As Gust’s Dusk trilogy begins to draw to a close on the PS3, the series is now making its inevitable way to the PS Vita. Like the previous “Plus” versions of the series, it includes the DLC from the PS3 version as well as new costumes for the party characters. Also included is some additional content in the form of new bosses from Atelier Escha and Logy, as well as a new hard mode.
Ayesha stood out to me immediately from the Arland series and reminded me of the more RPG like Atelier Iris games on the PS2. While tonally, it’s still light hearted, the game takes a slightly more serious turn than the previous games in the series have. Ayesha herself is still the typical clumsy girl, though the circumstances surrounding Ayesha’s commitment to learning alchemy involve saving the life of her sister, Nio. Nio disappeared over a year ago, and is assumed to have been “spirited away”. However, whilst tending to her grave, Nio suddenly appears as a ghostly image before Ayesha, convincing her that Nio is still alive somehow. The mysterious Keithgriff comes across Ayesha at this moment and tells her that Nio is somewhere she cannot reach with her hands and through the study of alchemy, she would be able to gain the skills needed to try and get her back. Unfortunately, Keithgriff estimates that Ayesha only has three years to save Nio before she really disappears forever.
Gust have really stepped up their game with Ayesha. They’ve improved and streamlined the Atelier experience. Gathering is much simpler now, holding the X button over a gathering point for materials will automatically gather all the items for you instead of going through the basket menus like you had to in previous games. Ayesha has also simplified item synthesis, so the process is a lot simpler and it is easier to see and plan what item traits you want to carry over into your new creation.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about Atelier Ayesha is that it’s the one of the few Atelier games where we really see these characters develop and achieve their personal goals. The years pass by quickly in these games and it’s easy to forget the amount of time that has actually passed. I was reminded of Atelier Totori, when I was in year 5 of the game and feeling like nothing had really changed since year 1. But with Ayesha, it let these characters grow over time and acknowledge their own personal growth. Ayesha herself is also a very independant character, as are the rest of the cast. Ayesha leaves on her quest to save Nio by her lonesome and while other characters help her out, I feel like that’s all it is. These guys aren’t dedicated to Ayesha, they just want to see her succeed.
While Ayesha works toward becoming an accomplished alchemist, you see your party grow and achieve their goals, too. It’s something I thought was a nice touch, as past games usually only saved such events for their character endings, once you’ve finished the game. I know some find the time-keeping aspect of Atelier games to be a bit intimidating, but Ayesha is one of the more forgiving ones in this regard. The three-year limit is more than enough time to tackle everything the game has to offer.
Moving onto how Ayesha plays on the Vita, to my eyes at least, Ayesha Plus looks pretty much exactly the same as it does on the PS3, but with an occasionally stuttering framerate, although this is a common issue with Gust’s Vita ports. One area I’ve wished Gust would improve on for some time now is optimising their games for the smaller screen, but that hasn’t happened either. It’s not as if the text is too small to read, but I would appreciate some larger text boxes and such to make it seem like a more natural experience on the Vita.
In terms of the new additions, there’s a hard mode available from the get-go, where enemies are stronger and tougher to beat. Offering a new challenge for returning players. The new album mode is similar to the challenge system in the recent Smash Bros. games. Completing certain tasks unlocks part of a picture and completing the picture will grant you a new ability. You can unlock things like being able to change party members at any time or changing the pace of battle or unlocking certain costumes. It’s a nice addition, although it feels like Gust included it for a bit of padding.
All in all, Atelier Ayesha is a refreshing change for the series. Gust has rounded off the rough edges the series has had since transitioning to the PS3 and laid out a real foundation for their future games.