RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Apr 24th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (SirPsycho)
Posted under Flower Power, rpg, turn based, playstation 3, ps3, gust


In the world of gaming there is a phenomenon known as the annual release. In the Western world the annual release is almost synonymous with the sports genre. In Japan, they have annualized role playing games. Its not as ubiquitous as the wide world of sports but there are a few examples, the Atelier series likely being the most prominent. Atelier is a long running series developed by GUST, the first releases being all the way back on the first Playstation with 1997's Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg. The series went international starting with the localization of the Atelier Iris trilogy for the Playstation 2. The series was an immediate hit for GUST, who just kept pumping more games in the series out. By the time of the series' 20th anniversary in 2017 there were 19 games released in the series. This is not a direct series with sequels, prequels, spin offs, and side projects. Instead the Atelier series is one that features common gameplay elements and mechanical design. Atelier is more of a series of series, with the large library broken down into duologies and mostly trilogies. Today's game, Atelier Ayesha is the first game in the Dusk trilogy, the 2nd overall trilogy that was fully released on the Playstation 3.




The world of Dusk is one that is slowly withering away. Once fertile fields have collapsing yields, water wells are drying up, and the world is becoming more hostile. Enter Ayesha, a young apothecary who trades her medicine to a traveling merchant named Ernie. Atelier Ayesha is a largely character driven game, which is one of the base design elements that is common to the series. There are some trilogies and games that are more story focused, which is the other major narrative pillar. Ayesha has a younger sister named Nio who had vanished into thin air. Later, a chance encounter with a mysterious older gentleman named Keithgriff reveals that Nio may still be alive somewhere, and to find and free her Ayesha must learn and master the secrets of alchemy. Along the way Ayesha recruits an old friend and meets plenty of new ones who join her in her quest to find and rescue her sister.

The Atelier series is much more heavily focused on crafting than almost every other RPG series. Most of the useful items come from being made by the player, which includes weapons, armor, items that upgrade gear, healing items, combat items, and most of the items the player needs to progress the story in certain instances. By the release of Ayesha this crafting system is incredibly robust. Item effects from the base items can be carried over into the crafted item. Higher quality base items will also make a higher quality crafted item. The game's stores can also be used for the player's benefit. Most stores have a store level which increases as Ayesha purchases items from the store. These stores can then be used to register high quality crafted items that match the store's theme. The baker can be shown how to make Ayesha's high healing baked goods, Wilbell's bazaar store can be used for magic items, and there are many other kinds of stores. The reason why this manipulation of stores is useful is because many games in the Atelier series feature a time limit. The games that are more character, event, and world focused tend to have a set limit on how much time the player has to beat it. Ayesha has three years to free her sister. Time moves forward by moving across the overworld, gathering materials, crafting, and some certain story events can progress time. Time is a critical mechanic in most Atelier games, as some world events will occur at certain places in a specific window. The slice of the world of Dusk that Ayesha can explore has a monthly bazaar in its main city, as well as an item contest twice a year, and some more hidden events. Failing to beat the game in the time limit allows players to create a Clear Data and basically start a New Game Plus with equipped items and money carrying over.


On top of the crafting elements the Atelier series includes a turn based combat system. Combat items tend to become important in the later stages of the game, and Ayesha is no exception to this rule. On top of learning the use of combat items players must also take into account position for Ayesha's combat system. Ayesha and the other two party members have their own support commands that can be used to chain multiple attacks together, or get buffs or items during combat at higher support levels. These commands can change depending on where the party members are located in relation to the attacking or defending character. This positioning system also has effects against enemies. Attacks against enemies can be short or long ranged, and also include extra effects such as pushing enemies back, delaying their attacks, adding a status effect, among others. All of this allows Ayesha to have quite a robust system for appearing to be an otherwise mundane turn based game. Battles also end up being fun to watch when characters are flying around to attack enemies from behind, adding special moves, and using individual character skills during and between their turns. Most of the game does have enemies which feel too easy, then near the end the difficulty ramps up heavily, requiring the use of attack items to knock groups of strong enemies down fast. There also are not too many bosses in the game, but there are events that open up stronger versions of enemies on that certain map. The few real bosses that exist provide a nice challenge.

