Atelier Rorona Plus: A Good Mix Of Alchemy, Story And Combat

By Jack . June 28, 2014 . 5:00pm

Do I have what it takes to be an alchemist? To find out, I tried Atelier Rorona Plus, a re-release of the original game from 2010. This new Plus version significantly changes all of the character models to be more in line with how the series has progressed visually. It also adds more playable characters and optional bosses, and even changes some established game mechanics around such as skills being tied to magic points rather than health.

 

At its core, though, Atelier Rorona Plus should be familiar to the initiated: A ditzy young girl named Rorona has to run an alchemy workshop for three years in order to prevent it from shutting down. To do this, she has to synthesize items with alchemy to fulfill the kingdom’s requests and become a successful alchemist.

 

Meeting these demands takes time, as creating new items with alchemy or going outside to find ingredients will knock days off of an in-game timer. The pressure of having a timer forces you to consider your decisions, but you’re actually given more than enough time to complete the main objectives. The lax limit is helpful, because you can quickly lose a lot of days on your quest to save the workshop.

 

Synthesizing items with alchemy is the core of Atelier Rorona, but there really isn’t much to it. Making an item requires the recipe, which you get from finding books, and ingredients, which you get from stores or by exploring outside the town. The menus are smartly designed, allowing you to quickly sort items by useful criteria, displaying required ingredients, and create large numbers of items.

 

The second biggest component to the game is Rorona’s excursions outside, where she must pick up materials while picking fights with the wildlife. Not because they’re in her way or particularly hostile, however. Enemies are actually fairly easy to avoid; your main motivation for violence is unique item drops the enemies may be carrying in their pockets…or insides.

 

Rorona Plus isn’t really about the combat, but the mechanics behind it are surprisingly satisfying. All encounters are turn-based, with the order you and the enemies go shown on the right side of the screen. Speed stats and certain attacks will affect when the next turn comes up, allowing for strategies that let you manipulate the order, allowing for a bevy of attacks from your side if you play your cards right.

 

Battles also allow all the characters shine, every party member has unique animations that really bring out their personality. Rorona’s animations are awkward and clumsy, while her chef friend Iskel will use comically oversized frying pans to smack his foes. Some of my favorite attacks actually belong to one of the Plus exclusive characters, Esty, whose animations can only be described as maximum overkill for the poor wildlife on the receiving end of her blades.

 

Fights are fast, frequent, and simple but full of hidden depth. Unfortunately, very few enemy encounters require you to dig that deep. There are some optional bosses that provide a greater challenge than the usual fare of enemies, but I wish there was more content. As it is now, the battles feel like wasted potential, which is a shame because they were my favorite way to pass extra time on the calendar.

 

Before you know it, months will pass by in a blink as you continue to work towards your goals. Meeting the bare minimum requirements of your assignment will get you by, but the further you go beyond, the better the ending you get at the end of the game. On top of the main assignment, you’re also given a handful of smaller tasks like defeating boss monsters or synthesizing specific items.

 

This concept gets taken even further with more optional tasks given to you by the population of Arland, who will have new requests to fulfill on a daily basis. Completing this optional content is the real meat of the game, as I found completing the tasks assigned by Sterk to be easy to fulfill to the maximum very quickly. Regularly meeting the demands of the people increases your popularity, which affects the ending.

 

A steady supply of tasks ensures that you never feel like you’re wasting your time or wandering about aimlessly. Even random visits outside to fight monsters prove fruitful, as you never know when you’re going to need a specific item for a request or synthesis. While Rorona Plus works on a time limit, it’s less about restricting your options and more about encouraging you to explore, experiment, and finally optimize based on your discoveries.

 

As life goes on in Arland, more people will inhabit the town and open up new opportunities for Rorona. While Rorona begins the game keeping the workshop afloat almost entirely by herself, she eventually gets subordinates, new party members, shops and her merchandise sold across the entire town. Streams of new mechanics spring forth at a regular pace, keeping the experience fresh while challenging those who have mastered the basics.

