The PS Vita has always seen quite a bit of activity from the Atelier series as Koei Tecmo would release “Plus” versions of previously PlayStation 3 exclusive titles generally within a year and a half of release. This may be coming to an end as the latest set of Atelier games have been released on multiple platforms at the same time but we still have Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea. Originally released in the West back in 2015 as the final entry in the Dusk trilogy, how does this game handle on the Vita?
Set after the events in Atelier Escha & Logy, the world has continued to suffer from desertification to the point that many areas are soon to be inhospitable. With the land becoming destitute, a girl named Shallistera, the heir of her clan, sets out on a journey in order to try and find a way to restore the land and prevent her tribe’s water from drying up. At the same time, a spunky city girl named Shallote is trying to find her place in the world and a goal she should strive for.
With both girls nicknamed Shallie, and calling each other Lotte and Stera, it is up to players to decide which of the two characters they wish to be the main character of their game. It is worth noting that while a number of aspects and various events in each heroines’ storylines are unique, which means the game is ripe for a second playthrough to see the story from a different viewpoint and experience new events, that a large amount of events take place when both Lotte and Stera are present.
Interestingly enough, it is also worth mentioning that Shallistera’s storyline is a bit friendlier for newcomers to the story as well as some mechanics while Shallotte’s events feature numerous references to past events in the series. That being said, the story still remains rather strong here thanks to a likable core cast and well developed main characters.
One of my key critiques about the original release of this game was the fact that a large number of story elements and plot points were left with unsatisfying explanations or completely ignored such as the origin of the Dusk and why it swept the land. Thankfully this issue has been rectified in this version of the game. While there is still a certain lack of urgency now that the time limit has been removed from the game a number of new story chapters have been added into the game to provide extra explanation and details into the game’s story that were sorely lacking in the original. Combine this more solid conclusion to the story with the addition of Ayesha and Logy added into the game as playable characters that have their own little snippets here and there and you’ll find that Atelier Shallie Plus manages to deliver a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
Atelier Shallie Plus remains similar to Atelier Escha & Logy, especially in regards to the combat system and alchemy system which, both of which retain the same basic changes made in the last game only to be refined a bit more this time around. As usual with these Atelier titles, players will be spending most of their time gathering ingredients through gather points as well as a few new mechanics added into Atelier Shallie, fighting enemies to gain ingredients from them or to complete quests, and synthesizing items using all of the ingredients you’ve gathered and the recipes you’ve learned in your journey.
The alchemy system remains continues to be streamlined with many of the basic mechanics being very familiar to those who have played the titles before. Through the use of using high quality ingredients and aiming for special elemental values, players will be able to unlock special enhancements that will make them more effective while Shallie can also use various abilities she has unlocked to modify the outcome of the synthesis and give players more control than before while presenting it in an easy to understand manner.
As far as the combat goes, the combat remains the same six player affair as before; with three combatants fighting at one time while the other three wait in reserve. Now unlike the past system, a number of enjoyable changes have been made to make combat flow faster and offer players more options. Rather than force players to resort to a single support meter, each back-up character will have their own meter that will fill up over the course of the battle and can be brought in either to defend an ally from an attack, add extra punishment by attacking after an ally, or switching into the fight making combat even better than it was before.
Another new feature is the Burst mechanic. At the top of the combat screen a meter will fill up that will allow players to trigger a Field Burst when filled. The Field Burst allows the player to select a certain member’s special ability to take effect during the fight and this can drastically change the way combat unfolds as these boosts range from auto-reviving from death, to recovering large amounts of health and MP, to buffing the party’s statuses and even triggering a large Variable Strike with a unique animation.
Now earlier I mentioned that the time constraints that the series is known for had been removed and that is indeed the case. No longer will players have to worry about balancing their time properly while worrying about if they are taking too long of a journey in order to gather materials or face off against a boss. This does open the game up a bit for those who were concerned about the time constraints limiting their options but it also removes any sense of urgency or feeling of structure to the game’s storyline as players can gather ingredients and synthesize in a manner that would have sacrificed a two weeks’ worth of time in past titles.
What replaces the time system is a far less restrictive “Life Task” system that will see the player taking on requests, including side-character development quests, and accomplishing various goals in order to progress to the next chapter in the story. These goals can be anything from synthesizing a certain number of items, to cleaning up garbage or harvesting items, to slaying a boss enemy in a dungeon.
Many of these tasks reward the player handsomely, so much in fact that overdoing these tasks can lead to the player being a bit overpowered which leads to some disappointing fight sequences until the enemies catch up to the player. Thankfully considering there are new dungeons and boss encounters to challenge in this version of the game, players will want to make sure that they are as equipped as possible to try and survive what can be some truly difficult encounters.
Visuals & Audio
With the release of Atelier Shallie Plus on the PS Vita the company has had to make some comprimises to the game’s graphics which were quite impressive in the original release. While the character models remain highly detailed and the bright color palette is aesthetically pleasing as ever when combined with the art style, players will notice that certain effects have been removed in an effort to make the game run better on the handheld. Unfortunately even with these diminished effects and lowered resolution in the environment players will encounter quite a few problems with the game suffering from framerate drops when exploring a town, using fancy moves on enemies, and even during some story scenes.
The voice work for the series remains as strong as ever with the title releasing with the English voice option as well as the Japanese voice track being available if you so choose. The voice work for the returning characters matches well with what fans should expect and as for the soundtrack, players will be hard pressed finding a bad sounding piece of background music throughout the game. Whether it is calming exploration music, tunes to listen to while battling enemies, or providing atmosphere to important scene, every track feels like a perfect fit for the situation.
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea manages to fix up the weaknesses in the original releases’ story thanks to some added chapters while also delivering us the same colorful charming cast that fans have grown to expect from the series. With the various combat improvements in the original remaining in this version players will find that outside of some lingering and new drawbacks, Atelier Shallie Plus delivers a solid experience that is incredibly friendly to newcomers and serves as a solid conclusion to a trilogy that fans were hoping for in the original.