Developed by Gust, the studio responsible for popular Japanese titles like Ars Tonelico, Atelier Iris and Mana Khemia, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is their first 3D game for the PlayStation 3. It' been a long time coming in regards to its Western counterpart as Japan has been enjoying the colourful tales for roughly a year now. Thankfully, fans of the Atelier franchise can rejoice as NIS America will be bringing it to local retailers this September.
Atelier Rorona tells of the adventures of Rororina Fryxell, a rather shy apprentice of a rather lazy alchemist. Due to everyday life being made easier by machines, almost every alchemy workshop has been shut down and now their's have come under strict orders to do so. That is, unless Rororina can prove that alchemy is still very much needed in times when technology is taking over.
The story progresses as Rororina is given tasks to complete. The interesting catch is that she has only a set amount of time to complete them. A calendar is available and keeping note of it and how much time is left before the deadline is key to improving the workshop's reputation. Miss a deadline or failing to complete a task means starting over from the last save point.
Much of the plot is delivered through event sequences between characters and are represented by illustrated portraits, much like in popular Japanese visual novels. Surprisingly, the English voice acting is quite charming to the point that one can't help themselves but chuckle at the comical situations Rororina finds herself in. Moving around is split into two segments. The world map is depicted as an illustrated map while field maps are fully rendered, allowing Rororina to explore key areas of Arland and the world around it.
Being a JRPG, it's only natural that combat would be a staple in Atelier Rorona. The battle system is what most JRPG fans have come to expect, a turn-based system with a couple of twists to keep things fresh. Rororina and her party are able to support each other even if it isn't their turn. An "assist" gauge will show when another character is available and when they are, hitting R1 or L1 will call them in for some support action. Enemies can be seen on the field map and it's up to players if they'd like to avoid or engage them.
Another core mechanic worth noting is the synthesizing portions of the game. Rororina is capable of synthesizing items from ingredients harvested in fields or from treasure chests and enemies throughout the world. There are plenty of combos and the result can change depending on the ingredients used. Synthesizing is quite important to Atelier Rorona as missions do require Rororina to create items requested by the royal authorities of Arland.
Overall, Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland looks to offer a fun comical adventure for anybody looking for one. The story doesn't take itself too seriously, unlike many RPGs on the market where melodrama has become a staple, and this is one of the exceptional points that makes Atelier Rorona quite the bit of fun. While the gameplay doesn't quite bring anything new to the formula, the feel of familiarity is a welcome one. Look forward to Rororina's misadventures when Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland hits store shelves on September 28 this year.