 

Like Rorona herself, the other inhabitants of Arland are simple but endearing. Event scenes are littered across the calendar, introducing you to the bizarre cast of characters. While watching the events is mandatory, they never go on overly long and the characters are charming enough to be likable. Even the town itself begins to warm up to Rorona, as the more you optional tasks you complete the more the random NPCs around town will acknowledge your existence.

 

Watching both Rorona and the town of Arland develop alongside each other ended up being a surprising highlight of the game. Rorona’s story is small in scale, but it complements the scope of the game nicely. There’s no excessive dialogue, no shocking plot twists, and Rorona does not use the power of love to turn into a giant mecha in order to save the world. The plot unfolds exactly how it needs to, being simple enough to follow while endearing enough to keep your interest.

 

Atelier Rorona Plus makes a strong case for being an alchemist. As a newcomer, the new Plus release is a great introduction to the practice, being simple enough to grasp while allowing a ton of room for growth. If you’re a veteran, it really depends on how eager you are to play through the game again, as most of the new content appears to be near the end or beyond in a second playthrough, with few enhancements sprinkled into the actual brunt of the game.

 

Food for Thought:

 

1. I have no idea what the PS3 version is like, but the Vita release of Rorona Plus does not run very well. Just about every area in town or the outside areas will incur some form of stuttering or sudden pop-in of characters. It’s not irredeemable because the game doesn’t require much in terms of precision or reactions, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

 

2. A huge chunk of the Plus-exclusive content is stuffed towards the back end of the game, with the highlights being a playable Totori and Meruru from later games in the series and optional super bosses. My favorite immediately accessible feature is the ability to customize the music that plays in-game; you pick music from every Atelier game that has come before and after Rorona, including some other Japanese spin-offs I’ve never heard about.

 

3. Rorona Plus also has some neat connections to the other Vita Atelier releases. I actually own Totori Plus (but have barely touched it) so I unlocked some costumes for Rorona Plus. On top of unlockable content, there’s also a “time capsule” feature that lets you bury items in Rorona Plus and use them in the chronologically later Atelier games.

 

4. If you tap the back Vita touch screen while Rorona is standing still, she does some weird stuff like impromptu celebrations. It’s a pretty cute little Easter egg, as well as good material for taking screenshots.


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  • ヴァルラシュ

    The PS3 version runs perfectly

    • Tiduas

      I tested the PS3 version today but I also noticed a small FPS drop when some characters came into the screen. It’s not a big deal but since I still managed to notice it I got a little sad :(

    • Razzlero

      It froze on my once, but apart from that no problems.

  • SprintsMcGee

    My Trophies seem to not be syncing at all to the servers for the PS3 version. Is this happening to everyone or is it just me?

    • Razzlero

      They had some problems getting it on the store in EU. I think it might be related. It will be on the store next Wednesday so I’m guessing the trophies will be fixed then.

  • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

    I played through the whole of the Vita version. The Vita version… has a few bad freezes, for me. The game crashed three times through my playthrough, generally after events happen. Reloading the game will make it work, but it’s very annoying.

    I heavily enjoy the game though and am working on my second playthrough now, but fair warning to people: At the end of the game, SAVE YOUR WORLD SPIRITS. SAVE ANY WORLD SPIRITS YOU CAN FIND OTHER THAN MAKING ANY NECESSARY DECORATIONS. The only place you can find World Spirits otherwise is in the incredibly difficult dungeon that unlocks in the post-game (which, by the way, is accessed by loading up your clear data and choosing to go into Overtime.), and you need two World Spirits to complete the post-game specific event.

    So, seriously. SAVE YOUR WORLD SPIRITS.

    • murinto

      It’s unfortunate that there’s no physical release, I really don’t want
      to shell out for a huge vita memory card at the prices they have them
      for. I probably will eventually just to have the trilogy on it, though.
      Do you know how much memory each atelier game takes up?

      • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

        In two words: A lot, but probably not as much as you’d think.

        Now, I have a lot on my memory card, so it was reasonable that I had to take off some of the bigger things, like the digital version of Disgaea 3 (I have physical, so nbd), and Final Fantasy VII and IV.

        Each of the Atelier games takes up a good 3GB of data– which means you can do just fine buying a 16GB card. But to be honest, you might as well just shell out for the 32GB. It’s currently down to $68 on Amazon, while the 16GB is $39.