The story in Ayesha, and the overall series as a whole, is largely told through events. These events are unlocked through various means, the passage of time, leveling up a shop, finding an alchemy book and reading it to learn new recipes, making a new recipe, seeing some other event, visiting the bazaar, participating in the item contest. It can be a robust system with scenes that can be seen very late in one playthrough, but then unlocked much earlier on another one. The overall style of the game is meant to be one of constant learning. The player is always getting a bit more information through these events. Some of which are critical to advance the game's story or unlock new areas to explore. Others are more simple fluff that are meant to develop the characters. Ayesha's allies and traveling friends will also have their own chain of events, telling their unique stories. One traveling store's events will lead into a new party member for Ayesha. The rewards for pursuing event chains are varied. Most of the rewards are worth it, whether for the tangible benefits or just the added characterization.

Most characters in the game are quite simplistic, one note types. There are a few more interesting and varied characters. Keithgriff and Wilbell are likely the best overall. Keith reveals a bit of his mysterious past, which is rather intriguing, and also informs Ayesha of some of the world's history at a few points in the game, and he's already of critical importance to the main story. Wilbell is a fun, young witch who comes up with schemes to get through her witch exams more easily. She ends up being caught a few times, and Wilbell's teacher also ends up being an interesting character despite never actually showing her face in the game. Most of the other characters are on the forgettable side, they have one or two traits and quirks, but beyond that there is little of substance beneath them. Ayesha herself is charming but naive, but she is ambitious and caring on top of it. She has a bit more substance than most of the other characters, but overall the game's cast is rather lackluster, including the main heroine. The character's artistic designs are quite robust, and all the main characters stick out and show their personalities rather well. The overall graphic design matches the theme, the colors are warm and rather comfortable, which actually clashes with the overall slowly decaying idea of the World of Dusk.


The soundtrack is a standout in the game, its quite strong overall. There are charming and cheerful melodies through most of the exploration, with a few more melancholic tracks added. Character themes fit quite well with their matching character. The battle themes are outstanding, with each one being one of the overall strengths of the game. There is a soft intensity to the battle themes that make the visual flair of characters flying around, special attacks, bombs blowing up, and destruction raining down from the skies stand out even more. The soundtrack complements the game rather well. However, it has a similar flaw to the overall art design, which is feeling a bit too bright and cheerful for a world that is slowly withering away. It could be the growing pains of a new series, and the direction not being as firmly established. A quick glance into Ayesha's sequel in the Dusk trilogy, Atelier Escha & Logy shows that this darker theme of the World of Dusk is stronger, but it does not feel quite as charming as quickly. The tradeoff between charm and the feeling of decay may weaken the overall experience.

Atelier Ayesha is quite an interesting game to play, and feels rather polished in most areas. Its quite easy to play and the systems seem rather obtuse at first, but end up being quite straightforward. If the Atelier series has been of slight interest at any time, this may be one of the better entry points. The time limit is quite forgiving and the combat is easy enough at the beginning to not be overwhelmed. It seems this idea has slightly paid off, as the Atelier games have been gaining a bit of popularity in the West in recent years. This is likely the result of PC releases on Steam of the more recent games, as well as remasters of the first PS3 trilogy, the Arland trilogy, being released. Because of these recent remasters it may be wise to wait for some news from the big game shows of this year, as the developers have stated a desire to revisit the world and characters from the Dusk games.




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Comments
 
Yes! Two posts referencing Atelier Marie (and the series in general) in a row on RFG. What a time to be on the site!

I've heard really good things about Ayesha and it'll probably be the next one I play.

Great review!
 
I've heard of the Atelier series, but don't own any of them, or know much about them. Very thorough write-up! Seems like something that might be fun for a casual play-through.

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