Game Review: Atelier Rorona
HERE I AM BACK FROM THE DEAD DREADED EXAMS and I’ve got a little mini review lined up in this post. As you can see in the box art it says 2009.6.25 on sale, meaning I’m about 2 years late to the party (Interestingly enough, it would be MY party since 6.25 is my birthday) but that doesn’t matter – I played it for a few days not too long ago and so I’m going to write about it now.
I’ve played most of the games in the Atelier series including some of its spinoffs and tie-ins and what makes them stand out from your run of the mill cookie cutter JRPGs is the deep alchemy/crafting system present in almost all the games. There’s nothing like the gratifying feeling you get when you throw that giant perfect quality cute+1 living oversized expensive fiery+4 misshapened bomb you made a while ago at your enemy and watching it explode for obscene amounts of damage.
And so I started up Atelier Rorona ~alchemist of whatever~ thinking I’d be in for the same kind of ride as I had with the previous games but boy was I wrong.
Plot: Ditzy clueless girl (Rorona) sold herself to slavery to an irresponsible alchemist in exchange for expensive medicine to heal her mother of some unnamed disease. Said alchemist’s witch hut is about to be demolished by the government King to make way for a giant factory of some sorts but is too lazy to deal with it so she sends Rorona to save the shop while she sleeps in the back, sleeps on the couch, disappears, or stands idly in a corner throughout the game. Rorona’s parents decide to go on an extended holiday and appear from time to time to shower her with gifts of random shit probably obtained from the shops around town. Handsome knight represents the government King and strikes up a deal with Rorona – MAKE ME SOME RANDOM SHIT BY THE ARBITRARY DEADLINES I SET YOU and we won’t flatten your shop with a bulldozer. And so off Rorona goes, obtaining allies, going on adventures, gathering random shit, making random shit, and falling down most of the way.
Contrary to what the premise seems to imply, what with all the deadlines, the plot is actually fairly open-ended. There *is* an amusing ending and trophy waiting for you if you decide to sleep the entire 3 years away and run around doing jack all and there’s also an even more amusing ending if you decide to concentrate all your efforts towards making every pie the most awesome pie possible. But of course, if you want to get the ‘true’ ending (arguably there’s no ending more true than the pie ending but oh well), you’ll have to get down and work for it.
Gameplay: Atelier Rorona is about 40% menus, 30% dating sim, 10% adventuring and 20% nonsense, most of which has to do with alchemy or gathering the ingredients for alchemy. The game has you making as much random shit of as high quality as possible by deadlines as the main driving force of the plot but at the same time your friends and shopkeepers will be more than happy to give you MORE tasks to do with endless fetch quests. Also there’s STD Esty Dee who acts as yet another source of fetch quests but her incentive is lottery tickets that you can redeem in unrealistically high numbers to get some shiny equipment or high quality ingredients. The alchemy system hasn’t changed much since Atelier Iris which was a bit of a disappointment though I guess you shouldn’t try to fix what isn’t broken. What IS broken though, is the level of fun in Atelier Rorona. After maybe my 2nd hour of playing this game the deadlines, scarcity of good ingredients and sheer time cost of low return actions made it all feel like tedious repetitive work. Seriously, why does the cafe waiter keep asking me for black charcoal over and over again? What in the world is he using it for?! And why is that loli collecting truckloads of the same damn flower?
Visuals: There’s gorgeous anime-style art throughout the entire game but this time in crystal clear 1080p which is definitely a treat for the eyes, especially if you liked the art in Hanasaku Iroha. The characters are varied enough in appearance to be instantly recognizable and they’ve all got their own appeal (well, maybe except for the nasty old men). Outside of the dating sim and menu sections of the game, you get 3d celshading which isn’t particularly impressive but neither would I call it ugly, simply put – it does the job.
Soundtrack: In a word, unremarkable.
Voices: Atelier Rorona is fully voiced in both English and Japanese. The English dub made my ears bleed but I guess it’s passable compared to some of the other game dubs I’ve heard. After switching to the Japanese dub though, it’s like the characters suddenly became much more lively and dynamic. A fellow writer on mechapot tells me that half of the cast are well known in the anime world and it does show in the quality of the dub and some of the interactions between characters.
Summary: There’s not enough fun in this game. However, if you can look past that, or you find the deadlines and menus fun, you’re in for a real treat. I, however just couldn’t stand doing all that work and surrendering my hard earned loot to random people just so they could trust me 2% more.
MechaPot gives Atelier Rorona a 2.5 out of 10