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 even try it. 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 them, the end.

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. 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 battles. 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!

Fire Emblem Echoes – I liberated Zofia Castle. You can thank me now.

As promised, I’m here to report my early thoughts on Fire Emblem Echoes after finishing Act 1.

Umm, well… It’s Fire Emblem all right. It was a bit tough getting into it when my party members were all so weak, but now they’ve toughened up a lot. I even managed to promote Gray to Mercenary at level 10 and he’s doing beautifully. I can’t wait to see how the others turn out, especially Kliff (my favorite already). What I like best about SRPGs is the “Just killing stuff with my friends” factor and now that we’re on the killing end and not the being-killed end, all is right with the world.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t decide which, I’m playing Echoes on Normal + Casual mode so it’s dreadfully easy. So far, anyway. I’m sure it gets harder later. Since this is a choice I made and since I will never ever go back to Classic mode no matter what (too frustrating, too stressful, too time-consuming) this is the only time I will complain about the game being a bit on the easy side. Just that for future Fire Emblems and Echoes replays I will start on Hard instead.

Fire Emblem games are balanced around you trying to avoid any deaths so if you don’t care about losing a few party members here and there, they don’t really know what to do with you. I anticipated the problem and avoided it when playing FE: Shin Monshou so you’d think I would know the right thing to do by now. Unless you’re a regular here, then you’re not surprised 😉

I thought I’d been playing for a while, but my save file only reads 4 hours, so I won’t say too much today. I just headed out to sea with Celica to fight some pirates and stuff. I have mixed feelings about games that make you train one party then another then another. It’s nice to try different party members, but I’m going to bench almost everybody by the end, y’know?

Plus things had just gotten heated on the Deliverance side – leaving aside how laughable it is that everyone is immediately all over this random untrained village kid from nowhere instead of the heroes who had fought most of the war so far, almost made me sympathize with the one objector but whatever, Alm is just that special I guess blechhh – so having to start all over with a bunch of bickering level 1 kids is a bit of a buzzkill. But they’re growing on me too so there’s hope for the future.

My progress in Fire Emblem Echoes will be fairly slow for now because I’m playing three other games at the same time: Operation Abyss (wiped out spectacularly in Babyl and haven’t touched it since), Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment (just finished all the tutorial stuff and started my first real quest) and Shin Rorona no Atelier (finished the first two sets of assignments, almost done with the third, will post when I finish the first year). More on those games as they develop. I’ll probably devote a sizeable chunk of time to finishing Abyss this weekend so I can clear it off the list then play the rest more or less interchangeably.

And that’s what’s going on with me. Until next time!

Brief updates on Operation Abyss, Fire Emblem Echoes and Hatsukare Renai Debut Sengen

Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy: Just about to hit what I hope/believe is the last stretch. 39 hours, party level of approximately 20 so not much progress from last time. I thought for sure I had almost 100,000GP to my name, but when I reloaded it turned out I had around 1,000…ehh? What did I do with the money? I must have bought… something. I can’t remember.

So anyway, buying a Squeaky Hammer was out. I scraped some cash together and bought the JA Squeaky Hammer, but I don’t have the Genome IV necessary to forge the weapon yet. I guess Operation Abyss will have to remain unbroken for just a little while longer. Though to be honest it’s so easy anyway that breaking it would be overkill.

Hatsukare Renai Debut Sengen: Don’t feel like making a separate post for this, but I did get Natori Shunichiro’s happy ending just the other day. He’s a nice guy and his parents are loaded, so it’s a good match all around. It was just annoying to read all these funny game references and see them flying clean over Yui’s head again and again. Shun is portrayed as a weirdo that only a saint could love, and that saint just happens to be Yui.

But riddle me this: if gaming is such a niche and shunned hobby in Japan, who is buying all those millions of copies of Dragon Quest and Pokemon? Who has been lining up for yards to buy a Nintendo Switch? And just who does Furyu expect to buy Hatsukare? Maybe they should think through their characterization a little harder next time.

