Atelier Rorona Review
With everyone out of town, and no easy way to do any image editing for this review, I sort of proudly present this review! (Images to come)
Atelier Rorona is the 11th installment in the long running Atelier series (although if you live in the US, it’s the 6th installment). As far as I’m concerned, it’s the first Atelier game seeing as how it is the first one that I have completed. The Atelier games are JRPGs developed by Gust that focus on alchemy and item synthesis. Atelier Rorona is no exception to this.
The game opens with a brief explanation of the city of Arland, a city that is being industrialized, but holds the technology possessed by an ancient civilization. Rorolina Fixwell (Rorona for short) is a young alchemist being trained by her master, Astrid Zexis. Astrid isn’t very interested in running the alchemy shop she owns so business isn’t very good for her and Rorona. One day, however, a Knight of Arland, Sterkenburg Cranach, visits the shop and informs Rorona that the alchemy shop will be closed if it cannot prove that it can function properly and aid Arland. He sets up a series of 12 assignments over the course of 3 years for Astrid and Rorona to pass in order to keep the shop open. Astrid, being uninterested in the shop, decides to use it as a test for Rorona and renames the alchemy shop Atelier Rorona and has Rorona take care of all the assignments.
That’s really all the story there is to Atelier Rorona. As, Rorona, you will receive assignments from Sterkenburg (or Sterk as everyone else calls him) and based off of how well you do on the assignments, it will determine whether you pass or not. However, the quests aren’t as simple as bringing an item an enemy drops (or they usually aren’t). Typically, you will have to leave the city and gather ingredients to create the items. Sterk will give you a time limit anywhere between 60- 90 days depending on the assignment, to finish making the items he requests — you have to find a good balance between gathering ingredients and actually making the items.
As I hinted, everything in Atelier Rorona is timed. And doing much of anything will use up time. When you go exploring, time is used when you travel to your destination, then as you navigate through the various stages of the area you select, time will pass. Getting back to Arland takes time. Then creating items takes time. Keeping up with, and managing your time wisely will prove more important than leveling up, or having a lot of money in Atelier Rorona.
Many people don’t really enjoy having a time limit, but for me, I ended up loving it for the most part. Thanks to the time limits in Atelier Rorona, the game moved at a nice brisk pace. It never felt like it was dragging along, as many JRPGs do.
I mentioned the exploration a little bit but now let us expand on it. Atelier Rorona is a turned based JRPG. When you enter an area to explore, various enemies can be seen, allowing you to avoid them or fight them based off your choice. There are no random battles. The battles themselves are straight forward. When in battle, you have the option to attack, use a skill, use an item, defend, or run away. At certain parts in the story, you will gain new allies who you can hire to accompany you when you leave Arland. In battle, you can control them although they cannot use any items. Only Rorona is able to use items in battle. The battles can get challenging, especially in the later parts of the game, but generally are fair to flat out easy.
The reason you even have to go out and deal with enemy monsters is to gather items. When you explore the different areas, you will see exclamation points over certain parts of the area, like over a bush or a log. When you inspect those parts, you will be taken to a menu where you gather whatever ingredients/items are there. Rorona can only carry 60 items at a time, and that will quickly fill up the longer you explore. Exploring the stage you are in will also open up more of the stage to you, as well as more ingredients in those stages. But remember, the more you explore, the more time passes by.
Now, it’s great you can gather all sorts of items, but what do you do with them? Well, you could sell them to the various store, or you can accept item requests from different people in Arland, and extra quests from the city itself. All of these will have a certain number of items requested, as well as extra attributes or quality ratings required. For example, you may take a quest for 3 Tonics with a quality of 50 or greater. Once you know the recipe for Tonics, you need to get the ingredients you need, and use alchemy to create Tonics in your workshop. This will take up time, so beginning before the deadline is close is important. Completing these requests will increase your reputation, or your friendship with the person who gave you the request. If you don’t leave yourself enough time to complete the request, your friendship, or reputation will take a hit and you will not receive any reward. The reputation and friendship levels are what determine the ending you will get.
The art style of Atelier Rorona is something I quickly fell in love with. Being the first 3D game from Gust, they managed to pull off a solid frame rate (yes, this is a shot at NIS) with gorgeous character portraits and solid environment designs. You will have to visit the same areas over and over again, but later on in the game, you don’t have to go item gathering nearly as much as you do in the beginning making the repetitive scenery a non-issue.
Make no mistake, Atelier Rorona is a very repetitive game. Like I just mentioned, you will have to visit the same areas many times, fulfill the same requests over and over and deal with the same basic enemies constantly. That being said, most games are repetitive, especially JRPGs. The repetitive nature is often disguised with a story or great character interaction. Atelier Rorona lacks a strong story, but has incredible character interaction. Some of my favorite moments were just simple banter between the characters. Whether it was Rorona’s father getting into trouble at a local shop, or Astrid bullying…. well everyone, Atelier Rorona delivers many laughs and makes the game that much more enjoyable.
Atelier Rorona is no masterpiece. It lacks much of a battle system and has a story that is very repetitive in nature. That being said, the art direction, character interactions, and upbeat tone of the game makes it a lot of fun to play. It is without a doubt, the happiest JRPG I have ever played and was a very fun way to spend 25 hours of my time. I highly recommend this game to people looking for a fun, simple JRPG to play that won’t batter their brains with a convoluted story or battle system.