PS3 Reviews: Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland Review

Members Login: Register | Why sign up? | Forgot Password?

Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland Review

More Game Info (Print This Article)

Graphics:

 

8.4

Gameplay:

 

8.1

Sound:

 

8.3

Control:

 

8.0

Replay Value:

 

8.0

Overall Rating:       8.2

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

NIS America

Developer:

Gust

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

RPG

On the one hand, Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland is very much a breath of fresh air and – in part, at least – the representation of what I’ve been missing for quite some time. On the other, it’s a “close but not quite” scenario as the developers settle their focus not on exploration, combat or even story, but on their unique Alchemy system. The combination of these two contrasting facts leaves me feeling a little conflicted but in the end, the positive emotions win out. It’s partially because the game is indeed turn-based (such a treasure these days) and partially because of its vivid, pleasant presentation and oddly addictive nature. I’ve had Gust’s production for a few weeks now and throughout those weeks, I’ve often found myself returning to the game for reasons that I well recognize from a long-ago time. And bear in mind, it got me to come back amidst play time with Halo: Reach. …that says something.

While most developers have long since gone fully 3D, this is the first true 3D graphical presentation we’ve seen from these developers. Some of the hardcore purists may not appreciate the “growing up” but when they see the visuals, they might change their minds. They’re not amazingly technically proficient, but they’re surprisingly clean, attractive and vibrant. The character modeling is excellent, the backgrounds are often beautifully depicted (albeit with a distinct lack of detail in the forests and fields), and there’s a solid amount of variety throughout. The best part is that such graphics really fit the charming, lovable atmosphere, and I couldn’t help but smile at the screen when moving about and exploring. Even the animations are super smooth and nearly flawless. No, it won’t be revered as a graphical benchmark but there’s a certain level of artistry and design accomplishment that is most impressive. It’s not supremely beautiful but it still qualifies as pretty.  Fans of the style will love it.

Usually, the voice acting tends to drag the sound down in most JRPGs these days. Being a huge fan of the genre, I hate to say it, but it’s true. Thankfully, while there remains a smattering of irritating, over-the-top voices that grate, the voiceover work for most major characters in Atelier Rorona is decent. Some are even borderline great. I would normally dislike the cutesy, childlike Rorona but this time, I actually found such a voice to be really adorable. The soundtrack is another big bonus; the tracks are both diverse and fitting, and those originally crafted compositions add a ton of flavor and style. The effects could’ve used some help, though, as they’re not quite prominent enough in combat and rarely accompany your basic traveling movements. That being said, the wide assortment of surprisingly well-voiced characters and the quality music only serve to bolster the entire experience, which is a definite positive.

If you’re unfamiliar, this is a series that has stretched on for quite some time. In fact, I think this might be the 10th overall game (some of which never left Japan), so there’s definitely a basis for comparisons within the franchise. In terms of gameplay, Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland most takes after the Mana Khemia installments. It adopts the three-year formula, where you have exactly three years to satisfy assignments and quests, and depending on how many you fulfill, you’ll receive a different result. However, this new game only takes that concept from the aforementioned past titles; in terms of overall gameplay and structure, it’s very different. For instance, the time constraints are a prime focal point: you can’t even move to a field to collect materials or work in your Workshop without watching the days tick by. The bottom line is that you must balance the passage of time with your actions…always.

In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of this and it sort of detracts from the turn-based nature of the combat. It’s pretty ironic that while you have all the time you wish to make a decision in battle, simply moving from the forest to the town will eat up time. But even so, there’s a permanent sense of urgency that keeps the entertainment level high, if only because you must continually assess your plan of action. Sure, you can go and beat on some monsters for more materials, money and experience, but that means you can’t be in your Workshop, whipping up orders for the king (or your friends). What do you really need to focus on…? That’s always the biggest question, and once you reconcile yourself to the fact that micromanagement involves even stepping foot outside your door, you’ll be better prepared for the adventure. There are a few more unique elements, too.

For instance, besides the main character – Rorona – there are six other playable characters, who you can “hire” to join your party. Only your childhood friend, Cordelia, can be had for free, but the others require some form of payment before they opt to fight by your side. They may also have Alchemy jobs for you to perform, as will the townspeople, and doing so will increase your reputation in the quiet little community. But remember, you have to balance this with the king’s demands as well; you only have three years to prove your Workshop is worthy of staying open. All of this demands your attention, which puts the aforementioned combat preparations on the back burner. And you can tell it’s not really the prime focus as the battles aren’t exactly overwhelming or flashy. It’s turn-based, and there is one cool little element where a character can assist in blocking an enemy attack by tapping the R1 or L1 button. Then there’s the fact that Skills empty your HP, rather than a special dedicated meter.

