Halfway through Shin Atelier Rorona – Mostly good, a few nitpicks

Shin Rorona no Atelier (New Atelier Rorona) is a 3DS remake of Atelier Rorona, a 2009 PS3 game. I’ve never played the original. Back when it came out I was still hung up on the character designs of the older Atelier games. Thus I decided I just didn’t like the “piss-and-watercolor” style of the new series and refused to play them. Ooh, so edgy ^^;;. But the years passed and I ran out of Atelier games to play so… here we are!

I suppose there’s no point rehashing the story or anything since anyone who’s interested must have played it by now. But there isn’t much story so it will only take a few seconds: Rorona is an apprentice alchemist, the government wants to shut down her master’s atelier, the government gives the master assignments to do, the master says “You do them, Rorona” and Rorona does then, the end.

The way the game works is every 3 months Rorona is given an alchemy assignment to complete. If she passes, the game continues. If she fails, it’s an instant game over (? haven’t failed yet). She gets rated based on the quality, quantity and traits of the items she submits. It probably affects the ending somehow, I wouldn’t know.  I’m on my 7th task right now, something about making cold items for summer. Hope you like Leheruns, your Majesty!

Passing assignments is easy enough, but passing well requires spending more time or attention on alchemy than I’m willing to devote right now. Right now I fill up all the yellow stars but don’t bother with all the rows of red stars… I’m not supposed to fill both up all the way, am I? Hope not, it would be too much work. Oh of course I love synthesizing items and all, but I’m using this first playthrough to see the world before shooting for a better ending in later playthroughs so I can’t be standing around stirring a pot all day.

After all, alchemy takes up precious time that could be spent adventuring and battling instead. I’m having fun exploring all the dungeons available. Traveling takes time but foraging once you’re in a location doesn’t, which is much better than Lise and the other DS games.

Even better, the “piss and watercolor” complaint doesn’t extend to the largely bright and colorful dungeons either. Even the underground locations like the Catacombs and National Mines feel airy and spacious. I get to explore lots of pretty areas and pick up lots of stuff, what’s not to like?

The battle system is charming as well. I don’t know what kind of combat the original had, but Shin Atelier Rorona has an SRPG-style system like the DS games. Only with a bigger field and much faster and much more fluid. There are squares and movement ranges, but you also have the illusion of free movement within that limited range which is kind of fun. It’s mostly cosmetic, but I’m playing Fire Emblem Echoes at the same time and this feels a lot less stiff and formal even before you account for the party member who likes to whack enemies with a frying pan.

Don’t let the FE comparison fool you, though, it’s not particularly strategic. Kill enemies with earlier turns, get behind them where possible, that’s about it. But each battle moves fast, even bosses aren’t too hard, most enemies are dodgeable and you can escape without penalty from most fights. EXP is plentiful and level ups are frequent. It’s the most enjoyable combat system I’ve seen in an Atelier game… though the competition isn’t exactly fierce.

Back to assignments and alchemy and that stuff… I think the recipe selection is a bit lacking and alchemy takes too much time. If Shin Atelier Rorona had been a handheld game to begin with I wouldn’t say anything, but for a former console game it’s way too limited.

You’re supposed to make the same item with different traits and properties, but I would prefer different items in the first place. For example you have your regular Healing Salve that heals just a little HP. Get better quality ingredients and you can make one that heals a lot more HP, that sort of thing. IMO having three different kinds of potions would be much more interesting. It might all boil down to the same thing in the end, but these cosmetic changes do a lot to hold my interest.

The alchemy process also takes far too long for my liking. In the older PS2 games you could make a lot of stuff in a single day to keep you going for a long time, but Rorona is so slow. In a day she can make one item, sometimes two, very rarely more than that. It makes sense since she’s a rookie alchemist, but it also kills my motivation to spend time synthesizing.

I would have groused even more about this, but just recently the game gave me an assistant (Hom-chan) and the ability to register goods with local merchants a la Atelier Judie and Viorate. That takes a lot of the pain out of alchemy by letting me outsource it almost entirely. Hurray for outsourcing!

On the positive side, it’s great to have all-new designs for almost all the items I’m used to making in earlier games, even series staples like Flams and Leheruns. There are a lot of items I’ve never seen before either, which is doubly exciting. It motivates me to make each item at least once to see what it looks like, maybe play with the effects a bit.

Other negative apart from the alchemy: the unpleasantness of the supporting cast. Especially Astrid. I really hate her. And Cor-whatshername too. Tsunderes are annoying. And I thought Frying Pan Man was my friend, but he abandoned me right before I was planning to face a powerful boss. I’m never talking to Frypan-kun again. Call me sensitive, but I never enjoy it when the main character of a game is constantly teased and insulted and put down by those around her, even if – no, especially if they’re supposed to be her friends.

But I’ll leave it there for now. Not because I’m tired of complaining (haha, that will be the day) but because I’m only 16 hours in and less than halfway through the game. There’s still room for lots and lots of character development. Rorona is already more confident and less prone to getting flustered at everything little thing. Very happy about that. So you never know, maybe Astrid will die in an “unfortunate” “accident” involving a vat of molten lava and everyone else will get a personality makeover and all will be well.

Right, that’s enough for a starter update. Now back to Fire Emblem Echoes!

2 thoughts on “Halfway through Shin Atelier Rorona – Mostly good, a few nitpicks

  1. Davzz says:

    The positioning thing isn’t there in the original, where it’s a fairly standard battle system.

    Well, I found the development of one of the characters in the sequels… interesting, at least.

    • Kina says:

      I’ll find out eventually I guess, but my next Atelier games will probably be the PC ones since I have a PC and don’t have a Vita/PS3 yet.

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