        • murinto

          Thanks, that price for the 32 isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I may as well just get it and complete my vita. right now I have a guilty gear fighting game and diva F on it and its basically everything.

          • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

            Ahaha. For the record also, an imported 64GB costs $103 right now, so really, it’s up to you what’s worth it. The Atelier games are not cheap, so keep it in mind. They’re all $40 each. But it’s especially worth it in Rorona’s case, since it’s almost like an entirely new game.

          • murinto

            100 dollars for a memory card holy shit, it makes sense though since it is basically double the memory and a 32 is 68. Suddenly I see the 32 as a totally garbage deal again. I think I’ll just get escha and logy since I havent gotten that one yet, and wait on these other things. Do you think the memory card prices are likely to go down?

          • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

            Right now, the prices I quoted ARE the discounted ones at the moment. Your best bet otherwise is to wait for Black Friday and stalk Amazon for deals.

            Otherwise, a more permanent price drop won’t come until A) The 64GB card makes a proper western debut, or B) another year or two has passed.

          • darke

            Honestly you should be able to get by fine on the 32GB one. I only just upgraded to the 64GB recently when I bought a Vita 2000 version, but I could have gotten by on 32GB fine.

            Provided you backup any old games you haven’t played in a while, (or have finished), to a PC or PS3, you can probably get 10 full-sized games, or who knows how many indie or PSP games on there at one time.

            Honestly though you probably want to keep the memory cards pretty empty anyway; making backups is pretty slow so the less data required to be shuffled around the better. :P

          • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

            One of the main problems really with making back-ups, especially of Vita games, is that save data is tied to the game itself– if you delete the game, the save data is gone. You basically require a PSPlus account in order to back up your saves.

            Why yes, it is a pretty big oversight on Sony’s part to offer such large Vita games, yet no stable source of save back-up.

          • darke

            Yeah, but if you backup the game to your PC/PS3, it backs up the saves as well (well assuming you’re digital, if you’ve got carts it’s a different matter). So there’s no issue with deleting the game off the vita then, and then restoring it if you need it for some reason (like Atelier giving you bonus costumes for different versions). Provided you can fit all three Atelier games on the memory stick at once you should be good. :P

          • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

            I did fit all three Atelier games onto my card, yes.

            And it’s just strange, but I don’t entirely trust the back-up system for the PC/PS3, when it comes to the attached saves. Maybe I’m just weird, but I like a clear indication that, yes, my saves were backed up.

            Though it’s more awkward if you owned the Digital version of a game but switched to physical– or have the physical but switched to digital, since, again, the saves are directly tied to the digital copy.

  • Razzlero

    I haven’t had a chance to play as much as I would like to have. But I’m currently still wondering if the ending system is the same as the original or if they have made it like Ayesha and Escha where you get to choose form your unlocked endings. Hopefully they made it to be like Ayesha and Escha

    • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

      It works like Ayesha onwards now! I got to unlock the normal, good, true, and Etsy ending at the end of my run.

      • Razzlero

        Good to hear :D

      • Kumiko Akimoto

        How does Ayesha do it if you wouldn’t mind explaining? All I have is Totori plus at the moment and it was kinda overwhelming trying to get ending requirements for characters and keep up with the normal end and the adventurer card.

        • http://linkapics.tumblr.com/ Linka

          Basically, long as you manage to trigger the proper events for Ayesha (which you get a lot of time to do, since you get the normal ending as long as you complete the main quest quickly enough– on average you’ll probably have over a year of spare time in Ayesha.), you will get a list of choices at the end of the game on the last day of what to do. Say you triggered two friends endings, you’ll get those endings on a list of choices as “I promised X something”, but you’ll also have the choice to not go to anyone, which’ll trigger the normal ending.

          In Rorona, similarly, you’ll get a choice for what to do. One of the choices has “everyone” in it, and it’ll trigger the true ending. Another might be “I need to study more”, and it’ll trigger the normal ending. Or “I’ll go out with X” and that’ll trigger the character ending. Basically, it makes it a lot easier to see what ending you want as long as you save before the last day.

  • アティ

    Totally worth it.

