Alchemy and big swords! What’s not to love?!
Any of you who regularly read my reviews will already know that I’m a complete sucker when it comes to Japanese RPG games. I’m not sure if it’s the music, the graphics, the story lines or the fact that most of the characters in them have heaving breasts and carry around massive weapons… it’s probably the story line I guess. Regardless of what it is, I genuinely do find that Japanese RPG games make the most impact and have the largest amount to offer a community of gamers outside of MMORPGs. So any chance I get to play a genre title, I’ll always try and grab it at the first chance I get.
Some of you more hardcore JRPG fans will already know that this title isn’t really a new game, it’s actually a re-release of the 2014 Japanese and 2015 North America and Europe versions which was released back on the PlayStation 3, but fortunately for us it’s finally being released on the PlayStation Vita, so you’ll be free to take it wherever you want to go (yay)! After a lengthy period of time, it’ll finally be released on the 17th January in North America and the 20th in Europe, so you’ll be able to pick up a copy soon!
You’ll probably already know, by the pictures and by the very Japanese RPG sounding title, that it is what it says on the tin. It’s a Japanese RPG game which was developed by Gust Co Ltd and published by Gust Co and Koei Tecmo. For those of you who don’t know of Gust Co, they also had a semi-big hit with the multi-platform release of Nights of Azure, another JRPG game, so you might say they have a specific genre of development.
The game begins with an absolutely stunning video sequence which details some of the characters of the games. In all honesty, I’m surprised that the graphics of the video was portrayed so well on the PlayStation Vita, not necessarily because of the game, but more because of the system. That being said, the use of colours, music, atmosphere and the actions of the story really do kick start the game into it’s story line.
The game begins with several, well dressed characters, discussing a small towns water supply drying up. If this happens then the settlements nearby will be unable to drink any fresh water (oh no!) and the Dusk Sea will swell and consume all the land (double oh no!). We’re just not going to let that happen, and neither is our group of heroes. We’re introduced to Kortes, a young, roguish looking youth, Shallie, who is clearly a main character as the game is practically named after her and Toekhuga, who looks old enough that if the bad guys don’t get him, it’s likely that falling asleep might just do the trick…
The band of heroes are on their way to Stellard via their giant flying boat plane. Stellard is a bustling city which is full of people, commerce and water. Our heroes are also investigating why all the water in the land is drying up, but no one seems to think that it could be because it’s always so sunny and to try and put some shade over their water… I feel like if I was a character in the game, I’d probably be considered godly for my ingenious idea of simply, let’s put shade up above the water…
Regardless, I’m not going to go too much in the story, but as I’m sure you can imagine, they get to their destination and things aren’t quite as it seems and blah blah blah, it’s a good story so play it and see it for yourselves, I’m not going to spoil all the fun for you! In all honesty, on paper it’s definitely a great concept, and you don’t see many JRPGs nowadays where there is a genuine emergency with the world right from the beginning of the game, so I’ll be interested to keep playing and find out what happens.
The battle system is perfect, it’s exactly how I like it anyway. You’re casually strolling through a field and notice a big monster, so you go and whack it as hard as you can with your broom! Doing so will mean that you go first in combat, which means… Oh yes! It’s a turn based RPG (smiley face).
Whilst the graphical display of the combat could probably use a bit of tuning up, it’s definitely not bad and you have all your standard RPG elements to keep you company. At the start of the battle (if you did things right) then you’ll have the chance to go first and attack, use a skill, an item, defend or just run away (you wuss!). Your choice will also determine when your characters next attack will be, so using those big, heavy attacks will cost you in the grand scheme of things.
During the battle, doing a lot of consistent damage will also allow you to break the enemy, doing so will grant you a whole heap of attack opportunities, so best thing is to attack as fast as you can, then use one big bulky move at the end to wipe that enemy away and claim all that tasty gold and equipment for yourself!
The game will shortly introduce you to the wonders of alchemy and synthesis, which will allow you to begin making and crafting your own ingredients and potions and what not, so be prepared to start gathering some ingredients to make some new kickass potions. Of course, you’re first crafting won’t necessarily be a massive one, and you will actually be creating some pads which look like nicotine patches which are quickly given to Teo (looks like someone forgot his Marlboro Reds).
As you’d probably expect from the title of the game, there’s a pretty heavy emphasis on alchemy and by learning how to craft and use items within battle will be the clincher between whether your amazing or just an average player, so make sure to keep building up that skill level so you can begin brewing some badass potions!
There’s lots of different elements that make up the game, whilst most of them are fairly standard practice for an RPG game, there are some elements that aren’t. For example the items that you can take with you need to be able to fit inside your bag. Whilst this may not seem like a big issue, it does mean that you won’t be able to cram enough potions to keep Walter White happy (Breaking Bad reference…. No?!). Also, you’ll be able to select your difficulty, so the more hardcore of you gamers out there will want to ramp things up a bit!
I have to admit, that the graphics actually ported very well from the PlayStation 3 version of the game. Whilst in a sense this version is new, it’s still pretty much a remaster of the old one, with some added benefits of course. The characters are all very well designed, even on a smaller handheld console and the cutscenes are incredibly well designed and detailed so that it gives you a real sense of what a JRPG should feel like. Whilst the environments are a bit on the… blocky side, they’re definitely not bad and I can tell that a lot of time and effort has gone into ensuring that the graphical display of the game is up to scratch.
The one thing, in my books anyway, the determines if a game is good or not is the use of it’s sound in gaming and frankly this goes double for any JRPGs. This stems back from my years and years of playing Final Fantasy games and listening to all the soundtracks that I could possibly get on YouTube (seriously, my history is just full of Final Fantasy songs). I can tell you that the music of the game definitely holds up. The background music is low and catchy, but not overly repetitive that it gets stuck in your head for hours at a time and the voices of the characters are crystal clear and add to the personalities assigned to them.
Overall, the game is actually really enjoyable and it’s interesting to see all the new characters, play through the story and see all the awesome skills and things that this game has to offer. I’d say that I’m a fan of most JRPG games, and frankly unless you deviate massively from the standard practice then it’s difficult to get it wrong. Dusk Sea (because I can’t be bothered to write the entire name out again) differs just enough that it’s unique in it’s own original way, however, doesn’t deviate so much that it’s complete garbage.
If you’re a fan of the genre then it’s definitely a worthy game to play, especially as it’s jammed full of features that really definite it and set it apart from other typical JRPG games. Even if it’s something you want to pick up and bash out a few hours on, then it’s definitely got value in that. I’d say it’s a winner on both counts personally, but hey, go and give it a try for yourself and see what you prefer!
Alchemy and big swords! What’s not to love?!
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea was reviewed on PS VITA