Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea was originally released on the Playstation 3; this new release of the “Plus” version is available on PS Vita. The PS Vita version of the game gives access to the DLC that was originally released on the PS3, and some new exclusive extras are available too.
The Atelier series has run a long time, the first game, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, was released in Japan in 1997. The first game to make it over to the West was the sixth game in the series, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, in 2005 for North America, and 2006 for Europe and Australia, on the Playstation 2.
Throughout the Atelier games there are series which are set in the same place, and are collected together as a series. This is the third installment of the “Dusk” series, though it is not a direct continuation of the previous two as it features all-new lead characters. Therefore, you are not required to have played the previous “Dusk” games to understand the plot, though you’ll recognise some returning characters if you have.
The first two installments are also available as “Plus” versions on the PS Vita, so if you do want to play the “Dusk” series in order then you can pick up Atelier Ayesha Plus: The Alchemist of Dusk, and Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky.
Atelier Escha & Logy was the first to introduce two protagonists, and Atelier Shallie continues this tradition. You can pick between two different main characters to play through the game as, Shallistera or Shalotte. The game will follow an overarching plot whichever you choose, but they do have their own individual storylines within that. Both main characters have their own interests and motivations in the story, as well as their own alchemy styles.
Field actions also vary depending on who you are playing. Whilst Shallistera can dowse, Shalotte can sweep and fish. At a certain point in the game, both become able to mine. Having different characters certainly gives the game replay value, even if you only play it twice to play once with each character. Some players of the series recommend playing as Shallistera first, followed by Shalotte, due to their alchemy styles, but really it is a matter of personal preference, and you can easily play in either order.
If you’ve played any Atelier games previously, some mechanics will be familiar to you, and some will have changed somewhat. This is also true of the Atelier games compared to RPGs in general. For example, combat follows a similar flow to most RPGs, with turn-based battles in which each character can choose an action from a selection, including regular attacks, special moves, fleeing, and the like. Only the main characters, as alchemists, can use items though, a departure from most RPGs. Another more distinct mechanic is the Burst gauge. Each consecutive attack fills part of the Burst gage, with different actions, such as special attacks, filling it more. When this hits over 100%, you enter Burst mode, in which attacks are much more powerful, and ultimate moves can be used.
Alchemy is the main skill of the main characters in the Atelier games, and this allows you to create new items from ingredients. Either main character in Atelier Shallie can use alchemy to make items such as medicine and food, and you unlock various skills and recipes as your alchemy improves, allowing you to make various improvements beyond the basic items. You are later able to make weapons and equipment in the same way through another character you will meet in the story.
The game is split into chapters, and each chapter has required story missions. To move forward in the story, you must also complete a number of different tasks from a selection to fill up a gauge for that chapter. Beyond this, there are also side-quests, which take the form of ‘life tasks’. These ‘life tasks’ allow you to play the game your own way; they are split into four different categories (mind, body, skill, and person), and you can choose which to complete. The life task list will give you more of the types of tasks you have completed previously. So if you fight a lot, you’ll receive more ‘Body’ life tasks.
This gives you more freedom in the game. If you’re not a big fan of creating items via alchemy, for example, you don’t have to do much. The same is true of battling. You’ll need to do a bit of everything to complete the main story tasks, but for the rest of the game you can focus on the aspects you enjoy the most.
If the Atelier games appeal to you, you’ll certainly enjoy Atelier Shallie. It’s also a great game to try for RPG fans, even if you haven’t played an Atelier game before. Thanks to the additional “Plus” version on the Vita, you’ll have lots of extras too, from costumes and background music, to extra playable characters. For the first few weeks after release, there is extra free DLC available on the PSN, so be sure to pick this up quickly.
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