Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 06.02.2017

Review for Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea on PS Vita

Much like our other recent reviews, this instalment is a re-release of the original released in 2015 on PlayStation 3. It is actually the 16th game in the long-running crafting-centric RPG series, along with being the conclusion to Alchemists of the Dusk story, which previously included Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk and Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (PS3 review; PS Vita review). Shallie delivers a close to the Dusk Sea, brings new gameplay elements and familiar features, and packs in some extra content, all out now on PS Vita.

This latest instalment in the Atelier franchise again gives two playable characters to choose from, each with their own story to tell - though with plenty of overlap for each. It's two heroines this time, and to make things nice and confusing, they're both called Shallie! Shallie #1 (full name Shallote) is an "old fashioned" alchemist in the town of Stellard, and she is stuck with menial work around town and constantly shown up by the new generation of alchemists. She yearns for fame and recognition. Shallie #2 (full name Shallistera) is on a quest to save her little village; the Dusk is creeping ever closer and it's in danger of suffering from the drought that is overtaking the world. She comes to Stellard in hopes of help, but ends up paying off a surprising debt before she can find assistance for her town.

Even with the overlap between the two stories, this is definitely one of those games that justifies a second play through in New Game Plus with the other character. Shallie #1 can fish and use her broom to find items, while Shallie #2 can dowse for items. Each has different specialities in their crafting, too, with Shallie #1 able to create stronger items that are useful later in the game, while Shallie #2 is able to create items that take up less space, an attribute useful in the opening chapters. The party-leading heroine isn't the only thing that changes; the party members do, too, and each character has their own unique attributes.

Screenshot for Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea on PS Vita

There's a considerable length story here for both heroines, which is split up into individual chapters, each with missions to complete to progress, but it's the extra content that will prevent you from putting the game down. The titular alchemists can craft numerous things in their cauldrons, and this crafting process is just one of numerous addictive aspects of the game with surprising depth. Crafting ingredients, accessories, healing items and bombs all require mixing up a handful of ingredients, but where the complexity comes in is choosing which of many ingredients based on its attributes to produce specific bonuses in the final product, then taking into account the order the items are added and even special abilities. It's quite common to while hours and hours away just playing with the crafting in the atelier. As in the other games in this series, too, the new style of alchemy of imbuing and disassembling items returns; another local alchemist is more modern in her alchemistic works and is able to perform these tasks… for a fee.

There are also tons of sidequests out in the world to accomplish - the usual RPG fare of exploring areas, collecting items and killing set amounts of enemies, or particularly strong enemies. When those enemies appear, the action switches to a turn-based combat system. Utilising a party of up to six characters, only the front row of three are used initially, but the reserves can be switched with other members freely or even jump in to deal support attacks or block damage by filling up the Assist Gauge - those left in reserve also slowly refill their MP. The combat system is simple, but the wide range of abilities, along with a burst meter for chaining attacks and using the crafted items from the atelier, results in an enjoyable combat experience that stays interesting throughout both story playthroughs.

Screenshot for Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea on PS Vita

This will all feel very familiar to those who have played the previous entries in the trilogy. What will feel completely different, however, is the removal of the time system. In the other games, every action took a certain amount of time and there were only so many days available to complete tasks. It worked very well and added an extra element to the gameplay that really improved the game. The loss of it here is exactly that: a loss. Its replacement - the Life Tasks system - is a decent addition, but can't live up to what came before. Whichever Shallie has a map of Life Tasks within her brain - things she needs to achieve in her life. The essential tasks at the centre of her brain are used to progress through the chapters and the story, and on top of these are extra tasks related to four key categories of self, friendship, exploration and item use. These consist of things like exploring a set number of zones, killing certain enemies, jumping so many times, and so on. Completing these extra tasks gives various bonuses to Combat Experience and Synthesis Experience, and even unlocking special alchemy skills.

It's hard to compare the two systems. This one is certainly - obviously - much more laid back and encourages the completionists out there to farm and craft to their heart's content without having to abide by the game's built-in time system. There is one slight annoyance with this task system, however. When the tasks pop up during the game to show the progress, they show the title of the task previously completed… For example, completing the "Jump 50 Times" task unlocks the "Break 50 Barrels" task, but when breaking barrels, the popup shows "Jump 50 Times." It gets difficult later on when juggling tons of tasks to remember what each one is actually tracking!

The world is set up as numerous fields across the area, each a small map with a handful of resources and enemies within, and these both respawn upon leaving the zone, causing somewhat of a problem with the new free task system. With no limitations of time, the grind-happy players could farm the hell out of each location in very quick succession, so the game gets around this by having the fields react to how the player utilises them. Farmers will find that stripping the materials out of the zones repeatedly will result in things not regrowing, or slaughtering too many low-level animals results in stronger creatures paying a visit.

Screenshot for Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea on PS Vita

Being the final instalment of the Alchemists of the Dusk story, there are plenty of story elements, Easter eggs and returning faces from the previous titles. Atelier Shallie Plus does a superb job of bringing back the protagonists from the previous two entries in the series, along with some of their party members, and weaving a highly satisfying conclusion to the Dusk tale. It updates players on what Escha, Logy, and crew have been doing since their story ended six years previous to this story, and even Ayesha's team, since their story concluded a further four years before that. Newcomers can still jump in here and find a complete story worth experiencing, but it's really worth playing the whole Dusk trilogy to make the most of this.

Being a port from a PS3 game, it wouldn't be surprising to see a graphical upgrade. Sadly, that's not the case here. The graphics look on par with the original, and while the charming pastel styles look gorgeous during conversations and crafting, during world exploration the textures look rough and there are regular stuttering frame rates. The port may not include a graphical upgrade, but it does include the usual DLC content from the regular release, along with some changes to the story to make for a more rounded tale.

Screenshot for Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Intrinsically addictive, relaxingly laid back and completely charming. The Atelier games are hard to sell to those who have never played them, but once you start, you'll be tearing through the back catalogue to experience them all. The removal of the time-based objectives does negatively impact the final product, but left in its wake is a game to put your feet up and unwind with.

Developer

Gust

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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