    Atelier trilogy on PS Vita, Complete! – =͟͟͞͞ ( 。◕౪◕。)ฅ✧

    • Raw

      My kind of Tea Party.

      • God

        Huh? Tea? Sorry, i was looking elsewhere…

        • Natat

          C’mon you are God, you should be able to look everywhere at the same time!

          • God

            Guys like you are the reason i chose this username.

        • Xerain

          Is there really that much difference between looking at the tea or looking at the cups? Such a nitpicker.

          • ishyg

            What cups?

  • Cerzel

    If you have the PS3 version though, is there any way to get the bonuses from having the save data for the Vita games?

  • devilmaycry0917

    a perfect game to replay on Vita but no physical release in the west and i know nothing in japanese
    sadly no purchase

    • Guest

      What about the PS3 version?

  • http://www.gamefaqs.com/features/recognition/21421.html?type=4 Kashell

    Mmmm…pie…

  • Victor Wesker

    Atelier Rorona Plus is excellent game. I have PS3 version. I can say that remake is definitely better than original. I don’t know what in PS Vita version, but it still has random freezes in PS3 version, even after installed patches.

  • $18114340

    I can confirm that the PS3 version suffers from the same technical issues. Usually the low frame rate doesn’t bother me but sometimes the menus stutter, the inconsistency in fps becomes grating, and the game has completely frozen on me once already. They’re not making me angry enough to put the game down entirely, just a few scuffs on what is otherwise one of the most fun RPGs I’ve played in ages.

  • mountaingoatgot

    My Rorona+ and Meruru+ doesn’t recognise my Totori+ save. Anybody can confirm with me that this is the case for everyone with an Asian account? (Singapore account here, all digital Vita versions)

    I suspect that my save not being recognised is due Totori+ in the Asian Store being the Europe version, while the other 2 are the US versions (as seen from the manuals.) I don’t even know who to ask for support.

    Also, Asia only gets 1 out of 3 early bonus costumes. Despair.

    • DizzyGear

      As far back as the PS1 days saves are tied to the region of the game because of they have a differant game ID.
      Trophys sometimes do work across regions though. My US and EU copies of Blazblue CT share the same trophy list for example.

      • mountaingoatgot

        I bought all digitally with the same (Singapore) account though. My guess comes from the digital manuals, where I see PEGI ratings and tecomkoei-europe in the Totori+ manual, and ESRB and tecmokoeiamerica in the Rorona+ and Meruru+ manuals.
        I shouldn’t be missing out on my costumes just because the people in charge messed up.

        • DizzyGear

          Ah sorry i misread. I thought you bought the asian versions or Rorona+ and Meruru+ on cartridge and Totori+ digitally on the EU store.
          Sound like someone from the Singapore PSN store team screwed up indeed. This is when you miss the good old times when you could just grab a save off gamefaqs to unlock stuff like this.

          • mountaingoatgot

            And I don’t even know which branch of KT is in charge of the Asia store. This plus the missing bonus costumes (which are impossible to get otherwise), means that I get an inferior version just because of where I live. This is really pissing me off.

          • DizzyGear

            You could try finding someone who has the Asian retail version of Totori+ and ask him to check the manual for the logo’s.
            If its the correct version thats compatible with the saves it might be worth tracking down a copy.

          • mountaingoatgot

            Sadly though, the Asian retail version is Japanese only, with the English versions digital only, like the west. In fact, we don’t even get the PS3 games (of the Atelier Series) in retail.

            Thanks for the suggestion though.

  • Shippoyasha

    Still a bit wistful that some of the ultra cutesy character proportions aren’t there anymore. I really like the new designs too, though the super cutesiness of the original was something else. Oh well. I can’t wait to get it!

    • Land of Green Pasture

      Super cutesy design belongs to Rorona in Meruru!!

  • Zoozbuh

    Awesome review, very well written and balanced. Non-fans of the Atelier series who moan about time limits really need to read this. It’s really not AS annoying as people say, if you don’t just waste days aimlessly. It’s just there to make you manage your actions a little. I had the original Rorona, but now that I have a Vita I will DEFINITELY pick this up at some point.

