Atelier Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland
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Some companies such as Square-Enix are obsessed with rereleases of their games, and in the past few years Gust has hopped on the bandwagon with their Atelier series, making enhanced versions of their trademark pantheon, particularly those in the Arland trilogy. Atelier Totori saw its initial release on the PlayStation 3, receiving a Vita port a few years later as Atelier Totori Plus: The Adventurer of Arland, which, while imperfect as the original version, is still a fun game, and perhaps an ideal example of a sandbox roleplaying experience.

The alchemy and battle mechanics largely remain unchanged from the PS3 incarnation, with the player able to take endless quests involving gathering or synthesizing specific items, or defeating a certain number of a particular enemy type. High-level items, at a low alchemist level, initially have a high production failure rate, although Totori’s level in this regard gradually goes up with successful and failed syntheses, and regular reports to the adventurer guild are necessary to keep on playing.

Fighting enemies populating dungeons and gathering fields in turn-based combat will raise her and her allies’ adventurer levels, as well. Battles are fairly difficult, although players can eventually synthesize more powerful weapons and armor to make things easier, and fortunately, beating bosses isn’t critical to finishing the game, and the only real shortcoming is the occasional failure rate of the escape option in battle, but otherwise, the developers did a good job assembling the gameplay systems.

Control is generally solid, with easy menus and the alchemy interface using triangles to indicate if the player can synthesize an item with other synthesized items, and since the game is nice to players when they die in combat, costing some wasted days, they needn’t fear losing progress, and the dot-connected overworld indicates areas with unidentified enemies and alchemy ingredients. Shortcuts in the two main towns further become available early on, and aside from the need to go into the save menu to see playtime, interaction is all-around great.

The story too is enjoyable, taking place five years after Rorona and focusing on one of her apprentices, the eponymous Totori, whose mother went missing on an adventure, the goal of finding her being a decent driving factor, alongside the multiple endings, with the only real issue being that the game doesn’t really clue players into where her matriarch vanished. The translation is mostly spotless, aside from the oddity of Totori addressing Rorona as teacher, which sounds slightly odd in English.

The soundtrack contains a bouncy, energetic feel like other titles in the Atelier franchise, although there are some recycled tracks from Rorona, and while the voice acting is largely hit-or-miss, notably in battle, it doesn’t detract too greatly from the experience.

The visuals look nice, too, with good cel-shading and nice environs, although the game makes the odd decision of narrating cutscenes with static character art while fuzzing out the three-dimensional graphics when they could have just used the character models to interact instead.

Finally, the game is beatable in the twelve-to-twenty-four-hour range, with plenty extras and a New Game+ providing the opportunity to play through again with some elements of the initial playthrough retained, the multiple endings providing superb replayability in this regard.

In conclusion, Atelier Totori Plus is for the most part a solid sandbox RPG that mostly hits the right notes regarding its solid alchemy and battle systems, freedom of exploration, story with multiple endings, a polished localization, great audio, and pretty graphics. There are some issues that detract from the experience, though, such as the general difficulty of adventuring, the open-endedness, the minimalist story in initial playthroughs, a few recycled tunes, and some odd visual choices, such as not relying on the cel-shaded character models to narrate the story instead of static art. Regardless of these things, Totori Plus is the ideal version of the game, and warrants a download from PlayStation Vita owners, particularly those that enjoyed its predecessor.

The Good:
+Solid alchemy and battle systems.
+A sandbox RPG done right.
+Good multiending story and translation.
+Great audio.
+Pretty visuals.

The Bad:
-Adventuring a little on the difficult side.
-Some might not appreciate the freedom.
-Story can be minimal for most players.
-Some recycled music.
-Odd visual choices.

The Bottom Line:
What a sandbox RPG should be.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 12-24 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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