Falling, The Star Light by Mineko Yamamoto
The star that shines to you
Leading to a faraway, endless future
As the stars shower down
If inside of my heart
Magic is sleeping
I wonder what I would grant
My dreams overflow
The fog that mists you
Inside of a faraway opening in your memory
Makes a grieving commotion
But a light shines and leads you the way
The treasure you lost
During your childhood
I want to hurry and send it to you
Dreams are limitless
So much Atelier, so little time! Today, I will be covering Atelier Rorona Plus ~The Alchemist of Arland~ for PS3 and Vita, which was released just last month in English. It was released in Japan as New Atelier Rorona: The Origin Story ~The Alchemist of Arland~ (Shin Rorona no Atelier: Hajimari no Monogatari ~Ārando no Renkinjutsushi~) last November.
Unlike the Vita ports of other Atelier games I’ve covered, this is a full remake of the 2009/2010 PS3 title Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (Rorona no Atorie ~Aarando no Renkinjutsushi~), which is the 11th Atelier game, and the first game in the Arland trilogy (before Totori and Meruru). It’s a full remake because the original Rorona sticks out like a sore thumb next to its two sequels. This is why it was also released on PS3 instead of just Vita (though only the PS3 version got a physical release outside of Japan), and why I specified this version in the title of this post. I played the Vita version.
As a fun fact before I proceed, this is actually the final game published by Koei-Tecmo America and Koei-Tecmo Europe before they swapped their name order back around from Tecmo-Koei outside Japan.
The story here is simple. You are the alchemist Rorona, who became the apprentice to the last alchemy workshop in the kingdom after your master, Astrid, saved your life as a kid. However, the person in charge of planning the city’s layout wants to close the unpopular workshop and replace it with a factory to make more money. You must clear 12 assignments over the course of 3 years to save the workshop.
Gameplay in Atelier Rorona Plus is very similar to Atelier Escha & Logy in terms of the assignments, by which I mean you complete a main goal and several sub-goals which then fill out a bingo board to give you rewards. The map and are traversal, however, is even simpler. There’s a choice of areas to go to, and those each have an amount of time set to travel to them. Then each sub-area has an amount of time it will take to explore, which is taken out of your remaining time as you leave the area, unlike later titles’ time being based on actions within the areas.
Something unique to Rorona is the existence of things in sub-areas that affect your ability to traverse them. You need to use items to breathe underwater, freeze a river to cross it, and stuff like that. Most annoying are the bombs with regenerating health. You have to min-max your bombs’ power (to the point that I never cleared some) in order to break them in one hit or their health will fully restore somehow. As the sub-areas that open up depend on which exits you take, this can lock you out of stuff until you’re able to get past.
Alchemy is also much the same, using the simple Arland alchemy system, but features like decorations (which replace Meruru’s adventuring equipment), as well as a gardening system, have been added. That said, you may not get a chance to use the garden much unless you actively make sure to synthesize one of the seeds when you get them so you can have Hom duplicate it later in the game. This is normally a non-issue, but the recipe for the seeds requires seeds, which you cannot get extras of until the post-game, and Hom can’t synthesize an item for free if you haven’t already synthesized it before.
Speaking of which, some ingredients are simply scare. Take the high-level ingredient known as the Dunkleheit, for example. In Escha and Logy, you pretty much had an infinite supply. In this game, however, you can get them from either post-game enemies or in a specific sub-area in a faraway section of the map during the 11th month of the year.
Combat is essentially the same as in Meruru, except with a merged party bar for team attacks and the like. Rorona also actually has abilities to use in battle, unlike Totori (prior to her one late-game ability) and Meruru. You also need to pay your party members or they won’t leave town with you, although Cordelia is free, as are Totori and Meruru in the post-game. In addition to Totori and Meruru, Astrid and Esty are newly-playable, with this being Astrid’s only playable appearance.
While on the subject of the combat system, I would like to bring up how… different the music is for combat in this game. The default songs for normal battles and boss battles are some of the least-exciting songs I’ve heard:
However, like any recent Atelier game, you can swap in a variety of songs from other entries in the series, including official remixes, though they don’t fit well with the game’s victory theme, and not all songs that are replaceable in this game have such optional remixes:
Speaking of post-game, there is a new 1-year post-game sequence where Totori and Meruru are sent back in time by mistake and your goal is to make the item to send them back within a year. Most events and progression, except for the ones unique to post-game, are disabled for its duration. Post-game also gives access to the last new mechanic added for the remake – a time capsule that lets you send stuff to future Astrid in exchange for potentially rare items and costumes. There are also super-hard dungeons unlocked only in post-game. Post-game is accessible as long as you didn’t get the bad ending, but the game assumed you got the true ending.
Before going into endings work, I would like to bring attention to the glitches and errors present here. Most of these don’t really affect gameplay, but they’re worth noting.
I’ll state the one that does first: You can buy items from a salesman named Cole who visits your workshop on the 15th of every month after a certain point. Don’t buy any usable items from his, though, just ingredients. Why not usable items? Because the items he sells don’t have any effect on them, which is literally impossible for ones you make. This actually fooled me into thinking there was a major glitch, since attempting to use an offensive item without an effect simply plays the half of the animation before damage is dealt and continues. Luckily, you’re simply not allowed to use healing items without effects (the error tone plays and you don’t leave the menu).
As for ones that don’t affect gameplay, I’ve had NPCs fall through the floor and immediately respawn. I’ve also seen various typos, as well as a line that’s left in Japanese in the English release. Luckily, talking to the next NPC over will show the line in English.
In any event, endings. Endings in Rorona work based on your popularity (based on side-quest completion) and how well you did on the main assignments, leading to the Bad, Normal, Good and True endings. Character endings take precedent over specific endings depending on the character, though getting the ending they don’t take precedent over still has them make a special appearance in the ending. Unlike the original Arland games, however, this game uses the Dusk method – you can simply pick from the endings you qualify for.
I would recommend Atelier Rorona Plus ~The Alchemist of Arland~ to anyone interested in Atelier games, though it would not be my first choice unless one is interested in playing the entire Arland trilogy. In which case, play this instead of the original Rorona.