    • Xerain

      While I agree, many core Final Fantasy fans are all about wasting time aimlessly. They want do things level level to 99 within the first portion of the game.

      Many of the people I have heard complaining about this series clearly fall into this group, and make their preference clear while complaining.

    • DizzyGear

      I was a new comer to the series and began with Totori.
      The only thing that really ticked me off about Totori’s time limit was when you got your licence to diamond level Cordelia more or less tells you not to worry about dead lines anymore so after that i pretty much took my time exploring. doing requests, gathering materials, synthing, etc and than out of the blue: BAM bad ending and since all that carries over was money and equipment it felt like such a waste of all that effort.
      I’m replaying the Vita version and now and now it does not seem so bad since i know about it now. but back than it really turned me off the series for a while.
      Though i would love to have some sort of postgame endless mode.

    • darke

      For some of us who work to deadlines, it’s not that the shortness-or-not of the time limits that is annoying (though I found the original Rorona being painfully short); it’s more that the simple fact that they’re there makes the game feel like you’re at work.

      Instead of “fix someone’s computer problem/program within X days” it’s the same, except with alchemy. When you’ve specifically got the portable version of the game so you can play it on the way to work, or during lunch at work, it’s even more irritating.

      Anyway, latest entry in series apparently does away with time restrictions entirely; so it’s all good.

  • darke

    For those curious if Rorona’s new 18+ rating in Australia is still in existence, here’s an example image of two 18+ games photographed side-by-side: http://i.imgur.com/AojpOoG.jpg

    (facepalm)

    • ivanchu77

      Holy crap, these prices are ridiculous

      • Cerzel

        Those are actually quite cheap, for us.

        • darke

          I remember a few years back (5-10?) buying PC games for $110. That’s standard, non-CE versions.

          Thankfully prices have normalised to something slightly sane. Still much cheaper going US though. :P

      • darke

        They’re about normal for a store shop in Australia. Rorona’s RRP is $69.99 so you’re actually saving a whole $5!

        Or you can buy them from the states, or an online store and get them for 50-60% of the cost. >.< This is why I have a US PSN account now, and I buy most if not all my stuff from there.

        Even US release day, digital versions are cheaper then release day physical AU versions, and often cheaper then the import EU versions as well; which is why I don't mind my Vita being digital only. Plus I often get things months later, if at all, if I didn't have it. (Monster Monpiece for instance never came to the AU PSN, just the EU one.)

    • Silent Aaron

      I don’t understand why it’s 18+…The original was only pg…

      • darke

        The ratings board classifies by samples, rather then actually playing the game. I imagine some description or image triggered their HIGH IMPACT SEXUAL VIOLENCE filters and so it got that stamp, and then they went back to producing porn. (For those not in the know, a few years back the really long serving chief of the agency retired… and was instantly hired by a local porn company to oversee their production. Presumably on under the “he should know exactly what we need to do to get approved” logic.)

        • Silent Aaron

          But it’s not “High Impact Sexual Violence”, it’s just “References to Sexual Violence”.

          • darke

            Yeah I know, I was just continuing the joke by MDH made in the quote above/below your’s. :)

            Edit: It wouldn’t surprise me if this was one of the scenes that ’caused’ it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ya6IoaOgAhk

            But who knows honestly, rating agencies rarely make sense.

          • Haganeren

            It was this one yeah, they interpreted it as rape because Rorona wasn’t consent and the guy did nothing to prevent it.

            Granted, that scene was stupid but seriously, it didn’t deserve a 18+ marker.

          • NeptuniasBeard

            To be fair, that IS some pretty blatant sexual assault

          • darke

            It’s more an issue of ‘comedy’ vs ‘serious’ and amount that causes people to facepalm with these ratings.

            To get an 18+ with Violence you have to do a serious amount of it. With Dead Island Riptide, if you’re not spending nearly the entire time wiping zombie brains off your weapon and clothing, you’re not playing the game right. One reference like that? 18+.

            Whether or not bludgeoning someone’s (or some-thousand’s) head in or not is ‘worse’ then what’s seen in the video is an argument for someone else to make, it’s the disproportionate reaction between them that’s dumb.

