Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the concluding chapter of the Dusk trilogy and presumably the last Atelier game that will appear on the PlayStation 3 (looks like the time when I finally upgrade to a PS4 is starting to draw near.) Gust has been churning out Atelier games almost as frequently as the Octo-mom spews out toddlers. There have been a total of six Atelier games on the PS3 (not counting enhanced remakes) and a number of them have also found their way onto Sony’s Vita. From the Atelier games I have played Shallie is arguably my favourite – thanks to its improved visuals, deeper combat system and gameplay tweaks that make this the most accessible Atelier title to date.
Just like in Atelier Escha & Logy, this game features two protagonists (who are both conveniently nicknamed Shallie.) Shallistera is the daughter of a village chief, whose settlement is suffering from a terrible drought. Seeking a remedy for the water shortage Shallistera sets off on an expedition, which unfortunately comes to a bumpy end after her airship has a run in with an ill tempered sand dragon. The irritable Smaug damages Shallistera’s craft causing it to crash into the nearby desert town of Stellard. There she meets the game’s other Shallie (aka Shallotte) an impoverished street sweeper who is learning alchemy in order to score more lucrative jobs from the local guild. The pair soon become friends and decide to join forces in order to investigate the mysterious Dusk that is sapping the region’s water supplies.
At its core Atelier Shallie plays much like its predecessors. The aim of the game is to complete objectives either by harvesting ingredients from the land, performing alchemy to create items or using your trusty broom to whack the nasty creatures that roam the Stellard outskirts. What makes this title more forgiving than its forerunners is that Atelier Shallie lacks the franchise’s infamous time constraints. The story advances after you complete a prerequisite number of tasks, but there isn’t a deadline date that will signal the game’s finale. Some diehard fans will argue that this change reduces the game’s challenge (much like how Fire Emblem veterans deride the removal of perma-deaths) but I personally am okay with the alteration. It’s nice being able to tackle optional quests without feeling pressured into battling the final boss by a predetermined day.
My rating for Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is five stars. It narrowly pips Atelier Ayesha for the honour of being the most fun Atelier game that I own. The only complaint I have with the title is that it got released with a game breaking bug (triggered by activating the growth system) but if you are reading this review you need not worry as the glitch has since been patched. From a narrative perspective Shallie continues the Atelier tradition of delivering humorous slice of life cut scenes and graphically I approve of the developer’s decision to do away with static camera angles. Being able to rotate your perspective at will makes level exploration a much more pleasant experience.
Another plus in Shallie’s favour is the improved combat system, which is vastly superior to the basic turn based battles that appeared in Atelier Rorona. Smashing golems, eradicating wildlife and destroying dragons is much more satisfying thanks to the title’s dynamic mechanics. Taking on hostiles involves managing a team of six characters, were it is strategically advantageous to swap the trio on the frontlines with their pals in the rear guard. Doing so allows the party to perform extra attacks, protect allies from incoming damage and utilize the abilities of your full roster. Aside from the titular Shallies the team under your command contains Wilbell the spunky witch, Homura a sword wielding fur ball and Jurie the treasure hunter. Sadly the gorgeous blade master known as Linca does not return for this sequel. I instead had to settle for her bespectacled sister who works as a Stellard bureaucrat.
In summary – Atelier Shallie ends the series’ PS3 foray on a high note. It will be interesting to see how the franchise will develop once Gust transition over to more powerful hardware. Hopefully the game’s more casual friendly elements will attract new players to this instalment. The Atelier brand is blessed with a library of charming JRPGs that really deserves a bigger audience.