Atelier Rorona is a lot like a console version of the DS game Atelier Annie. Each game covers a three year period in the life of the title alchemist where you help her complete assignments so she can find a happy ending. The difference is that Atelier Rorona looks better and has many more endings.
Rorona is an apprentice alchemist who accidentally finds herself in indentured servitude to the town’s alchemist, Astrid, after going there to get medicine her parents needed without money. She an adorable, clumsy, good natured, cheerful and easily flustered lead character.
Then, a proclamation arrives that Astrid’s workshop may be shut down. The kingdom’s minister wants to use the space to build another factory. As a final test of worth, the king gives the workshop twelve assignments to complete. If even one is failed, the shop is closed and Astrid has to leave. Astrid’s a good-for-nothing, so she gives the workshop (and all the work) to Rorona. Rorona must quickly learn alchemy (Astrid never taught her anything) and do everything she can to save the shop. Because if Astrid has to leave, she’s taking the indebted Rorona with her.
Moments into Atelier Rorona, it’s evident that Gust wants to please Atelier fans. There’s a strong focus on item creation and collecting, plenty of opportunities to interact with characters, and little focus on battling. If you’re careful, you can usually run around or jump over most enemies outside of town.
Each location outside of town is divided into areas. It takes you a certain amount of days to reach each location, and more time to explore it. This actually lifts a lot of weight off of Atelier Rorona players. You don’t have to worry about wasting too much time in a location gathering items and fighting battles. You already know right away that, upon entering an area, you’ll spend between one to three days there.
Early on, just gathering any available materials in Atelier Rorona is enough. Close to the end of the first year, players are encouraged to be more picky. All story assignments give you a higher rating if you use high quality materials and turn in better products. As (in-game) time goes on, requests from Rorona’s friends will have quality and trait requirements too. Etsy requests follow the same pattern. The game gradually encourages you to put more effort into finding good materials to create special products.
Finding said materials is quite easy. While walking along the path in each location, you’ll occasionally see a part of the scenery with a huge bubble with a silver or gold star in it. You can press X to collect items at these spots. As you can guess, gold star locations have better quality items. You can then load up the 60 slots in your bag with as many items as you can carry. Make sure you deposit these items in Rorona’s workshop’s container the second you get back to town though, as items in the basket’s quality will decrease over time.
You’ll also occasionally encounter monsters to battle. You don’t really have to, as many fights are easily avoidable. But if you do, you enter a very simple, turn-based battle. Enemies are on the right and your party is on the left. Even though characters can learn and use special skills, you can typically win battles with standard attacks. There’s no MP though – skills use up HP instead. As battle carry on, allies’ gauges build up and they will be able to perform follow-up attacks after Rorona attacks or step in and protect Rorona from an enemy’s attack. But really, you don’t need to use skills all that often. I only used Sterk’s cross slash, which hits a row of enemies, and Iksel’s healing move during all battles I encountered between the first to the eighth assignments.
Most of your time in Atelier Rorona is spent in town. Once again, the Atelier Annie comparisons come into play. Every new day you’re in town, you’ll want to visit each location to try and trigger an event. You don’t actually have to walk around the location (unless you want to buy something or see if an NPC has a request), just stop by, see if an event automatically pops up, then press X to bring up the town map and visit the next spot. When you enter an area in town, say the Square or Sunrise Cafe, an event may trigger. You’ll automatically see Rorona talk to someone or meet someone. I wish I could say that you get to watch the 3D character models talk to one another, but you don’t. Atelier Rorona puts character portraits front and center with voice acting and dialogue boxes. Once the conversation begins, the 3D models are blurred and you’re forced to focus on the two static images. Occasionally there’ll be voice acting for these scenes, but more often there’s not.
Be prepared to encounter finicky controls in Atelier Rorona. This is only a problem in the field, when you’re trying to get the jump on or avoid enemies. Pressing square is supposed to make Rorona smash her staff down on enemies so the party can get the first hit. To make strike an enemy you have to be positioned "just so" for it to work. Other times, it won’t work at all because you’ll have gotten "too" close to an enemy and Rorona will freeze up in fear. Jumping also doesn’t always work as planned either. Since you can’t shift the camera, you may think you’re jumping away from an enemy, but really you’re jumping on top of it. And sometimes, pressing the jump button won’t even work and you’ll end up surrounded or trapped.
I also didn’t like that Rorona has to pay her friends to help her. In Atelier Annie, Annie’s friends help her on item gathering excursions for free. In Atelier Rorona you can only venture outside of town to collect items if you can afford it. And stronger characters cost more. Even if you’d want to play and only focus on the story assignments, you’d still have to take on side quests to afford to collect items. After a while, their prices do go down as you build trust and perform tasks for them, but early on Sterk is expensive!
Thankfully, side quests are incredibly easy to fulfill to earn some extra cash. While many of the party members and NPC-specific requests will require you to actually make items through alchemy, most of the early requests from Etsy only ask for items you gather for free. Even the monster bounties you’ll take on in the first year are quite easy. As long as you grab a handful of assorted, below-par goods while traveling, you’ll be able to earn the money needed to venture outside the city.
Gust made Atelier Rorona while thinking of what their Atelier fans would most want. Everything pretty much revolves around solid item creation. It seems like Atelier Rorona gets better with each playthrough, possibly because you know what works (and doesn’t) and get to carry over much needed cash.
Food for Thoughts
- Like Atelier Annie, you must buy all recipe books in Atelier Rorona so you can make things.
- All in-game event scenes are static, CG images.
- I wished there had been an "Auto" battle function, like there was in Atelier Annie, since many battles just need constant "attacks".
- Iksel’s surprisingly awesome – he’s one of the first characters to learn a healing skill and learns a skill that lets him heal himself each turn.
- It’d have been nice if more of the trophies were more challenging to earn. Many just require you to witness certain events or complete tasks you’d get in a normal playthrough.
- You can’t get water for free until the Traveler’s Way location unlocks. (Late in the first year.)
- After making some items for the first time, they’ll appear as decorations in Rorona’s workshop.