What’s that dear gamer? Testosterone levels too high after a marathon session of God of War? Fear not, I have the antidote for you. Atelier Rorona Plus – a video game were you play as a pink haired girl who spends most of her days stirring alchemy ingredients bubbling in a cauldron. As you may have ascertained from the word “Plus” this is a remake of the 2010 Atelier Rorona, spruced up with nicer graphics and a smattering of extra content. The question on everyone’s lips is whether the game is any good or just a cynical cash grab by developer Gust. Remaking a game on the very same console it originally appeared on seems a bit much. Do these guys think they are Capcom (endless editions of Street Fighter) or EA Sports (yearly FIFAs) by any chance?
If you are seeking an epic JRPG where you save the world from a villainous silver haired swordsman you are looking in the wrong place. The Atelier games forgo dramatic tales, featuring spikey haired warriors, in favour of managing a quaint alchemy workshop. In this particular title fourteen-year-old (seventeen in the Western versions because Europeans fear Pedo Bear) Rorona is tasked with keeping her store open. Arland’s governmental bigwigs have set her a three-year ultimatum to prove the shop’s worth or it will face closure. Although Rorona’s master Astrid is an exceptional alchemist she prefers to snooze all day, rather than concoct potions, so it falls on her clumsy apprentice to save the shop from a Blockbuster Video like death.
The game’s story spans over three years, which are broken down into twelve assignments. In order to progress onto the next objective players are expected to complete whatever task the Arland Kingdom have assigned to them. In most cases you will be required to deliver a certain quantity of alchemically created goods by a certain date. Items can be crafted at the workshop, but in order to make them you will first have to venture out and harvest ingredients from the nearby land. That’s easier said than done though as the region of Arland is infested with bloodthirsty creatures, malevolent spirits and ruthless bandits. To even up the odds Rorona can team up with two friends when gallivanting across hostile areas. The pals in question include her childhood friend Cordelia and a young cook named Iksel. Two underage girls and a boy armed with a saucepan versus a giant golem? That’s not going to end well.
When you first begin to play Atelier Rorona Plus the first thing that will strike you are the improved visuals. The game no longer looks like a title that could have appeared on the Playstation 2. The game retains its trademark anime aesthetics, but the character models are now more detailed and realistically proportioned. The combat system remains a turn-based affair, which is initiated whenever you bump into the nasty creatures patrolling the various levels. I was pleased to see that in this remake the creators opted to use MP for powering special abilities. The original Rorona used health points to activate special moves, which was rather silly. Casting a healing spell for example would drain your life. How daft is that?
Another addition to Plus are the bingo like stamp cards that were first introduced in the Atelier sequels. Stamps can be acquired by completing optional quests and are worth pursuing. Questing earns you decent rewards and encourages you to level up various skills, which will be required to best the upcoming compulsory challenges. Atelier Rorona Plus also includes an additional “overtime” year, which features some very challenging bosses. The overtime year sees Rorona team up with heroines from other Atelier titles and is a nice incentive for players who already own the original game. It’s basically new content designed to test the transmutation skills of expert players to their fullest. How is Rorona joining forces with Totori and Meruru who appear in the later games you may ask? In the words of the Doctor, it can all be explained via timey wimey nonsense.
My rating for Atelier Rorona Plus is a very high four stars. I had a blast playing it although it gets a tad repetitive during the later assignments. If you have enjoyed the newer Atelier games and want to experience the first Atelier PS3 title I highly recommend getting Plus over the original, as it is much more polished. Whether the game is worth repurchasing, if you already own the original, will vary from person to person. I imagine for most people it isn’t worth double dipping, as the story is pretty much identical, but it was worthwhile for me as I have a goldfish like memory. I can’t remember what I did yesterday let alone what I played four years ago, so revisiting Rorona felt like playing a brand new game.
Rorona Plus is also available to buy on the Vita. If you are an Atelier fanatic, who commutes regularly, getting the handheld version may be a preferable investment. Saved games can be transferred between the PS3 and Vita versions, but unlike some other titles you will be expected to purchase the PS3 and Vita ports separately to take advantage of that feature. That’s surprising in this age of cross buy play. Gust your greed has “blown” me away.