Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland
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As installments in videogame series become more numerous, their developers change to tend their mechanics a little for sake of experimentation and to pacify the masses that tend to complain about new entries of these franchises being essentially the same game over and over. However, there is occasional outcry of these series straying too far from their roots, and thus the developers will attempt to bring the franchises “back to their roots.” One franchise that seemed to do so is Gust Incorporated’s Atelier series, which debuted on the PlayStation 3 with Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland. The game would receive a sequel, Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland, which builds upon its immediate predecessor’s mechanisms, with solid results.

One could consider Totori to be a sandbox RPG, given the absence of a clear objective necessary to advance the main storyline, not to mention the general freedom players have in being able to do whatever they wish, such as item synthesis with raw ingredients, which is essential to complete the many tasks the player can take on from adventurer’s guilds, almost completely necessary to make money. Players can purchase recipe books from shops to expand the variety of items they can create at one of the game’s two primary workshops, with doing so requiring a few days, depending upon the quantity they wish to create, not to mention some Magic Points, which Rorona and whichever allies she has available for hire have alongside Hit Points and Life Points.

Pretty much every role-playing game are familiar with HP, with MP being new to the sequel, an improvement upon Rorona’s HP-only mechanics. LP gradually depletes as the player navigates the dot-connected overworld map, and can yield bad effects in battle if they completely expire; the player can recover all stats by resting at one of Totori’s workshops for a few days. The player can gather ingredients for synthesis (in addition to being able to purchase them from shops), and battle enemies that frequently wander these fields. While the player can strike enemies to gain an alleged advantage, it really doesn’t appear to make much difference who contacts whom first.

The turn order meter oddly absent in Rorona but ironically present in that particular title’s many predecessors returns in Totori, showing who will take their turn win, with Totori and whichever two allies she hires from one of the game’s two hub towns immediately executing their commands after input. Commands include attacking normally, using MP-consuming skills, using items, or escaping. While combat can be daunting at first, it becomes somewhat easier if the player synthesizes new equipment for Totori and her allies, and mercifully, if the player dies, they’re taken back to one of Totori’s workshops with the penalty of a few days.

If an enemy attacks Totori, support actions become available with her allies mapped to the L1 and R1 buttons, in which case they will take damage instead of Totori. Winning combat nets all participants experience, with levels rising somewhat quicker than normal if the player fights more powerful foes and the player occasionally gaining adventurer levels. Synthesizing items also occasionally increases Totori’s alchemy level that allows her to synthesize better items with better results (synthesis can occasionally fail if her synthesis level is too low). Ultimately, the game mechanics work solidly for the most part, with the difficulty level being generally fair, and the developers undoubtedly having done their homework.

The controls are largely solid, with an easy menu system and shopping, not to mention little time in between save opportunities at one of Totori’s workshops, although the main objective of the game is sometimes unclear (as is the case with most sandbox RPGs), and there is no pause button, even with the PlayStation controller’s home button.

Sandbox RPGs tend to be light on story, and Totori is no exception, with the titular protagonist supposedly trying to find information about her mother, although there really isn’t much development, yet fortunately, the game is one of those where the gameplay largely compensates for the plot, and there are a few shouts-out to its predecessor such as the presence of Rorona. The localization is largely spotless, aside from Totori calling Rorona “Teacher,” which makes the dialogue sometimes awkward.

Like its predecessor, Totori’s soundtrack consists of many catchy, upbeat tunes, some of which were present in Rorona, and most of which are enjoyable. The voice acting is decent as well, aside from maybe one miscast actor, and the game is fairly easy on the ears overall.

The game is easy on the eyes, as well, with beautiful cel-shading alongside gorgeous environments, although like its predecessor, Totori oddly “fuzzes out” the graphics during many cutscenes, where still character portraits narrate the dialogue.

Finally, the game is fairly short, less than twenty hours long, with multiple endings (the worst of which is viewable a little under the fifteen-hour mark), plenty of PS3 Trophies, and a New Game+ mode with equipment and money retained enhancing replayability. In the end, Atelier Totori improves upon its predecessor in most aspects, although it does have its flaws such as being generally light on story. Despite this, the gameplay more than makes up for it, and Totori is definitely worth a look from those who enjoyed its countless prequels.

The Good:
+Solid game mechanics and control.
+Great music and graphics.
+Solid localization.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Unclear objectives.
-Not much story.

The Bottom Line:
A great sequel and sandbox game.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 10/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 9/10

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