Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland Review
Let me be perfectly frank: I went into my review of Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland with mixed emotions and expectations. I’m quite familiar with the series and while I enjoyed the last entry, Atelier Rorona: Alchemist of Arland, something didn’t quite click. But after five hours of play with Gust’s new effort, I realized this all clicked. After ten hours, it not only clicked, it was becoming addictive. Turn-based combat is not dead, and despite my aversion to anime, this is a beautiful, pleasing production. Prepare to be a little surprised…
Honestly, this is one of the prettiest, most refined, and most colorful visual presentations available. It looks very much like a high-definition, highly polished cartoon come to life, as the nicely drawn towns, well-detailed characters, and attractive landscapes are ripe and rich. While I’m not all that impressed with enemy design and combat special effects (more could’ve been done to spice up battle detail), the overall graphical palette is so appealing, it’s tough to look away. Just about everything is gorgeous to behold and yet, it’s very understated. It’s subtle yet beautiful.
In terms of audio, the game benefits from a great soundtrack that, while a tad repetitive, appropriately accompanies our adventuring. When exploring the map or wandering around town, a relaxing score adds to the the pleasant graphical imagery. Battle needed slightly more emphatic music but that’s a minor complaint. Normally, I’m not a fan of anime-style voice acting, but despite a few characters I despise (Peter and Mimi among them), most of the main characters are excellently voiced. Totori is absolutely adorable, and Mel and Gino are decent.
Yes, as I mentioned above, the game utilizes an “old-fashioned” turn-based mechanic. And when I say turn-based, I don’t mean some sort of real-time/turn-based hybrid; I’m referring to a classic, allies lined up here, enemies over there structure with a turn grid at the bottom of the screen. It’s most reminiscent of Final Fantasy X and Lost Odyssey, turn-based RPGs that were always entertaining. In regards to combat, Atelier Totori is a little bland, but things pick up later.
They also toss in a feature that infuses the battles with more flavor. Sometimes, when an enemy is about to attack, you’ll see button prompts over your characters. Above the two who aren’t being targeted will be L1 or R1; if you press either before the enemy attacks (don’t worry, you have plenty of time), the character in question will execute a special maneuver. For instance, Melvie will jump in front of the targeted ally and absorb the blow, and Mimi will execute a counter-attack. It’s a nice addition and doesn’t hinder the flow of battle.
But in truth, battle isn’t the primary focus. After you finally get your Adventurer’s License – which takes a little too long – you will be faced with all sorts of things to do. Checking your license will give you goals for everything from exploration to alchemy, and when you throw in the quests you can accept, well…you’ve got a micromanagement and completionist dream come true. Just remember, mixing things up in your cauldron, battling enemies, gathering materials, and traveling all consume days. And some quests have a deadline…
Time management is something you have to consider but thankfully, it just feels like more depth rather than an annoying hindrance. There is a world map but you just run from point to point; that may sound disappointing – and it is, to some extent – but herein lies part of the strategy. You only have so much LP, which decreases as days pass. Once your LP drops too far, your party starts to become tired and they will suffer accordingly in battle. Going back to town and sleeping will restore LP, as well as HP and MP, but don’t sleep too much!
Doing so might make you miss deadlines for quests. Again, this may sound irritating but it’s all part of the fun. The game works very, very well, as it blends combat, alchemy, and exploration into a consistently entertaining package. The Alchemy portion seems more streamlined as well, as it isn’t overly complicated and although there still seem to be hundreds of useless items, you’ll soon find that you’ll want to grab just about everything you can…just in case. You never know when you might need ‘em! Things open up even more when you start to synthesize equipment.
Now, I do think events take too long to get rolling, as Totori doesn’t even discover her full potential for more than a few hours, and it’ll take a long time before you really start to unleash character abilities and skills. Furthermore, I have to say that the fixed camera can cause some visibility problems when exploring. See, enemies wander around and when you touch them, you initiate combat. Hitting them first with Totori’s wand gives you the edge but sometimes, the camera sits too close and it’s hard to see surrounding foes.
The story isn’t too exciting, either, as you spend the majority of your time questing and upping your Adventurer rank. This detracts from the main plot and you start to actually dislike story-advancing scenes; not because they’re poorly constructed, but because they stop you from doing what you want to do. Lastly, it seems we still have a slight problem with the dialogue, as the developers still don’t know when to end a conversation; there are just too many needless words. The writing isn’t bad, though.
Despite these drawbacks, the game succeeds in delivering a diverse and continually rewarding RPG that blends a number of elements into an enticing package. I always wanted to accept another quest and head out to complete it, I always wanted to consult my license goals to increase my Adventurer Rank, and I always had fun with the turn-based combat. Yeah, it took some time to get going, but that’s nothing new in RPGs, right? And I actually liked a lot of the characters, which is rare for anime productions.
Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland presents us with a charming, almost angelic visual arrangement, and a balanced, engaging adventure that keeps us coming back for more. The completionists will want to do every quest, advance their Adventurer and Alchemy ranks, and do everything there is to do. The environments are comely and while the characters are a little too cutesy for me, they still have some definition and personality. The turn-based battle works, damnit, and the strategic time restriction enhances the challenge.
It has a few drawbacks – the story isn’t great, it takes too long to progress, and some of the battle can feel a little underwhelming – but for RPG fans, it’s a winner.
The Good: Delightful, pleasing graphics. Solid, fitting soundtrack. Nicely blended combination of battle, exploration and alchemy elements. Turn-based combat flows and is well-balanced. Plenty of content for RPG lovers.
The Bad: Story isn’t fantastic. Takes too long to get rolling. Some annoying characters.
The Ugly: “Aw, no “ugly” here. It’s just too cute.”
9/28/2011 Ben Dutka