The Atelier series is one that a lot of folks have either never heard of or outright dismissed due to the moe sensibilities that helped shape it. They're missing the point, though. This is a franchise from GUST that is built on a strong foundation of item synthesis and the journey of an alchemist to become the best in their field. You want a game about that vendor that shows up before the final boss in a JRPG that just so happens to have everything you might need before heading into the fray? You've found it, friend, and it's called Atelier Shallie Plus.
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the final part of the "Dusk Trilogy", taking place in the Land of Dusk. The world is overrun with desert, monsters are all about and it's up to some very cute but plucky alchemists to try and save the day. The story centers around two alchemists both named Shallie who are each trying to find their place in the world. Shalliestra is the daughter of a Chief from a distant village while Shallote is just getting started in the fast-paced item alchemy game and trying to get better.
The third part of a trilogy of games tends to be a bad place to start as a newcomer to the series yet Atelier Shallie Plus manages to be a great jumping-on point for the uninitiated. Series mainstays such as in calendar events, deadlines for quests and item creation are long gone. Instead, players can find a more traditional RPG system of progression based on quests completed and Life Task Events will move the story along. Grinding isn't a necessity either as new areas to explore and enemies to best all lead to more items to craft and more story to uncover. Atelier games have always been very friendly when it comes to grinding requirements and Atelier Shallie Plus takes that rule and runs with it. The Life Task system will provide small tasks and events to do that will net experience points but it adapts to the player's style. So, if someone were more concerned with exploring and getting deep into combat, the Life Task system will offer more opportunities to advance in that way. If item creation is more your bag then the system will adapt accordingly.
The result is a very laid back game (even more so than its predecessors) that allows for easygoing sessions of traditional turn-based combat and alchemy. The lack of time-limits and forced events is a big step away from the main direction of the series, making for the most beginner friendly entry of the bunch. It's also a departure from the typical "slice-of-life" narrative that has come to define the series yet GUST stepped back from with the Dusk trilogy. The original Atelier Shallie, released back in 2014 on the PlayStation 3, really failed to stick the landing in regards to its story. Things felt rushed and, well, inexplicable in regards to the reasons why the world had become a giant desert. At the time, fans decried the choices made by the team at GUST for not only straying from the formula that had come to define the Atelier series but also in not delivering on a solid story. The original also had the same time-limits that were imposed on other entries that, to some, might have felt like artificial barriers put in just for difficulty's sake. The Plus version's removal of that is a nice change that works to the game's advantage for the most part. It could be too laid back for series veterans but newcomers will likely embrace it.
Thankfully, Atelier Shallie Plus isn't just the same game with all the DLC packed in. It also makes Ayesha and Logy (from Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk and Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky) integral parts of the story alongside Escha from the aforementioned Escha & Logy. Where the original version had numerous story threads simply dead-end there are now new areas and cutscenes explaining the reasons why the Dusk has settled over the land, why desertification has occurred and how alchemy played a heavy hand in utterly changing the world forever. The combat changes from the earlier entries in the Dusk line only improve in Atelier Shallie despite a decidedly slow start in the opening chapters. Once players are able to get a full party of six assembled and start mixing it up with harder enemies and boss characters, this is a dynamic system that is easy to grasp and made all the better by the additional items that can be synthesized prior.
The story, most assuredly, is vastly improved by the Plus version of the game (though the swimsuit DLC is fine too) but the frame rate takes a hit. The PlayStation Vita release of Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea didn't get much of a bump in regards to its visuals either as character models look quite detailed but environments are decidedly dull. For example, the town of Stellard where much of the game takes place has a decidedly muted color palette that got a bit hard to look at after twenty hours. a=Aside from a few exceptions, explorable areas outside of town were relatively static and plain as well. It's a shame really as every character pops off the screen with such vivid color and fantastic design. That aforementioned frame rate really dips during cutscenes (especially in town) and in the overworld. This is nothing new as most of the Plus versions of Atelier releases suffer from similar frame rate issues.
The graphical failings are small potatoes really considering that Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is truly the definitive version of the game. It manages to bring the "Dusk trilogy" around to a satisfying conclusion by actually answering the lingering questions its original release left players with, as well as providing an inviting door for new players to step through thanks to its accessibility. Longtime fans might quibble over the lack of time constraints but the same deep alchemical systems are still here along with the most dynamic combat the series has ever featured. Want in on Atelier? Don't miss this one, folks.
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea was reviewed on PlayStation Vita with a code provided by the publisher.
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea makes amends for the mistakes of the original by wrapping up the Dusk trilogy nicely. The addition of Ayesha and Logy to the mix is not only fun for combat but vital to the entire narrative. Longtime fans will find plenty to love here while newcomers will find the item synthesis engaging and the combat dynamic.(Review Policy)
- Well Rounded Cast
- The Addition of Logy and Ayesha
- Dynamic Combat
- Much Improved Alchemy System
- Great Character Design.
- Frame Rate Issues
- Muddy Textures