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Not Iris…. Rorona – Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland Review

Not Iris…. Rorona – Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland Review

by SamFebruary 14, 2011

Title: Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~
Alternative Title: Rorona no Atorie
Published by: Nippon Ichi Software America
Developed by: GUST
Based on: The next part in the Atelier series.
Console: Playstation 3
Genre: Role-Playing, Item Collection Micromanagement
Rating: PG (Australia) for Mild Violence and Infrequent coarse language. Teen:Adolescents (US).
Audio: Never actually changed, but I presume both English and Japanese dubs.
Text: English at least…..
Region: No region constriction. Only one trophy list for all regions (So having two games won’t give you double trophies).
Cost: $AUD 49.95
My Blurb: Atelier Rorona takes what was good about the Atelier Iris (PS2) series and adds a completely different style of gameplay. Whilst the storyline may not live up to fans expectations, the graphics and music have been upgraded to suit current-gen consoles and the item collection is still as it was in the first Atelier game.

I was browsing through my draft list today and came across a few half and almost finished reviews that I forgot about between the time I did my exams last semester and now. This was originally going to be one of my speed reviews however, the original copy that I ordered online, was inevitably lost somewhere between Play-Asia HQ and my house, so by the time I got my hands on it, it was already quite late in the year. This game is still relatively easy to find in Australian game stores, especially in EB Games and specialty stores such as Gametraders, and I assume that is the same for a lot of areas in the world.

For my Aussie readers, the cover art above is not what you are to look for in store, as our cover art has one more similar to the Japanese cover with Rorona on the front of the cover, with a trade-off of have a less inspiring disc art. Anyway, if you haven’t stopped at just my blurb, then I invite you to read my indepth review of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland!

The kingdom of Arland was small and poor until a visiting alchemist showed the residents how to use the newly discovered ancient relics, called “Machines” to enhance their lives. As a reward, the king let the alchemist open an alchemy workshop in Arland. Over the years, the popularity of the workshop dwindled. The kingdom has decreed that the workshop must complete a series of challenges to stay open, or face banishment.

It has fallen upon Rorona, an alchemist-in-training, to carry out this task….

The story in theory sounds very good, however the first three sentences of this game are irrelevant to anything that occurs in the game. Instead, you could compare the storyline as a mix between the Atelier Iris series and the PS2 Persona games. Your main objective is to fulfill the requests of both the general populace and the palace in order to both not lose the shop and gain popularity with the locals.

However, you are not alone during your journeys, during the course of the game you unlock other party members who you can do quests for and journey with. Whilst doing these with party members, you can increase their “feelings” for you which results in additional storylines being unlocked for all the characters. Whilst this is  a nice touch, it is near impossible to complete all characters paths in the first playthrough especially when juggling around the constrictive time allocations, hunting for items and increasing your popularity with the town folks.

That being said, the storyline is rather average on a whole, the main storyline is just there to progress the gameplay, the only sort of badass boss that could be in the game suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again and it just takes too much effort to get individual character storylines.

The individual character development is completely up to how much time you want to go running around after each of the characters. Every character is given a starting storyline that usually resolves itself by them joining Rorona’s merry band of scavengers. After that, usually every 20-25 “feelings” percentage, a small storyline will unfold itself, leading to one final storyline that requires you to collect items, go without the character for a while et cetera, et cetera. Whilst I wouldn’t consider it worth it just for that, they aren’t bad by any means. Of course, for those trophy collectors, it makes it very difficult to unlock the character specific trophies, as there are four endings, each with specific character paths for them (Eg. Cordelia’s end can only be unlocked on the Truth End whilst Lionela’s can only be unlocked in the normal end).

Games from companies such as GUST have been well known to, whilst having a rather unique sense of character design, always produce some of the best CG Art you will be able to find in a game, and this time is no exception. Every area in the game has its own unique backdrop, all of which are, to me, heavily detailed and filled with life! Take the above examples, the field images have a sort of soft artistic tone that works well with the envionment, a darker workshop to show that it is a darker alchemists workshop and the image directly above, which shows some of the creative CG art they have added.

