Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the 16th Atelier game in the main series and the last game in the Dusk trilogy. It was originally released on PS3 but has now come out as a Plus version on the PS Vita. Plus versions of Atelier games normally have some minor gameplay improvements as well as sometimes having some extra dungeons and additional playable characters. The Plus version of Atelier Shallie has also made some tweaks to the storyline that gives some more details of the Dusk that is spreading across the land, as well as some new events between the characters. So even if you already own Atelier Shallie on PS3 it’s still probably worthwhile you picking up this version for the PS Vita!
Atelier Shallie is a tale of two Shallies; Shallotte Elminus and Shallistera Argo, both of whom share the same nickname, Shallie! Even though they share the same nickname they have very different personalities. Shallistera is the only daughter of the chief of Lugion village and has been sent on a vitally important task. Water sources have dried up around her village and so Shallistera has travelled to the water-rich city of Stellard to try to find out why and if there is anything that can be done to save the village. Shallotte however has a much more relaxed story, she’s grown up in Stellard and her story is more about personal growth and finding out what she wants to do in life.
After a short introductory chapter where you get to play as both girls you’ll be given the option of which Shallie to play as for the rest of the game. Although they both work together during much of the game there are also periods where they’re apart. Their differing experiences and personalities make it really interesting to play through as both characters.
I tend to find that Atelier games can be quite low key about their overarching storyline, one of the major themes in the Dusk trilogy is about the world slowly coming to an end, with the world’s water drying up causing plant and animal life to die out and nothing but big empty deserts being left behind. In other RPG’s this would be something that characters would be constantly stressed about, however in Atelier Shallie it’s easy to forget about life slowly dying out around you as you spend your time helping people with simple tasks. It’s definitely a much more relaxed RPG compared to other famous RPG series, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing it’s actually quite nice and relaxing to play a game with a cast of such upbeat and positive personalities.
There are lots of familiar faces in Atelier Shallie and you’ll even get to meet up with the main characters from the previous entries in the Dusk series; Ayesha, Escha and Logy. I really enjoyed catching up with them and it was a nice added bonus that they were also all playable characters. There are also plenty of other returning characters (sadly not all of them are playable) with my particular favourites being Wilbell and Katla. There are plenty of scenes between the Shallies and all the returning and brand new characters. Character interactions have always been an important part of the Atelier series so it’s great to see that these don’t disappoint. If you’re brand new to the Atelier Dusk trilogy then I wouldn’t really recommend that you start with Atelier Shallie, while you’d still be able to understand what’s going on I feel like you’d miss out on lots of references to past events between the characters.
If you’re already a fan of the Atelier series then you’ll already be aware or the main aspects that make up an Atelier game, you’ll spend the majority of your time talking to people in town, exploring areas outside, fighting creatures and gathering materials for alchemy.
One big change in this Atelier game compared to some of the previous entries in the series is that there are no time limits or assignments that force you through the game at a set pace. Instead you can take as long as you like to complete tasks and experiment with the alchemy and combat systems. The game is broken up into chapters and to move forward you need to complete various ‘Life Tasks’. You’ll be given a few set tasks related to the story such as going to a specific location and talking to certain people but after completing them the game will give you lots of other little bite sized tasks that you can complete at your leisure. Once you’ve completed enough Life Tasks you’ll get to move on to the next chapter. It’s actually a pretty neat system, if you tend to favour fighting you’ll get more combat based goals whereas performing lots of alchemy will grant you more alchemy related goals. It means that by doing more of the things you enjoy you can move the game forward and ignore some of the tasks you find less interesting.
The combat system is still turn-based with you able to see the order of turns on the right hand side of the screen. You can take up to six characters into battle with you; three in the front line and three in the rear and you’re able to switch between them during the battle. This is useful for a number of reasons, the first of which being that characters in the rear recover MP, also if enemies keep attacking a character repeatedly it can lead to that character being ‘broken’ for a turn which basically means they’re in a weakened state and will miss a turn. Swapping a character to the back row will enable that character to rest and recover. Of course you can also ‘break’ enemies too by repeatedly attacking them which can be used to great advantage by pummelling them with strong attacks when they’re weak.
There are lots of other things that you can take advantage of in combat to give you an edge, like filling up the Burst Gauge, using Assist Attacks, Variable Strikes and Ultimate Attacks. There’s definitely some strategy involved all of of this as you’ll need to decide when it’s best to use these attacks or if it’s worth holding back while allowing the various gauges to build up.
Of course no Atelier game would be complete without Alchemy! The alchemy system starts out simply, you just need to have the right materials and be at the right alchemy level to successfully create things. As you level up you’ll gain access to new alchemy skills which will allow you to increase the quality and attributes of the finished item as well as influencing what properties the item will have. It’s a really fun system and one that is easy to play around with but can also reward you with some pretty powerful items if you take the time to properly play around with it.
One of the things that I loved about Atelier Escha and Logy is that it constantly introduced new features to the alchemy and combat systems throughout the game. This helps to keep things fresh and alleviate any feelings of things being a bit of a grindfest like in other JRPGs. Atelier Shallie has thankfully continued this trend and new concepts are introduced even quite late into the game. It means that you constantly feel like you’re learning new things; new things to play around with in alchemy and new ways of defeating enemies. The slow and steady pace of new feature introductions also has the added benefit of allowing you to fully get to grips before new things are introduced.
Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is a great ending to this intriguing trilogy, it has some charming new characters as well as allowing you to see some familiar friends. Even with the end of the world approaching it has a more relaxed feel compared to the rest of the trilogy due to the lack of time limits. The new Life Task system will allow you to take bite sized steps forward which is perfect for when playing on the go and also provides plenty to keep you busy. The only real negative I have to say about the game is that it does at times suffer from a choppy frame rate, it wasn’t bad enough to put me off playing but it it is quite noticeable which is a shame as it does have some beautiful graphics and artwork. Overall if you’re a fan of Atelier games then you should definitely get this one as it does a good job of ending the Dusk trilogy and has tonnes of content.