It’s always an interesting journey when one begins a new JRPG, and Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is no exception to this rule. Developed by Gust and published by Koei Tecmo, it hits all of the expected traits of a JRPG – interestingly dressed characters, an inventory/alchemy system, and the elaborate story to boot – but is it worth your time and energy to play or has the series dried up? Let’s find out.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the 3rd installment of the Twilight saga and the 16th Atelier game created. While each saga remains in its own universe, the Dusk Saga revolves around the fictional world known as the Land of Dusk. The game seems to revolve around the a growing drought that plagues the land and the use of alchemy in the world.
You have your choice of 2 female protagonists in this game: Shallistera and Shallotte Elminus (both have the nickname “Shallie” and hence the game’s title). Shallistera is a young alchemist on a mission to bring water to her village after her father, the clan chief, becomes ill. On her travels, she’s accompanied and guarded by 2 men named Kortes and Teokhuga. Kortes is Shallistera’s childhood friend and treats her like a little sister. Teokhuga, or Teo for short, is the shipwright and has known Shallistera since she was a child. Shallotte is a happy-go-lucky girl who lives in the city of Stellard. Like Shallistera, she is also a practicing alchemist who gets by doing simple day jobs such as picking up trash but hopes to someday travel and “hit it big”. She lives with her mother named Nady Elminus and works for her boss named Raoul Pireit in Stellard’s Union building.
Shallistera begins her search to bring water back to her village by going to Stallard, a city said to be thriving with water in the midst of the drought engulfing the world – it is here where our protagonists meet.
The game has 3 major gameplay components: the overworld where you talk to NPCs and navigate the world, gathering/battle mode where you gather materials and fight wild monsters, and alchemy/imbuing where you use the items you gathered and craft new items to use or power up existing items you already have. While there’s not much to say regarding the overworld section as the overworld is just getting from point A to point B, the alchemy/imbuing section is an interesting take on crafting new items to which I really like. It can seem like a lot at first glance, however, so be sure to watch the tutorials that come up. The gathering/battle mode is amusing to play, but ultimately seems to be lacking until you actually get into a battle. It gets more complex as the game goes on, however.
The battle aspect of the RPG is turn-based, allowing for you to plan for your next attack. The game does seem to leave you to learn how the battle mechanics work, which isn’t a major issue, but I would’ve appreciated some form of tutorial on what the skills that can be used are and such. When the first battle begins, I had to pause myself and try to grasp what exactly my options were during a battle, or what components I should focus on and such. Regardless, it’s a minor setback and those new to the series like I was should have no problems picking up the mechanics quickly.
The biggest charm of the game is the character designs. Hidari, also known as “Left Side” is known for her work on light novels, and has been the character designer for the entire Atelier Twilight saga. The animations that occur during the cutscenes and the artwork really makes this game stand out and is both visually pleasing and enjoyable for any Anime fan (and if you weren’t a fan, why would you even play this game?).
Those that focus heavily on the storyline and dialog do not fret as this 3rd installment does include options for English dub or Japanese with subtitles. Fair warning, however, that the cutscene animations appear to lack subtitles, so if left in Japanese dub you may find yourself watching a cutscene with little context as to what they’re actually saying.
One of the gripes I have with the game after playing it is that I feel like I’ve missed out on playing the previous installments in the series. While certain games offer the ability for nearly seamless playability, regardless of which iteration of the game you pick, this series may give that feeling like you’re going to have to memorize a lot of new information all at once. Throughout the prologue we understand that Shallistera must help out her village, but we do not get any flashback or images of the village we’re attempting to save, which doesn’t help add emphasis on the crisis at hand. I suppose it does come with the territory of entering a sequel of a game series blind (and of a JRPG of all game types) but I would’ve appreciated some form of better recap or flashback that can quickly summarize what I’m about to get into.
In the end, Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is a charming JRPG with beautiful visuals and amusing game mechanics. While I can only imagine the storyline is very rich, it can be a difficult transition for newcomers to the series. The game is quirky and the characters are lovable in a way that any Anime aficionado can appreciate. For a starting price of about $50 USD, I believe it’s a solid buy if you’re into the JRPG genre and/or you have played the previous games before this. Otherwise, you may want to consider renting it for its charming storyline and wonderful art direction.