For the most part, nothing about the combat is all that memorable, but it’s well done, well implemented, and because I’ve so missed the turn-based formula, I find it quite refreshing. I also like the really distinct characters; for instance, Lionela actually brings two weird-looking puppets into battle; the female, Aranya, heals, while the male, Horoholo, attacks with magic. Most of the characters have nicely defined personalities, too, and they’re not all suffused with anime-inspired insanity. As for exploring, you can run around certain portions of the town, and visit various fields to gather materials and fight enemies, but you don’t physically move around the world map. That’s where you simply choose where you wish to go, and move automatically. Still, you’ve got the traditional shops, NPCs, battles, forests/dungeons, and large amount of dialogue we used to always associate with the genre.

I will say that constantly checking your time and your HP (even producing Alchemical creations drains HP) can get a little tiresome, and you may not be satisfied with only one play-through. And because that will probably take around 30 hours, you may or may not wish to try again for a better ending. There are four endings: Bad, Normal, Good and the difficult-to-obtain True. The latter may not be possible without a walkthrough of some kind, because you need to satisfy two separate requirements: popularity amongst the townspeople and king satisfaction level. It’s just really tough to do both…as an example, you need 80%+ on your “popularity” scale to get the True ending, but that means sort of ignoring the king. And if you fail the king at the end of three years, you get the Bad ending. Oh, and for more longevity, there are specific endings for each playable character, but you’ll need a maxed 100% Friendship rating.

Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland is a darn good RPG with an admitted emphasis on item creation, which won’t be alien to those familiar with the Mana Khemia or past Atelier titles. The graphics really are surprisingly clean and pleasant, the voices aren’t anywhere near as annoying as they can often be in this genre, and there’s great balance and a significant challenge. I still wish more emphasis would’ve been placed on the traditional role-playing aspects – and I despise being hurried – but the whole production is very appealing to the targeted niche audience. As usual, that’s the final caveat: if this is your bag, you’ll like it. If not, there’s nothing here that will suddenly turn you onto quirky JRPGs. That’s the best way I can describe it.

9/29/2010 Ben Dutka

Put this on your webpage or blog:
Email this to a friend
Follow PSX Extreme on Twitter

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on Google Share on MySpace Share on Delicious Share on Digg Share on Google Buzz Share via E-Mail Share via Tumblr Share via Posterous

Comments (57 posts)

Fatcat3788
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 9:44:11 PM
Reply

Sweet. Thanks for the review. I am actually interested in this game, but was holding it off until I read a review from a trusted site. Here it is. Thanks.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

eLLeJuss
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:52:33 PM

Lol i decided i was gonna wait for a few reviews too but then i watched a few trailers and decided.... it was to JRPG for me lol :D

Agree with this comment 0 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Underdog15
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 8:31:45 AM

shhh!!! eLLeJuss!!! Wada might hear you and never let you have that remake you want!

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 9:46:39 PM
Reply

Hmm, I've been looking for a game to introduce me to turn-based rpg's. So, I'm wondering, would this one be worth-while, or maybe a ps1 classic from the psn?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 9:49:53 PM

I haven't played so I dunno but this doesn't sound like a good intro to turn based since there sounds like there is a lack of focus on story and time honored tradition. I say play FFVII, or if the graphics bug you go play FFX.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 9:56:11 PM

Well, I have played FFVII (but that was like way back). And it was the only classic turn-based RPG i have played. So i suppose, my request for an introduction is misleading. But if that is a benchmark and fair representative of all turn-based Strat/RPG games, then i guess i'm no slouch. I spent over hundred hours in that game, beating all the weapons, obtaining all Materia. I adored that game.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:11:20 PM

I like that style more than the SRPGs, like FFTactics was so slow I wanted to hang myself, but XIII was too fast (at least in battles).

The only thing I can so for just about sure is if you don't like over the top anime stuff you probly won't like this game.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:24:27 PM

Lol! Not a problem. Other than the school-girl fetishes/hentai stuff, I'm down with anime craziness. FF7 was really my first and last RPG (not that it turned me off to the genre as i adored the game). But since i was, and am, a total newb, imagine the chagrin i felt when i purchased FF Tactics the spring after FF7 was released, and found out there was no Cloud to speak of (or more accurately, "to begin with").

By reading the manual, i got the impression it might've been less story-heavy, so although i frequently marveled at pretty gem-case, i constantly procrastinated getting to the game (it was busy academic year for me at BU), and unfortunately, i never did.

So maybe, that should be game worth getting for my psp.

