Koei-Tecmo’s acquisition of Gust has left a bad taste in most fans’ mouths when they decided that they are not going to include dual audio in Atelier Ayesha (I shared my thoughts on this issue in an editorial about localization issues I wrote early last year). Not to mention, there has been reports that they poorly handled Escha and Logy localization. Eventually, I ended up just importing the Japanese copies of the game since I knew enough Japanese to understand most of the game.
Although I considered getting a Japanese copy of the game for the Playstation 3, I decided to wait since Gust in December announced a Plus version for the Vita. Since I finally finished the game, it’s time to share my overall thoughts about the game.
The story focuses on a girl named Ayesha Altugle who works as an apothecary. She lives in a cottage by herself with her pet cow keeping her as company. When she visited the grave of her missing younger sister, Nio, she suddenly sees a ghost of her before it disappeared. A passing alchemist named Keithgriff Hazeldine holds the answers on the phenomenon. However, he tells Ayesha that she has to find out for herself. With the glowing flowers being the only clue, she sets out on a journey to find out the reasons behind her sister’s disappearance and perhaps a way to save her.
While the time limit is only three years in this game (unless you unlock the Free Battle mode, which allows you to defeat the toughest bosses in the game without a time limit), I felt that there is no sense of urgency compared to the Arland trilogy. Once you make the best Traveler’s Shoes and other adventure items, you will find yourself having a lot of free time. Because of this, I had a feeling that I didn’t know what to do next. Thankfully, the game lays out what the player should do next in the notebook, which lists all the goals (the stared ones are important to the story), tasks and requests to accomplish. While the requests have a time limit, you can still fulfill them even if they are overdue with reduced reward. Either way, if you managed your time properly, you can easily rescue Nio and start the post game before the second year is up.
As for the Alchemy system, it has been completely overhauled. Since ingredient items now have fixed quality, traits and other aspects, you no longer have to collect baskets of ingredients just to get the desired trait. Now, you just need to select ingredients to make the desired item. Each ingredient has a cost associated with it and will increase the bonus meter. Once the bonus meter is filled, it will reveal a trait. As your mix level rises, you will gain new skills, thus it will become easier to make higher quality items with the traits you want. As expected, this system takes some time getting used to since a trait that you want might get pushed off by another, thus requiring you to remove an unwanted one or add the ingredients in a certain order.
As for the battle system, characters can now move freely around the field. Depending on the position, you can deal more damage with a back attack, divert attention or reduce the amount of damage. In addition, your party members (including Ayesha) now have additional assist abilities besides protecting another member. However, Ayesha does not have any skills. Therefore, you won’t be using her for attacking, but rather for items and defending. In addition to battles, party members now affect what items you can collect, thus allowing you to get rare items that you can’t normally collect.
Lastly, there is the diary, which contains all the memories of events that Ayesha experienced. While the story has a darker feeling compared to the Arland trilogy, there is still a good amount of slice of life moments and humor to experience. Writing these memories allows you to gain various stat bonuses if you have enough memory points. You can earn memory points by fulfilling requests/tasks, collecting leaflets, and talking to other characters.
Like previous games, character events work similarly. While character events no longer lock you to a specific ending since the player chooses the ending, if you forget to do some events beforehand, you can easily lock yourself out from getting some of the endings, especially the true ending. Keith and Linca are the only characters that have this issue. If you lose one of the Treasure Contests, you can also lock yourself out of the true ending even if you satisfied other ending requirements. I learned the hard way when I lost against Harry in the first contest.
New to Atelier Ayesha Plus is the album system. You have to do specific task to reveal a panel on a page. Once filled, it will unlock a bonus such as extra pictures, costumes (for Ayesha, Linca and Wilbell) and extra features. Anything that you unlock in the album will carry over to all save files. While I liked the costumes options, I’m glad that Gust added the ability to change the party members anywhere (similar to what Escha and Logy has) and the ability to speed up the battle (useful for optional bosses).
Overall, Atelier Ayesha is a very fun game that brings a streamlined experience with some new mechanics thrown in while maintaining the time management aspect we know and love. The characters are enjoyable, especially Wilbell. Moreover, the graphics looked better than any of the Arland ports. While Gust done a better job in the quality control department with the game not fatally crashing, I encountered one minor bug. When you use the Mirage Mirror, most of the monsters on the field either disappear or have their bodies cut off except for the one you targeted. While this glitch does not affect the gameplay, it was basically nightmare fuel for me. Aside from that and localization issues, I highly recommend the Vita version if Koei-Tecmo decides to localize it. Hopefully, dual audio won’t be an issue for the Plus version.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: Streamlined Alchemy system, improved graphics over previous Vita ports, and enjoyable characters/story. Also, it’s a lot easier to make Ultimate Weapons since the traits and quality can be transferred without penalty. Also, Plus version added some nice features such as harder difficulty and ability to change the party anywhere.
Weaknesses: Better weapons/equipment can be difficult to find without beating mini-bosses and registering them. Also, ending requirements can be easily overlooked and the music pack is separate from the game (but still free). Moreover, the Playstation 3 localized version is missing dual audio. Lastly, the lip syncing for the cut scenes is not in sync with the audio.