I have been a fan of the Atelier series since the first game released in the US on the PlayStation 2 back in 2005. Series fans have been fascinated by the concept of the alchemy mechanics mixed with standard JRPG turn-based combat. Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea is the third and final installment in the “Dusk” series of Atelier titles, and is now on Playstation Vita, allowing you to take your alchemy adventures on the go.
Atelier Shallie Plus is an updated version of Atelier Shallie which released for PlayStation 3 in March 2015. Atelier Shallie Plus contains all the DLC for Atelier Shallie, which includes new story content and characters such as Ayesha, Escha, and Logy who would not be playable without the DLC as well as NPCs such as Keithgriff (in Ayesha, Keithgriff and Logy’s case without the DLC they wouldn’t even appear in the game at all). Atelier Shallie Plus also provides costumes and cosmetic gear for quite a few of the characters, allowing you to dress them up if you wish using the dressing room function, affecting their appearance in-game.
Atelier Shallie (like Atelier Escha and Logy previously) gives you the option to play one of two characters for the entirety of the story. You can either play as Shallotte, a young girl who spends her days trying to become a better alchemist, or a girl named Shallistera, who hopes to use Alchemy to restore her homeland and end the drought plaguing it. As you move forward in the story, you will have access to both Shallistera and Shallotte in your party, however, the character you choose at the beginning will be the dominant member, and it will be her alchemy capabilities that you utilize the most.
Alchemy in Atelier Shallie comes in two forms. Shallistera or Shallotte can create items or accessories using a cauldron to synthesize alchemy ingredients found through combat or in gathering spots out in the world. Depending upon the ingredients used, different effects may be given to the items or the synthesis might create higher quality items. Alchemy recipes can be found throughout the story, as well as in stores that pop up over the course of the game.
A young girl named Miruca helps with the crafting of weapons and armor through a process called imbuing. Miruca has different alchemy capabilities from the main protagonists but is incredibly valuable if you want to stay alive. As you progress through the story and gain levels, Shallistera, Shallotte, and Miruca gain Alchemy Skills which can enhance your alchemy capabilities and allow you to make new and higher quality items.
Alchemy is a complicated sort of mechanic that really takes a bit of time to understand and grow used to; however that is part of the fun of Atelier Shallie, as there is a sense of achievement in mastering the mechanics and learning to make more effective items and equipment.
Aside from Alchemy, most of the gameplay involves exploration and turn-based combat. Enemies are roaming around the field, so you can choose whether or not to engage them in combat. Combat is done on a 3D plane, alternating between your turn and the enemy’s turn. Through leveling up, you gain new combat skills, as well as being able to utilize the burst gauge, which enables special abilities akin to limit breaks from the Final Fantasy series. Shallistera and Shallotte initially are the only characters that can use items (for healing or damage) however with DLC characters, this expands a bit. Only characters who can utilize alchemy are capable of using items, leaving other characters as pure damage (except for the few that have healing skills).
During exploration outside of the main city of Stellard, you can find gathering points and places to mine, as well as fishing spots for Shallistera (if you are playing her storyline). As Shallistera, you find dowsing points, which allow you to uncover items hidden that Shallotte would not be able to find. As Shallotte, you are able to use her broom to clean up trash, finding useful alchemy components in the items people throw away.
The Goal Management system in Atelier Shallie Plus differs from its predecessors, in that instead of a time limit for quests and story events, there is a new “life task” system that allows you to take your time fulfilling objectives, while also grading your performance based on how many tasks you complete prior to moving on with the main storyline. By completing a certain number of life tasks, you can move onto the next chapter. However, the more life tasks you complete, prior to moving forward, the better off you will be in the long run. This life task system also changes depending on how you play. If you like more action and combat, then you will get more objectives to kill certain enemies. If you prefer gathering and synthesis, you will get more synthesis objectives.
Objectives for life tasks can be anything from gathering certain ingredients, killing a certain enemy, or even making specific items with specific properties. Aside from life tasks, there are events that can occur in Atelier Shallie after certain objectives are met, whether it is doing side quests, or simply reaching a certain part of the story. Events are side stories that can help you to learn more about your party members and more about the NPCs in the game that you interact with most.
These events are different from “Field Events” which can occur during exploration and investigation areas. Field Events are special in that they have different effects depending on which event you choose. You may find stronger enemies in the area, get more ingredients, or even finding relics which are rare components that will further your alchemy study.
Story Events factor into the ending mechanic. There are five endings for Atelier Shallie Plus in total, depending on whether you experience certain events. Other endings (such as the true ending) require you to synthesize certain things at certain points in the story. Multiple endings (as well as the New Game + option) encourage multiple play-throughs and encourage you to speak with everyone in town each time you come back to restock or make new items and equipment.
Combat in Atelier Shallie Plus starts off rather difficult. In the beginning of the adventure, you lack resources and ingredients for better quality items and equipment, making the difficulty curve quite steep. The game grows easier while you play, but even still there are moments where the difficulty ramps up sharply. If you encounter this problem, you may need to try to make better quality healing items, weapons, and armor; however, it can be quite frustrating until you get used to it.
Atelier Shallie Plus has a large amount of depth and things to enjoy between crafting, doing side tasks, and exploring dungeons/field areas. Any JRPG fan or fan of the Atelier series will find hundreds of hours of gameplay here. The story does take a little bit of time to get going, but the gameplay is entirely worth it and is immensely rewarding if you put effort and time into it. You might be put off by the amount of grinding that can be required (for alchemy ingredients or levels) but Atelier Shallie Plus is easier than some previous Atelier games in that regard.
Atelier Shallie Plus was the first Atelier title I played on a handheld, and I have to say that it plays very well on the Playstation Vita. Atelier Shallie Plus has beautiful visuals, with animated cutscenes, fully rendered environments, and voice acting for most of the dialogue and events. The atmosphere perfectly mirrors the upbeat nature of the game, which has whimsical music throughout, as well as somber music for more serious parts of the adventure. In fact, Atelier Shallie Plus (like the previous Atelier games before it) does a great job of balancing serious themes (such as drought, decay, and personal growth) with humor, making sure that the world and its characters never takes themselves too seriously.
Atelier Shallie Plus is a fantastic experience that can be shared with the entire family. While adults might want to sink their teeth into the complex gameplay mechanics, it might be nice to share the colorful, whimsical world with younger teens and children. Dive into Atelier Shallie Plus, and experience a rich world, and rewarding gameplay; you won’t be disappointed whether you play at home or on the go.
A Playstation Vita Review Code for Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemist of the Dusk Sea was provided by Koei Tecmo for the purpose of this review