I did a partway save of Aoto’s route while I was at it, but he’s a stuckup little twerp. So disrespectful when talking to his sempai, like she’s inferior to him or something. I know his gimmick is that he’s trying to be tougher than he really is, but he comes across as so rude and arrogant that I’ve completely lost interest.

On the other hand I gave the eviljerk teacher a bit of a chance and he’s… intriguing me. He seems to know Yui from somewhere. As long as he doesn’t turn out to be one of those Forgotten Childhood Friends JRPGs and anime like so much. I’ll save him for another time.

Oh, and I got Kakeru’s friend ending too. Friend ending are easy, you just talk to the guys every time a star icon pops up and presto. The only problem is it makes the happy ending seem a little shallow. Because you spend all afternoon at the festival with your best friend, then when evening comes you act all like “I just got here” and go around seeing the sights again like it’s your first time. Yui-chan, you two-timer!Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia It’s easy to forget, but my original plan was to blast through Operation Abyss quickly and then turn my attention to FE: Echoes. To that end I only dabbled in FE briefly when it first came out and put it away. Recently I started feeling like I’ve been playing Operation Abyss for way too long, so I pulled the 3DS out again. But I can’t seem to get back into FE.

After the simplicty of OA it’s kind of a pain to move all the characters one by one and hit the enemies one by one. Where’s Suicide Attack III when you need it? And my villagers are so weak, but the SRPG player in me can’t bring myself to class them up before they hit the cap. Arghhh. I’m going to dabble a little harder henceforth and try to make some headway this week. Not sure I like the roaming dungeons very much, but maybe they’ll grow on me.

I’m at the point where I’m supposed to rescue some Lady Clair or something from some bad guys at an outpost. Will post again when I finish that first world map with the two generals on it.

Still plugging away at Operation Abyss

38 hours gone, probably another 15-20 left to go. There’s a level cap of 15 in the first part of Operation Abyss which gets lifted when you reach the second part (apparently two games were smooshed into one to create what we now have). Because of that a lot of the EXP I earned in the middle of the game went to waste so I’m only level 19 now. Boo…

Nothing new to report on the gameplay front. It’s very… standard. My samurai has one skill she uses, my warrior has his one skill, my knight spams Aegis for tough battles and Providence for easy ones, priest is on standby or heal, academic uses Brain Spire non-stop, wizard concentrates and nukes and nukes and nukes again. Very… standard, as I said. I’m trying to avoid using the word “repetitive” and I seem to have succeeded.

I’d love it if I could shake things up with some new weapons and armor at least. The loot is what I’m playing this game for anyway. But good drops are the rarest of the rare and even if you find something good, it doesn’t mean you can wear it. It might have a level lock, or an alignment lock, or a class lock, and on and on and on.

Luckily the game has given me three “Gamble Code” items which can be used to turn low level items into higher level ones. Or so they claim. I haven’t tried it yet but I will, right after I finish this quick non-update.

My most useful character is samurai Satsuki with her Quick Slash attack, plus she has a Level Pass item that lets her equip powerful stuff. If I can gamble my way to broken items for her to dual-wield… Eh… But… that would ruin the fun. Which is why I haven’t done it yet. But I will, so I can finish this quicker and move on to something else.

Besides, I’m itching to know what happens next in the story. Not super super itching, but pretty curious nonetheless. My party has been framed for something or the other (can’t remember what) and now we’re on the run (but we still go to school every day) but now we’re on the verge of exposing the true villain. After making our way through a dungeon first, of course. Of course.

It’s gotten to the point where I actually see the dungeons as an obstacle in the way of my progressing the story. Which feels kind of wrong, like the story should be the one I want to get out of the way quickly, not the dungeons. As long as I’m enjoying something, right?

See you when I’m done with this game, whenever that will be.

Let’s talk about Operation Abyss! No whining, I promise!

