With the recent announcement of Sony's PlayStation 4, in addition to the upcoming announcement of Microsoft's newest system and Nintendo's release of the Wii U, it's been an exciting time for fans of the role-playing genre. As with each generation, there are tons of new technological possibilities for long-running franchises such as Final Fantasy, Tales and Atelier. These games will be getting bigger and bolder, but just as importantly will have to stay true to the roots of their respective series. Tecmo Koei's recent release of Atelier Ayesha: the Alchemist of Dusk, exclusively for the PlayStation 3, does a good job of this. Combining the roots of the Atelier series with a new vibrant world creates a solid, albeit flawed, JRPG experience that should leave most fans satisfied.
As the fourteenth title in Gust's Atelier series, Atelier Ayesha shifts players from the previous world of the Arland series, and into a new world where alchemy is a lost art, much like the PlayStation 2's Mana Khemia. The story revolves around a young apothecary named Ayesha who is looking for her younger sister, Nio, who suddenly disappeared one day when she was out gathering herbs. A departure from the more whimsical styles of their last title, Atelier Meruru, Ayesha's search for her sister adds a sense of intimacy to the game bringing it much closer to the narrative quality of the highly-acclaimed Atelier Totori than either Meruru or Rorona. Although none of the game's moments ever quite reach the cathartic impact of Totori's quest to find her mother, Ayesha's narrative is strong enough to pull gamers through the game's three years of alchemy, traditional turn-based battling and timed events.
Even though the three year span of gameplay seems substantially shorter than the three years spent in the Arland series, much of the game is now streamlined which is either a good thing or bad thing depending on how much you loved the in-depth synthesis feature from the previous games. This time around, most items can be reproduced multiple times within a single day even at low alchemy levels. You can also create time-saving items fairly early on to help speed up travel and gathering. As a result, you never feel pressure to complete the game's main objective within the allotted time as there are no immediate deadlines that Ayesha has to fulfill other than a few expository quests during the 25-50 hours you're playing the game.
Unlike the Arland series where the three heroines focused on building their respective alchemy careers through requests until the end of the third year, Atelier Ayesha uses a new progression system called the "memory diary." The equivalent of requests from the previous games, fulfilling these diary entries grants various bonuses to the player including synthesis bonuses, attack bonuses, etc. Every action in the game gives players memory points which can be allocated towards completing various entries.
While the game's progression system does give the game a much more open-ended type of feel, it's sometimes confusing as to where the player is supposed to go. On more than one occasion, I found myself wandering aimlessly around the map trying to either trigger the game's timed events or going into and out of areas to try and find the next story sequence.
Much like the game's predecessors, Atelier Ayesha places a huge emphasis on the game's characters and their personalities. Although the usual anime tropes are all there, from the childhood friend Erine to the quiet tsundere Linca, each of the characters were beautifully designed by character designer Hidari (Fractale) to help breathe life into the world. Unlike previous games where most of the endings involved playable characters, each NPC who helps Ayesha during her quest has his or her own unique ending leading to plenty of individualized endings in the game. Which, unless you're following a guide, are sadly easy to miss.
Par for the course from Studio Gust, the soundtrack in Atelier Ayesha is a treat for the ears. Featuring some of the best tracks that the series has to offer so far, along with being the most extensive, a lot of the pieces help create an ethereal and fantastical ambiance. Nearly each area and character has their own original theme composed from the brilliant minds of Daisuke Achiwa, Kazuki Yanagawa, Yu Shimoda and Georges Bizet. It's easily one of the most evocative soundtracks on the PlayStation 3 to date.
Unfortunately, the game's presentation can only go so far as to making up what all fans already know. The game is available in English only. While the usual Bang Zoom Entertainment's voice actors do a decent job conveying the feelings of the characters, emulating the original Japanese seiyuus in the process, it really comes down to the player's preferences and how they feel about English dubbing in a Japanese game. Not being able to switch between subs and dubs is quite a departure from the previous games in the Atelier series where players were given the choice between the two dubs, although it's been promised that future entries will feature both dubs again.
In the end, with its strong presentation, entertaining script and enjoyable characters, Atelier Ayesha ends up being greater than the sum of its parts and more than makes up for any of its inherent flaws. Although it may not be the strongest entry into the series, the new setting of the Dusk trilogy is promising and I look forward to seeing where the next entry Atelier Eska & Rosy: The Alchemists of the Sky and Dusk goes from here.
