Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland Review

By Andrew McDanell on July 11, 2014

Atelier Rorona made quite a splash in Japan when it was released in 2009, seeing many stores sold out and reviewers praising its quality. On the contrary, when it reached the western market it was met with mixed reviews and decent sales. Though it can't be denied that the Atelier series has managed to capture the hearts of many gamers. With it, a slew of remastered versions including Atelier Rorona Plus for Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. Does this version warrant a purchase or should it have remained in the past?

For those new to Atelier Rorona, the game follows the rise or lack there of for one Rorolina Frixell (or Rorona as she's called). After falling ill, her parents turned to a great alchemist named Astrid Zexis to cure their ailments. Having no money, they allowed Astrid her wish to have Rorona work off their debt at her alchemy lab. Sometime later, the lab would be put in danger of closing by the kingdom. Lacking any care to prove the lab's worth, Astrid hands the shop over to Rorona and lets her prove its existence to the kingdom by completing its assigned tasks.

Like others in the Atelier series, Atelier Rorona excels at creating a moment to moment storytelling environment. Putting aside a big grand scheme or world ending plotline, you're instead following Rorona on her daily adventures in the life of an alchemist. It's in this simplicity that the game manages to engage and entertain while not overwhelming you with a typical goal.

During her struggle to keep the lab open, Rorona meets and sometimes gets assistance from many citizens of the town as well as travelers from distant lands. Each of these characters have different personalities and are often as colorful as Rorona herself. From a cook that isn't embarrassed to swing a frying pan at an enemy, a rich girl that covers her heart with a cold attitude, and so many more.

Many of these characters, including the ones described above, will even join Rorona (at times for a fee). Even in battle, their unique and often quirky personalities are apparent and shine in their combative form. Each obtain new skills that they can use to strike down foes or even aid their fellow party members.

However even with these unique skills and personalities, the combat stays true to the traditional turn-based combat style. Never feeling very complex and at times almost too basic. Though if you're looking for more, the sheer arsenal that a alchemist has at their disposal is fun. In order to take advantage of this feature, you're diving into the core of the game itself: Alchemy.

Most of the assignments that you're given by the kingdom are fulfilled by synthesizing items in your atelier. With quite possibly one of the more interesting crafting systems in gaming, the Atelier series has you collecting or buying items in order to maximize qualities and attributes for usable and equippable items.

Thankfully, along with the many other upgrades made in Atelier Rorona Plus as opposed to it's original, the synthesis system has been greatly improved. Menus are intuitive and the sheer amount of what can be created leaves you spending hours diving into its many mechanics. Shooting for the highest quality for improved results and even adding attributes to an item to enhance its effects. Make a healing item grant mana points as well, or even cure ailments while you're healing. The possibilities are seemingly endless.

The only thing to put a damper on your crafting experimentation is the time restraints. Each assignment you're given by the kingdom is required to be done in a 3 month span consecutively over 3 years. While juggling your task, synthesis, exploring, and gathering is part of Atelier Rorona Plus's challenge, it also turns out to be its more pressing flaws. Though this feeling of restraint is more apparent with some assignments than others.

For those returning to the franchise, several aspects of the game have been changed. The more obvious change is the complete graphical face-lift. Character models have been updated, shedding their child-like appearance for a more modern Atelier style. Environments have been improved as well as new town environments to explore. Alchemy and skills now take MP instead of HP and leveling won't produce skill points to spend but rather you character will automatically improve. There's even returning characters from other Atelier titles and costumes if you fancy. All solid changes that I believe fans will find interesting to explore.

While the PS3 version of the game serves up the optimal experience for Atelier Rorona Plus due to its instant load times, PS Vita gamers can still find an enjoyable experience. The only loss players will find is in the 2-3 second load times between areas and some stuttering when gathering and opening menus.

Final Thoughts

Atelier Rorona Plus is a fantastic improvement to its original. Offering a great starting place for those new to the franchise while also offering plenty of new content for those returning to the franchise. While the time limits can often feel restrictive and the combat remains overly simple, its moment to moment dialog and addictive synthesis system can pull you back again and again.

Great visuals and presentation.
Addictive and intuitive synthesis.
Entertaining moment-to-moment dialog.
Time constraint prevents experimentation.
Combat design is rather lacking.
Some minor performance issues.
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