Back in 2012, Gust who is known for their work on the Atelier franchise decided to make another series that is set in the same world as the Ar tonelico series. Since the Playstation Vita came out in February of 2012, they decided to experiment with this new handheld by creating a communication dating sim called Ciel nosurge (シェルノサージュ〜失われた星捧ぐ詩〜 lit. Ciel nosurge ~Song offered to the Lost Star~ ), which is played in real-time over the internet. This game can be described as Animal Crossing meets Love Plus with social elements thrown into it. They recently released an Offline version that removed the online requirements with all the DLC content included, thus making it possible for the player to play at his/her own pace.
While two versions of the game got released after the original (Re:Incarnation and Offline), they also created a sequel titled Ar nosurge, which came out this year in Japan and later got localized to English. I find it odd that they would release that game first considering that the sequel requires the player to finish most of Ciel nosurge in order to fully understand the story. Considering that this game is a niche title, not a role-playing game and is very text heavy, I can understand why Gust and Koei Tecmo aren’t willing to localize it. Even so, it seems that people are interested in this game. With that, I will share my initial impressions of the gameplay from the Offline version.
The main goal of Ciel nosurge is to interact and recover the memories of a girl named Ion, who lost all her memories because the places where they came from turned into ruins. Besides her and a mysterious shopkeeper named Nelico (ねりこ), they live in a closed off world. By going to Ion’s Dream World or her Genometrics, you need to scan objects to create fairies called “Sharls” to help her regain her memories.
The gameplay of Ciel nosurge can be broken up into three parts: communicating with Ion, directing Sharls to repair broken points and viewing events. Lets focus on the first aspect, which is the communication aspect. The game uses touch screen controls exclusively to move the camera, interact with Ion and make decisions. From the menu, the player can direct Ion to do certain things such as make/gather items, change her appearance, use certain items and decide times (for waking up, special and promise). In addition, the player can do other things from the same menu such as going to the dream world, go on a date, advance time (Offline version only), view status, etc. If you don’t give her a request, she will just do things at her free will. Time will pass as long you have the game running or choose to advance it when you load a save file.
In addition, Ion might decide to talk to you anytime or ask to go on a date. While communicating with her, you might be given different choices that will affect how she reacts. In some cases, you are given the choice to touch her by using the touch screen or if you choose to do so during a date before returning to her world. Successful interactions will show up in her Happy Things Memo (嬉しかったことメモ). In addition, certain holidays like Halloween and Christmas will unlock certain events depending on when the game is played.
The second aspect of the gameplay is Ion’s Dream World (夢セカイ), which allows you to repair spots where she lost her memories, create and modify Sharls to improve their repairing efficiency and view story events. Since this game is episodic, there are 12 doors showing her memories of what happened to the planet of Ra Ciela and how she met some of the main characters that are in the sequel. In the original and Re:incarnation (which had the first few episodes and DLC packs included), these episodes got released every few months as paid DLC until June of this year when they released the final episode. As mentioned earlier, the Offline version has all the DLC and episodes included. If you have the DLC already from the online version, they will carry over to the offline version.
To repair Ion’s memories, you need to create Sharls by scanning UPCs on objects that you might have around the house by using the Vita’s rear camera. While this was an interesting idea, I had a hard time getting the game to recognize it when I tried to scan the UPC of a Naked Juice bottle. Either way, the UPC determines what element the Sharl is, personality and appearance. However, adding a Sharl to the nest is not free and requires either a free pass or HymP.
Leveling up and using HymP can unlock new appearance and skill options for a Sharl. These two things affect how fast a Sharl repairs a broken point. Each broken point has elemental requirements to reach and once all of them are filled, your Sharls will gain experience and you will unlock a new place on the map or an event. If their LP drops to 0 (if the LP recover rate is not fast enough) while repairing a spot, they will stop working. If that happens, you have to let them recover. If you don’t have a Sharl with a certain element, you use labor Sharls. However, you won’t gain extra experience for them when they finish repairing the broken spot.
After you time warped a bit and powered up/created some Sharls, you will find out that these actions require HymP. So, how do you earn them? Besides repairing broken spots, you can earn them from sending energy to the Micro Quasar, which unlocks extra rewards when the meter is filled. In addition, you can also earn them by going on dates, fulfilling wishes from Sharls and viewing memories/events. Lastly, you can buy HymP packs from the Playstation Store, but I do not recommend going that route since these points are easy to obtain. Besides, you shouldn’t be encouraging these practices that plague free-to-play mobile games.
Overall, Ciel nosurge is a pleasant and enjoyable game not because Ion is cute, I find the story and gameplay rather interesting. While the Offline version is not nearly as buggy compared to the original, I noticed a few imperfections with one of the character’s head suddenly disappearing along with lip-syncing problems, which is probably worse than what Atelier Ayesha had. Even so, if you want to fully experience the story of Ar nosurge and you know enough Japanese to understand most of it, go ahead and get the Offline version.
Part 2 of the review will come out in the middle of next year. It will focus on the story and any features I missed from this initial review along with my final thoughts.