I shall openly admit that I am a big fan of the 2D Sprite art of previous games and would have preferred it over this sort of ingame design. However, the environment and character designs pull off a rather cute atmosphere that varies in quality. Looking at the character designs, they are not all that close to the character portraits for the respective characters, however they are still cute none-the-less. The environment designs for the overworld are fairly good and well detailed, however I felt that that battle environments were disappointing, and would have been something I would have expected early-PS2 era in terms of detail (I am aware that at times, their charm is the simplistic look, however, I felt that in comparison to everything else, they could have been better).

Opening Theme: Atelier Rorona by Ken Nakagawa
I have always liked the Atelier opening themes and they were not too slow or came across as forceful, and this song is no exception. This opening is relatively short, coming in at just after a minute in length. The animation does a good job of introducing the characters and the artwork in it was top notch!

The music of Atelier Rorona was composed by Ken Nakagawa, who has been on board for countless Atelier games before. The music is overall really good, however a small step down from the previous games in terms of intensity (During battles) and variety (I am sure there were more tracks in other games). HOWEVER, the one thing I can compliment Ken Nakagawa on his is slower and more peaceful tunes which work quite well considering the theme and environment of the game.

In terms of voice acting, a number of regulars present and there were no voice actors that made me want to switch to Japanese dubbing. The ratio of dubbing : no dubbing is pretty good, and is of the level I would expect from NISA.

For the most part, you will be spending the game in one of two places, in the battle system or the synthesis system. The synthesis system is a generic tool used in Atelier games, as well as being expanded into other games such as Trinity Universe, Cross Edge, and even becoming popular in other game series such as White Knight Chronicles. For a video look at the synthesis system, CLICK HERE.

The purpose of the system is to use items collected in the field to create other items that can be used as healing items, quest items or palace request items. The main focus of this system is for you to create a number of items each season that have been requested by the palace, for you to submit them in. Depending on the quality of the items and how many you submit, you get a star rating out of 10. This, alongside your reputation with the townspeople determines what sort of ending you get, since barely getting by with the palace requests may net you a Bad Ending, whilst going all out may yield you the best ending.

The only issue I have with this system, is not with the actual synthesis, but the requests from townspeople, once you get enough money, you can essentially complete request after request by purchasing things from the stores in town. As well, part way through the game, you are given a homunculus which can collect items from you, which can leave you with little else to do but wait for him/her to come back and answer requests.

The other part of your game time takes place in one of the 8-10 areas available to you (Pending you unlocking them) where you have the task of scavenging for items and levelling up your characters to ensure they will not die on the next map. Each region is split up into different areas, which requires days to travel to and from, which is the most frustrating thing in this game. Each season you are allocated somewhere between 70-90 days to complete your mission, however making a pie takes up one day, travelling between some regions can take up several days and then to reset the items on the map you are on, you still take up several days. Despite it being frustrating, it makes you think about what area you want to go to for the specific item and if you should resort to the “cheating” tactic of giving the requester store bought items.

The battle system on the other hand also can cause some strife in the early levels. Originally you start with Rorona and Cordelia who are underpowered, and to make it more complicated, there is only one health bar which doubles as an MP Bar. However, as you gain characters, it gets slightly easier with some planning. The battle system however is similar to the system found in several of the older Final Fantasy games where you select your attack or skill and your character will attack using the turn based system. The battle system can be extended a bit through weapon creation, in which you can create ingots and cloth to create weapons with special buffs, especially ones with the Hidden Skills which doubles as an overdrive skill. For a preview of the battle system…. Click [Here] and [Here].

In terms of replayability, I have played through the game one and a half times, however I cannot see me going past the second play-through mark. The game is good, and allows you to take different paths each time you play, however unless you are into collecting trophies or really like digging around for mushrooms, then I wouldn’t see many people aiming for the extremely tedious platinum. However this game is good for a playthrough or two.

Personally, I would have liked this game if it was a bit more towards the Atelier Iris style of gameplay with a proper storyline and a whole lot of magic and fantasy elements, however this was an enjoyable game that provided you don’t mind collecting virtual items for virtual people, I wouldn’t see many people being disappointed.

Final Score

Storyline: C-
Characters: B
Design: A-
Opening Theme: A
Music: B+
Voice Acting: A
Gameplay: B+
Replayability: B
Personal Opinion: B+

Overall Score:  B+

About The Author
Your average, perhaps slightly geeky 23 year old University student who spends his days studying but his nights watching, reviewing and reporting on video games, anime and manga. Has been writing for The Otaku's Study ever since it opened in 2006 as Sam's Anime Study.