Last edited by Shams on 9/29/2010 10:27:15 PM

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:36:15 PM

As the emphasis is not on the battle, I'm not sure this is the game you want to try. It's definitely unique, but that uniqueness might not interest you.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:42:20 PM

Thanks Ben, you called it. I tend to enjoy combat, as the adrenaline keeps me up when i need it, as my gameplaying time is usually at night. I love an engrossing story too, though as you said, the game doesn't seem to dwell much on that, either.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

TheOldOne
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 9:31:28 AM

Shams,

You should try the Valkyria Chronicles demo. It is a nice turn based game.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 11:55:41 AM

TheOldOne,

Thanks for the recommendation, I actually ordered VC (and ModNation Racers) over amazon during lunch hour, just now. I also got the game of your namesake (Demon's Souls) a couple months back, and though it's not turn-based, i thoroughly enjoyed it.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 9:46:40 PM
Reply

Still debating a purchase on this because I'm not super huge on all that off scene alchemy stuff. I don't mind it as a side bit like in Star Ocean as opposed to a main thing. BAH. It's annoying. I took a leap buying Trinity Universe and that was crap. Anybody have any incite beyond what Ben said?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 9:50:30 PM

Oops, freudian slip of sorts. "Incite" is to provoke!

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:11:51 PM

Woops, you're correct insight I meant of course.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Jawknee
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:28:49 PM

Alchemy was fun in DragonQuest VIII and IX. If its anything like that ill have fun.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:12:20 PM
Reply

I don't suppose there are any grumblings on when Ar Tonelic III might be coming here.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Kevadu
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:34:07 PM

Pulling a number out of my hat: May 2011

NISA typically takes ~15 months to localize a Gust game. They're actually remarkably consistent about it. Rorona took 15 months, AT2 took 15 months, the Man Khemia games took about 15 months...don't ask me *why* they always take 15 months, but they do.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

hellish_devil
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 4:26:39 PM

Ar tonelico III will come sometime near, but Neptune is FAR AWAY. Like 2 years far away.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Alienange
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:23:52 PM
Reply

I think I'd rather have exploration, combat and story than a handful of reagents with a stop watch above my head.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:28:17 PM

Unless those reagents are the ones from the ReAnimator movies I agree.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:30:25 PM

Pretty much the 1-sec sardonic synopsis/summary i gathered from the review. But maybe you'll like the art-style?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:43:19 PM

I'm with you on this one Alienange. RPGs don't need a time limit. I want to explore and take my time. I hate being rushed.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:56:58 PM

Alienange:

Though I guess as the explained in the review, there isn't a much a virtual clock as there is a limitation in steps to going here or there, and certain kinds of activities like workshop.

So, especially if there is carry-over data of sorts between plays, I suppose it is possible to do everything through multiple playthroughs.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 12:01:14 AM

The only thing that carries over is your money.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 12:59:49 AM

Well, if time is money, and money is time...

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 1:10:06 AM

Actually a big resource in this game is HP, it influences a lot of the things you're able to do and how much. But ya, money is important. With games that require time management (especially as important time is in this game) it's a shame the only thing that carries over is money.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Jawknee
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:26:41 PM
Reply

This is a nice surprise. Not a whole lot of reviews around for this game. a few from sites im not familiar with. I went to try and pick this up again today. No go. Best Buy didn't have it either. Got a new CD instead. :P

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Vitron
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:30:40 PM
Reply

I liked the theme of music. It feels so magical.

I am so gonna check this one out.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:53:25 PM
Reply

Where is the middle of the road? It's either too silly with no real story or much battle like this or Trinity Universe, or full action RPGs. Bring back the bipartisan games!

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Jawknee
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 10:54:29 PM

It died when Final Fantasy XIII came out.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 2 down Disagree with this comment

Highlander
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:02:32 PM

Dudes. White Knight Chronicles is about as close as you're going to get.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:17:09 PM

yeah I like WKC.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:42:15 PM

WKC was fun the first time through though the story was boring as were the characters. Plus it's far too easy.

I want depth with my RPGs.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lotusflow3r
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 9:48:37 AM

The Another World.

It will be the best JRPG of the gen.

Agree with this comment 2 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Highlander
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:01:44 PM
Reply

Thank you Ben, I've been waiting for this review. Now I can go buy one of the games I have been waiting for this year.

What's that you say? Turn based? But...aren't they dead? Perhaps if people buy this, and other more traditional JRPG games, there is still some life in the old dog yet?

I was just telling my wife about the game, she's a JRPG fan too (turn based of course). We both agreed that it's been such a long time since any turn based game came to a 'big console' instead of hand held, so we'll forgive a lack of story depth as long as the mood, presentation, voice acting, music, and turn based combat are all there.

