Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: The Alchemist of the Dusk Sky Review

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Title: Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: The Alchemists of the Dusk Sky
Developer: Gust, Koei Tecmo
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 2.6 GB (Plus 659 MB for Japan Voice DLC)
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail (Limited Edition Only)

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: 
Yes

The Atelier series is often a source of debate among JRPG fans.  Some love it and for different reasons, be it the time restrictions, alchemy, story and cutesy characters, and some even for the combat system.  You also have a lot of gamers who hate the series because of the time restrictions and some for how cutesy and “girly” the story and characters look.  The time restrains are a big thing that have turned off dozens of RPG fans for not being allowed to freely roam as they please.

Last month, I began my own journey into Atelier with Atelier Ayesha Plus.  Truth be told, I also own Meruru Plus and Totori Plus, but never finished them.  After playing and loving Ayesha, though, Koei Tecmo decided that I was worthy of getting a press copy for the next.  Originally a PS3 title, here is my review of Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky!

Story

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Sometime after the events of Atelier Ayesha, an alchemist from Central City by the name of Logix, otherwise known as Logy, travels to a hub town near a set of ancient, floating ruins to find work.  The city’s Research & Development division was expanding and recruited two different alchemists, him and a local named Escha.  After being brought in and taken from his high-tech machines to a base cauldron, Logy settles in while Escha adjusts to working with a man from the big city.

The story in this new game is very different from Ayesha because of two things.  The first is Logy, whom is the first non-female main character in the Atelier series.  Not a lot of fans are happy about this so this is a big change for the series.  The other is the setting.  In Ayesha, you were traveling the world in search of your sister.  In this game you’re based around the hub town performing duties as a job.  As such, you’ll be traveling to locations and then back to town, which is a bit of a different pace.

The story isn’t bad, because it’s very entertaining.  But I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is superior to Ayesha.  I definitely like the “traveling the world” thing better than this R&D Job situation, but I was still full of laughs from the get-go.

Gameplay

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Atelier Escha & Logy Plus is an enhanced port of its PS3 counterpart, and is a turn-based RPG with time management and item creation elements thrown into the mix.  You’ll be doing the typical progression of creating items with alchemy, fighting monsters, and exploring dungeons and environments to unlock new story events.

The game is an enhanced version of its PS3 counterpart, so there are some new features added in.  First of all, there are some new playable characters, including Nio.  There is also some extra story content thrown in at the end of the game that is built around Nio as a character, as opposed to focusing on Escha and Logy.

Progression in the game is set in Assignment Periods.  You have ten of these, and you have an assignment to complete that is linked to the main story progression.  You could have this be repairing a windmill in town, exploring ruins, or something else.  You will have 3 months to complete this objective and the game will end if you fail to complete it.  There’s no need to worry about completing it on time, though, because the time restraints are extremely lax.  You’ll be able to complete your objective each term before even the first month is over.

Once you complete your objective, you get Free Time until the end of the month.  During this period, you can do whatever you want and a lot of character-based story events will spawn.  Knowing this, the game’s built around you being able to complete your main objective quickly.  There are also two large sets of minor objectives for you to complete that you will likely do on your own, regardless.  These are towards the overall score at the end of the assignment phase that affects your pay and upgrades.

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Map progression is the same, but is different.  There is far less for you to go and each dungeon area goes into its own map.  You don’t pass time running back and forth on these mini-maps, but they can get quite extensive as you explore.  This is similar to before, but more of a way to clean up the overall World Map to not look as cluttered.

Combat has been changed as well.  The combat is mostly the same with turn-based battles, but the party size has been greatly expanded.  You can now take 6 party members into battle.  Three of them participate in the battle while the other three are available for assist attacks and defending actions.  If you choose to defend, the members will swap out bringing the reserve member into the combat for the next turn.  You also get characters automatically switching if a party member is knocked out by an enemy.

What I will say is that monsters get stronger faster than in Ayesha, putting a bigger emphasis on combat in this game.  You’ll be spending more time fighting and have more emphasis on training your levels to always be one step ahead by the next assignment period.  This is something that some RPG gamers will enjoy, as Atelier normally has very light focus on combat.

Alchemy has been switched up this time around.  You still gather materials and combine them into new items, but you also get equipment from Central City as you play for Logy to use, which increases what you can do.  Some of these items allow you to use alchemy to upgrade everyone’s weapons.  This will allow you to add various effects to them as well as increasing their power.

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One thing I will mention is that since the time restraints are so lax, many people think that game is far too easy.  Many Atelier fans like the strict restrictions.  So if you want strict time restrictions, you won’t find it here.  But for everyone else, there is a level of needing to get it done, but even newcomers shouldn’t have any issues.  This is a lot easier to achieve than past games have been.  The combat however, is where things get harder.

Over the course of the game, you’ll likely be spending at least 30-35 hours with the base game as well as new content.  A good bit longer than Ayesha, plus multiple plays since you can choose to play as either Escha or Logy when you start the game.  Some items are only available when you choose one or the other.

Controls

Controlling this game isn’t all that different from playing Ayesha Plus.  You won’t need to worry about tough controls, and it’s also worth noting that there are no special controls when played on the PlayStation TV.

Moving around towns and dungeons is done with the Left Analog Stick, while you can use this as well as the D-Pad when you’re out on the World Map, though Analog on the map will move the cursor anywhere, be it on the roads or places you cannot travel.  The face buttons are pretty universal throughout the game, with the exception of using Circle to jump and you can’t really do that in menus or battle.  But X can be used to talk to people or confirm menu options.  Triangle can pull up the customization menu, and Circle cancels out of menus when not in the field.

The L and R triggers have a few different uses.  In town, you can use L to look at your assignments and R to use Quick Travel.  In the field/map, you use R to access the system options to be able to save your game.  Then start and select can be used to access other menus, like a quick button to hit for requests or seeing past dialogue in your current game session.

I don’t really have any quarrels with the controls and the on-screen prompts make it easy to remember what does what.

Presentation

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As with all of the Atelier Vita games, it is gorgeous.  The cel-shading is beautiful and every environment looks really detailed.  There are some more details than in Ayesha as well, just with the environments as a whole.

Performance is what you’re worried about.  The game doesn’t run perfectly and many areas do have some chopping in the frame-rate.  There were worse drops in Ayesha, but the game struggles in some areas.  They improved town exploration and alchemy frames, but combat and dungeons have some struggling going on.  They’re improving, but it’s not perfect yet.

Just like the last title, though, Escha & Logy suffers from a lack of complete voice-acting.  While Japanese audio lovers need not worry, as the free DLC for Japanese Voices has voice work for every scene, the English dub has a lot of scenes where there is text-only and no voice-work done at all.  This won’t bother many of you, but it is unfortunate to see one side of the game being done to completion and the other not be the same.

Summary

Atelier Escha & Logy Plus is the most user-friendly Atelier game to date.  While the frame-rate still struggles in areas and there is still incomplete English voice-work, the system is improving and it’s definitely a worthy adventure for both Atelier and JRPG fans.

8/10

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