Yay, I’m in a good mood today! A little sleepy from staying up till 1am playing Operation Abyss, but in a good mood nonetheless. I adjusted my expectations down a bit and the game improved in other ways and now we’re good friends!

I will say, though, that this has strengthened my resolve to play serial games in release order as much as possible. Going from newer to older is just too painful. But! There shall be no whining today, only nice words and compliments!

So! What’s fun about Operation Abyss? Well, the story is actually kind of fun (no spoilers today either). There’s more of it than I’d expected at first, and the bad guys are thoroughly repulsive so taking them down is sooo satisfying. I try to avoid games with zombies and mutants and other gross-looking monsters but after fighting the thousandth variant it’s like yeah yeah, whatever. They aren’t really that gross once you get used to them. And the dungeons aren’t really that gloomy or depressing. It’s no Harvest Moon, but it’s still quite colorful.

My party has grown on me too, despite being a bunch of generics. No, maybe it’s because they’re generics that I’m liking them so much. This way I can dream up personalities for them based on their looks and voices. Warrior-boy Crow here seems like the reckless type who charges in without a backup plan. In a shonen manga he’d be the hero, of course. Knight Lode would be the cautious leader who is reliable but a bit of a worrywart (in a shonen manga he’d be the guy who gets beat up so the hero can take revenge :-p). And so on and so forth.

I haven’t gotten quite so far as dreaming up interactions for them (the real crazy always comes later) but I do like to pretend they’re enjoying the battles and exploration as much as I am. In fact I think I quite like having a generic party full of indistinguishable blobs. When you have a clearly defined main character with a strong personality it’s a bit lonely when the rest of the party is generic. But when they’re all generic then the sky is your limit. I could get used to this.

When I started this game, I was hoping for large meaty dungeons with lots of bosses to fight and treasure to discover. At first I was disappointed. All the game had were these small, anemic… not even dungeons, more like dorm rooms, with a few weak enemies and barely anything to find. Now after roughly 26 hours I’ve unlocked muuuch bigger dungeons and get to fight loooooots of enemies who drop loooooots of loot. Most of it is useless, of course, but you get the occasional nice find once in a while. And anyway it’s the thought that counts.

There’s a downside to the larger dungeon sizes, though. TBH most of them are just large spaces filled with a whole lot of nothing. And freedom to explore at will turned out to be a bad thing in the Restricted Kagura District when I ended up mapping almost the whole place and getting stuck because nobody told me I was actually supposed to go back to headquarters for a couple of cutscenes first. Grr… uhh, I mean, yay… *polite smile*

I’ve also gotten used to all the fancy terminology they like to throw around. I think the newer games took the right approach, using standard terms like Races, Levels, and Classes instead of fancy lingo like Blood and Code and Rise and whatever. You don’t want to be poring through the in-game glossary after every sentence when you’re playing a dungeon crawler, seriously. But I muddled my way through more or less and realized most of the stuff they talk about is just flavor text anyway. A job class by any other name…

I also complained early on about the battles being too easy. To an extent that’s still true, but now it’s largely by choice because there’s an encounter gauge you can use to adjust the difficulty on the fly. It’s that red circle saying “Danger” on the upper left in this screenshot:

The more you fight, the stronger the variants get. The more you run away, the weaker they get. No more cries of “too easy!” or “just mash X to win!” from me! Heck, despite all my earlier whining, I almost never let the gauge get higher than 4. And I run from enemies I don’t like. And I cast Escape when things look bad. Yes, I’m secretly a coward who just likes to run her mouth and Operation Abyss has called my bluff ^.^;; More games should have adjustable difficulty, IMO. It’s one feature I think Experience Inc. should have carried forward to later games.

TL;DR – Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is a bit, no, very boring with titchy little dungeons and weak enemies at first, but if you stick it out for about 7 hours, you get bigger dungeons, better battles, an interesting story and lots and lots of loot. It really does get better and I’m glad I didn’t drop it. Now I just have to find a way through a certain pesky door in Babyl Sphere and all will be right with the world…