Last edited by Highlander on 9/29/2010 11:10:03 PM

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:40:58 PM

Fair warning, battles in this game take a backseat to the Alchemy. So those looking at this for their Turn-based fix are going to let down.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Wednesday, September 29, 2010 @ 11:39:31 PM
Reply

AGH!!!!!!! Been on the forums for way too long...


This game sounded interesting but the use of time in this game really irks me. I like to take my time and mess around, not worry about taking a nap on a couch or pleasing both the king and the public in a set amount of time.

I'll try the game out but not till it's dropped dramatically in price.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

SayWord
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 12:55:45 AM

Even if some of the games NISamerica localizes to north america are bad I still buy them to support them, so they can bring over more^_^

Last edited by SayWord on 9/30/2010 12:57:32 AM

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 1:11:09 AM

I support your supporting of them with kind words and a glass of Jack and OJ.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

WorldEndsWithMe
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 2:03:20 AM

Don't remind me of any Jack, erg my head...

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

BikerSaint
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 1:25:42 AM
Reply

LV,
Go check your email for incoming

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 1:39:48 AM

Email incoming to you too! :)

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Spore_777
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 2:21:24 AM
Reply

think i'll like this game. Generally, and I speak for myself, NIS games are awesome. Disgae, soul nomad anybody???!!!

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

LimitedVertigo
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 2:25:08 AM

::looks below::


Dude....really?

Agree with this comment 0 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

hellish_devil
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 4:32:06 PM

Dude, it's Disgaea, not disgae.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Spore_777
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 2:56:51 AM
Reply

Ben, my apologies, my internet connection is failing me and I'm relatively new to this site...can't seem to find the delete option for the multi-posts above ^^^

could someone in Admin do that for me?

@LimitedVertigo

don't know what you are referring to exactly but yeah, I'm new to JRPGs, I've played a bit of disgae, soul nomad and Ar Tolenico. Never played a this title though, but yeah, it sounds and looks like its something I would play...emphasis on the I B)

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Underdog15
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 8:38:41 AM

I think he was referring to the multi-posts.

In the future, the delete option is only available for a couple quick minutes after posting. You'll find it right next to the ! in the triangle. It looks like a garbage can.

Also, sometimes if your internet lags on this site, it might seem like nothing loads after you click "submit comment". But rest assured, the site registers each and every time you click it whether your browser changes or not.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Snaaaake
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 5:14:51 AM
Reply

NIS is ready to make a huge bang starting this year!!
Thanks for the review Ben, greatly appreciate this.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

mid10smaradoarg
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 8:15:41 AM
Reply

No review for F12010 ?? what happend americans dont like Formula 1 , just spinning around on daytona??

Agree with this comment 0 up, 1 down Disagree with this comment

Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 10:18:06 AM

Okay, here's a rule for everyone, not so much for this user- over the next few months, if I hear a pushy "where's the review for...?" query, I'm really gonna snap.

The number of reviews I have to do is just plain stupid right now. So don't...piss me...off.

Agree with this comment 4 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

coverton341
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 10:57:33 AM

So Ben when you gonna get that review for (whatever title will piss you off the most)up? I've been waiting for like how long now?

:giggle/run:

Agree with this comment 3 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Shams
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 12:52:18 PM

MNR!MNR!MNR! J/k :P

Though with the performance patch, and a new price drop, I ordered the game through Amazon for shipment this weekend. I'll take one for the team, and put up a user review next week. I also got Valkyria Chronicles for the same shipment, and am psyched about that one!

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Lotusflow3r
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 9:51:10 AM
Reply

Will pick this mother up around Xmas.

Any chance you can include Europe release dates in the info box? It's October here.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

KNG201
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 10:09:48 AM
Reply

I want a FFX remake...that game was beautiful & fun....great story graphics was amazing the battles was fast & it was turn based...oh the good (somewhat) old days.

Agree with this comment 1 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Underdog15
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 11:06:45 AM

You're right! There's a ton about that game that was amazing. I doubt we'll see a remake, though. It's too "current" to really warrant a new version.

Besides, it's already graphically pretty darn good!

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

mid10smaradoarg
Thursday, September 30, 2010 @ 12:53:51 PM
Reply

Sorry Ben , i already got the game but was waiting for u guys to see what u think about it.

Agree with this comment 0 up, 0 down Disagree with this comment

Leave a Comment

Please login or register to leave a comment.

Our Poll

Got the Wii U?
Yep, had mine since day one.
Yeah; I just recently picked it up.
No, but I might get one soon...
No, and I don't ever want one.

Previous Poll Results