          • NeptuniasBeard

            Well I agree with ya there. I think a “comical” groping, shouldn’t be treated as worse than if she just started… randomly stabbing Rorona or something lol. Societies are weird like that I guess

    • MDH

      HIGH IMPACT SEXUAL VIOLENCE

    • Notquitesure?

      They did that for atelier totori plus also. It is very frustrating especially when trying to buy in shops.

      • Blackiris

        Wait, Totori did get a physical release for Australia?

        • Notquitesure?

          Sorry really didn’t phrase properly, I bought hyperdimension nep mk2 from eb games and similar situation and got the weird look from cashier.

      • darke

        If I was silly enough to buy a physical disc in Australia in anything but a deep discount sale, this is definitely one I would buy just to see the amount of cognitive dissonance of the cashier between the highly visible 18+ and the equally highly visible cutsie imagery. :P

        Probably none of course since they’ve been too jaded by seeing it on the shelf for a day or two, but still, the intent is there. :)

    • XiaomuArisu

      This hurts…in sao many ways

    • EinMugenTenshin

      I think the mistake they made is that they don’t realize the “imagining” effect. The “HIGH IMPACT SEXUAL VIOLENCE”-scene(s) is left for the imagination of the viewer. In the Australian world the adult viewer could view it like that (when having little cultural understanding and no gray humor) instead of a joke (which it ultimately is). The funny part is that youngsters, or under age 12ish, (which the rating would be meant to protect,) would never think anything of this had anything to do with sexual related matters because they simply don’t get the joke. Thus the rating kinda rings mute.

    • darke

      I apparently now have my 15 minutes of internet fame among a certain crowd; since this photo hit the front page of sankaku. :P

  • Bojan Njegomir

    I usually don’t like games with weak storylines but Atelier series has somehow managed to drag me in it’s world! Have beaten and platinumed the first four (inc. Rorona) and was really fun. Will have to get this again then! :)

  • Zazon Zenzy

    Atelier Meruru Plus sucked my life HARD! Feels too addicting to stop! Blissful simplicity where actions are meaningful… Ah… I prefer Atelier games with true Atelier style play than the usual JRPG style like Atelier Iris series and Mana Khemia. Though the lag and loading is dragging, it’s not that awful. Still enjoyable. Too bad that Rorona Plus in Vita still like that, though, from what I read above.

    Now, I’ll just wait for the game to come in PSN. Another poison, yet again.

  • http://forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?/topic/25050-farm-mapping-contest/#entry239430 Chaos17

    I will only buy this with Totori and Meruru + on PS3. I don’t wanna buy a ps vita >.>

    • Aristides

      Then get a Playstation TV

    • darke

      I can’t imagine they’ll do a PS3 backport at this stage of the game. Like CH they’re probably transitioning all their new development to the PS4.

      It’s possible they’ll be a PS4 backport of the Vita version I guess; after all Akiba’s Trip 2 is getting one.

  • http://www.ihasnowebsitez.com Satonaka CP-Four

    Finally a review worthy of putting on any gaming review website… ign and gamespot (yes, they dont deserve capitalization XD) should take notes from this and learn their shit :P

  • http://myanimelist.net/profile/chibuki chibuki

    Thank you for doing these nice reviews. It’s always appreciated.

  • AlphaSixNine

    “I have no idea what the PS3 version is like, but the Vita release of Rorona Plus does not run very well. Just about every area in town or the outside areas will incur some form of stuttering or sudden pop-in of characters. It’s not irredeemable because the game doesn’t require much in terms of precision or reactions, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.”

    I own both PS3 retail and Vita digital versions and it’s quite clear that the game runs smoother in PS3 than Vita. Load times are fast, there’s very little stuttering and frame rate drops. However switching between them makes me realize how vastly the game looks better in Vita’s OLED screen than in my HDTV. The colors are just more vivid and look… more “right” when compared to the PS3 on my HDTV. lol.

    Personally, I could ignore the various hiccups the Vita version have. It didn’t really bother me much. I played more on Vita than on PS3 lol. XD

  • M’iau M’iaut

    Please leave out the links to sites which by your own thoughts are suspicious. Thanks.

  • xavier axol

    sorry i just wanted a second opinion.

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