What I Loved:
-Getting to know the cast of Atelier Ayesha and their individual quirks and storylines was a very enjoyable experience.
-Evocative soundtrack that accurately reflects the somewhat bittersweet, yet whimsical ambiance of the game.
-Easily the best looking game in the Atelier series to date.
What I Hated:
-The game's ENGLISH only dub. Although the voices grew on me a while, it would have been a much welcomed feature.
-Synthesis has become a lot more streamlined this time around, especially when you compare it to the Arland series.
-The mysterious absence of one former recurring character, Pamela Ibis.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the distributor
When he is not moonlighting as a polyextremophile, swimming amidst mossy green rocks, Jason is the current reviews editor for The-O Network Online. He has written over five hundred articles for a number of media outlets covering everything from anime/video games to women's racquetball shoes.
Tecmo Koei Confirms Atelier Meruru Plus, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate for E3 2013
Tecmo Koei has revealed their plans for E3 2013, confirming localizations for the JRPG title Atelier Meruru Plus: The Apprentice of Arland Plus and strategy title Toukiden for the PlayStation Vita, as well as a release date for Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate in the West.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (PS3/360) Review
I’ll be honest, when I think of Tecmo Koei’s Ninja Gaiden series, the first three words that comes to my mind are: blood, flying limbs and ninja boobs, aside from dying repeatedly. So when Team Ninja initially tried to experiment with the magic formula that made Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 such a success, by removing the obscene, over-the-top violence and dismembered limbs, my interest in the game plummeted lower than Ayane’s low-cut armor. Knowing full well that a director’s cut version, would eventually be released, I waited until Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge’s inevitable announcement. Then the Wii U version of the game was released as part of the system’s launch lineup and my hype meter went over 9000.
Would the inclusion of what I (along with thousands of other gamers out there) see as the game’s primary features, make up for the departure of the series’ former iconic producer Tomonobu Itagaki? Well, it really depends on what you’re looking for.
ATELIER AYESHA: THE ALCHEMIST OF DUSK SHIPS TO RETAILERS NATIONWIDE TODAY!
BURLINGAME, Calif. – March 5, 2013 – Today, TECMO KOEI America is thrilled to announce that the latest installment in the fan-favorite Atelier series, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk for the PlayStation®3, ships to retailers nationwide today. Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is sure to fulfill the desires of every alchemy RPG fan with new features, battle system additions, and brand-new storyline and characters. Fans of the series will have even more to explore with future DLC releases of new costumes, characters, additional areas, and more! Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk follows the story of Ayesha Altugle, a girl who has been living alone in a secluded workshop ever since her grandfather died and her younger sister went missing a few years ago. She supports herself by making and selling medicine. As the story begins, she finds out that her younger sister IS alive somewhere in the world. Now, she must devote herself to finding her younger sister. Her journey to keep her promise begins...
TECMO KOEI AMERICA WILL RELEASE ATELIER AYESHA: THE ALCHEMIST OF DUSK THIS SPRING!
BURLINGAME, Calif. – January 15, 2013 – Today, TECMO KOEI America is excited to announce that the latest installment in the fan-favorite Atelier series, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk for the PlayStation®3, will be released in North America on March 5. Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is sure to fulfill the desires of every alchemy RPG fan with new features, battle system additions, and brand-new storyline and characters. Fans of the series will have even more to explore with future DLC releases of new costumes, characters, additional areas, and more! Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk follows the story of Ayesha Altugle, a girl who has been living alone in a secluded workshop ever since her grandfather died and her younger sister went missing a few years ago. She supports herself by making and selling medicine. As the story begins, she finds out that her younger sister IS alive somewhere in the world. Now, she must devote herself to finding her younger sister. Her journey to keep her promise begins...
Warriors: Legends of Troy Review
Traditionally revolving around a historical Asian story, such as Dynasty Warriors’ Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Warriors franchise now branches out to The Iliad with Warriors: Legends of Troy. Instead of Omega Force, Legends of Troy was developed by Koei Canada and, while it still bears the signature name and some gameplay similarities, provides a new experience for fans of the Warriors series to enjoy.