There’s a fair number of developers out there who do one thing and do it really well. Platinum Games, for instance, is fantastic at character-based brawlers…and since that’s pretty much all they ever make, they’ve refined that subgenre to an art. RPG developer Gust Co. Ltd., meanwhile, is in love with crafting systems. These lie at the heart of the Atelier series and similar titles like Mana Khemia and the Ar Tonelico titles. Today we’re going to talk about the latest of their updated Atelier rereleases for the PS Vita: Atelier Ayesha Plus, a revamped version of 2013’s Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk.
Atelier Ayesha chronicles the titular alchemist’s journey to save her lost sister. The setting is one of the more immediately notable aspects of the game, since the last trilogy of Atelier games – the Arland trilogy – took place in a world where alchemy was commonly practiced. Dusk, on the other hand, hasn’t seen alchemy in quite some time and the art is largely forgotten. Part of Ayesha’s journey will involve relearning the art and putting it to work for her benefit.
As always, the heart of Ayesha’s gameplay revolves around the arcane and complex synthesis system. Ayesha’s job is to make items, so you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time making new stuff, using that stuff to make other stuff, using stuff in combat and so on. But wait! Stuff has varying quality values and traits, even between copies of the same item, so you’ll need to pick out the best ingredients for your product. Basically, going into the particulars of how everything works would take an article or five in itself, so instead, let’s just say that fans of crafting systems are going to love this to death…much as they would with any other entry in the Atelier series.
A lot of the goodies you’ll be using for crafting will come from smacking monsters around, naturally. The combat in Atelier Ayesha is most immediately reminiscent of the earlier Atelier Meruru. It’s a turn-based system where characters can follow up each other’s attacks for combined beatings; positioning also plays a part as heroes move around the battlefield to avoid area attacks and strike at enemies’ vulnerable backsides. As is typical with this series, none of the combat is particularly difficult if you stay on top of synthesis and preparation. Ayesha herself can also gain stats and new synthesis recipes through collecting Memories from sidequests and such, which is a nice touch.
Everything is presented in gorgeous form. The cel-shaded graphics that have become standard for the series are present and accounted for and look brilliant; the Vita doesn’t have any trouble making things run nicely. The English voice acting also avoids being all that grating, though the Plus version offers the Japanese voice track if you’d prefer that.
Fans of the Atelier series are going to enjoy the start of the latest trilogy with this updated Atelier Ayesha Plus, but they probably didn’t need me to tell them that. People who haven’t already gotten into Gust’s alchemical adventures will find this a great place to start thanks to its polished visuals, palatable plot and refined combat system. We’ve already seen the second Dusk game, Atelier Escha & Logy, on PS3 and the third, Atelier Shallie, will be released for the same on March 10. You’re not going to be left hanging for the next part of the plot, in other words, so knock yourself out.