that had heavy focus in the latter half), though handled a lot better and a little more seriously at times.
– The gameplay for battles is drastically improved; much more fluid, input is immediate, a placement system which gives actual strategy and tactical play was implemented and works great (plus makes the fights a lot more enjoyable), and Ayesha isn’t 100% worthless without bombs – nor amazingly low on HP constantly like the previous games.
– The synthesis is WAYYYYY better than EVER before. The whole system has been overhauled and made into something that gives you a lot more control over what you’re making and how you’re using your ingredients, traits, and so on – it’s incredibly deep, while also if you want it simple it’s impressively easy if you don’t care to go far into it and deal with the deeper aspects.
– Much quicker and more smooth loading. This was always a bit annoying in the past games, they’d take a lot longer than they’d need to at all (especially with their small areas with not much going on). This feels much better optimized and the load times are barely noticeable.
– The towns actually feel alive, the first big city you come to has plenty of NPCs roaming about and doing their own thing, and those you can talk to or do work for always show some sign of life in what they say instead of just being there.
– The best cast aside Rorona’s. Totori and Meruru added nobody worth mentioning (aside Totori herself, and maybe Filly) to the Atelier series cast. This game is on par with the cast from Rorona, if it just had Sterk and Esty it would be easily better.
– Ayesha is a much more likeable and personality filled character than many of the previous lead characters. Rorona and Totori I adore, but Ayesha has something more to her than “I’m cute”, and it’s a very nice change. Rorona will always be my favorite, and Annie second to her, Ayesha may very well be my third place though.
– The dub is good, as you’d expect of NISA releases (they didn’t release the title, but they were used for the localization), I understand the problem of not having dual audio – but they did great so it’s not really a problem.
– The map design feels more like a real adventure – it doesn’t ever show you every location, for example on the way to the first village near Ayesha’s workshop you’ll see only one stop – but as you go you’ll run into 3 connected locales (which are all connected within them too rather than going to the world map each time – plus are all bigger than previous zones on their own). Giving you a sense of actual exploration and adventure every step of the way. Oh and you can change weather in areas!
– Memory system lets you earn things aside just money from doing side missions and side jobs, as you can unlock some REALLY useful shit from it.
– You are finally just a girl doing her thing, you aren’t working for the city or anything else – the most ‘jobs’ you do are favors for random townspeople and a few freelance jobs (for the story) for a few key characters. This is why you’re so free to do what you please without any constraints. Even those jobs have no time limit on them.
– No dual audio, which is doubly sad because this has an OUTSTANDING Japanese cast.
– Not every scene is voiced; this is the biggest complaint I see about the release. TK refused to give NISA enough to cover dubbing all of it, so some of the scenes aren’t voiced over. I figured it’d be a problem, but having played the game now it’s barely noticeable and far from ruining the game in any way.
– No limited edition; I’m still mad.
Yeah, that’s it for the negatives.
If you are seriously considering NOT getting this because of those negatives, you really need to reconsider. First off, you need to understand THE GAME ITSELF is fucking incredibly good. The few bad points of it are ENTIRELY due to TK’s western release, and have no effect on the game itself. Sure, you won’t get a cool box or the OST, and maybe it’s only in English, but none of that is the fault of the game. And, more importantly, none of it hurts the game whatsoever.
For your OWN sake if you’re remotely a fan of this series or are interested in it at all – you shouldn’t skip out on this entry in the series for any reason. It’s a truly wonderful game, and is easily the best game in the entire Atelier franchise up to now. And no worries if you’re new to the series, this has no connection to any of the previous many titles whatsoever, not even the usual cameos the franchise typically always has.
I will write a real review rather than a list after I finish the game at least once (though knowing me, not right after, but eventually), so look forward to it!
Aside: Please be sure to play this game before skipping to Escha & Logy! That game is a direct sequel to this and it actually matters in this case. More on that HERE.