Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Atelier Totori Plus (Vita) Review

Atelier Totori Plus is a PS Vita port of a PS3 JRPG, but adds in the DLC characters and a new end-game dungeon.  Players will guide Totori on her quest to become a great adventurer, perfect her alchemy and possibly learn the fate of her lost adventurer mother.  This game is a sequel to Atelier Rorona, as Totori has become Rorona's student after the events of that game.

First off, I am really impressed with the graphics in Totori.  They just look great on the Vita.  The dialogue pictures are of course really well done and detailed, but the battle graphics are just as good.  The game appears to be 3D cell-shaded, and looks wonderful.  The character models and locations are really well done and a joy to look at.

The game has dual language Japanese and English.  Quite a bit of the game is spoken dialogue, and the voices sound good.  The music is nice and fitting, and people who played Rorona will find some familiar tracks while playing the game.  Sound effects in the game are also pretty good, my favorite being the noise when you defeat an enemy.  I don't know why I like it, but it reminds me of air being let out of a balloon, so I almost picture the enemies deflating when they are killed.

After a small introductory portion, Totori makes her way to Arland to apply for an adventurer's license.  She receives it, but will have it revoked after 3 years if she doesn't perform adequately as an adventurer.  This is how the game imposes the famous Atelier 3 year limit on you.  However, there are intermittent goals every 3 months or so, or anything else like that.  Just "you have 3 years, go do stuff".  I really like this, as it makes it more laid back in terms of progression.  Performing certain tasks, like finding all the gathering points on certain maps, killing x amount of y enemies, and fulfilling x number of requests will give you points on your license.  When you have enough, traveling back to the adventurer's guild can get it upgraded to the next level.  It's fairly open-ended and I had fun doing what I could to upgrade my license, and it wasn't too hard in the early going.  Be warned that if you do not rank up enough by the end of the 3 years, it's still game over.

However, if you can attain Diamond rank (right after Platinum) before the 3 years are up, something awesome happens.  You get a license extension!  This allows greater freedom in an Atelier game, since they are pretty strict with the time limit.  Honestly, this feature is my favorite part of the game.  As much as I like playing them, the time limit is always at the back of my mind, so being able to double that limit is very exciting!

Time can be quickly lost in Atelier Totori.  Moving to different areas quickly eats up the time you have, as even moving between the main towns takes almost two weeks until about halfway through the game (make sure to save a Bounce Stone).  Each gathering spot in a given map takes about half a day, so stocking up by grabbing everything there might not be the best option.  I'm an item hoarder, so it's hard to not just grab all of the items so I can maximize my time.  Battles also take time that makes the deadline come faster and faster.  Items do exists that cut down on all the time spent doing things like travelling and gathering (these are also in Atelier Ayesha, if you have played that before).  It takes longer than I'd like to get them, but they really help, so get them as soon as you can.

The combat is fairly standard, turn-based JRPG faire.  When your turn comes up, you can attack, use a skill (or item if you are an alchemist), defend or run away (cue the Monty Python voice).  Like Atelier Rorona, the two other party members can fill a meter that allows them to either follow up one of Totori's attack or defend her from an enemy's attack.  Totori must use an item to have the option of another party member follow it up.  In the previous game, Rorona, party members could follow up the basic attack, and I wish Totori had followed suit.  Using your other party members to shield you is really useful, since Totori herself is somewhat fragile.

The skills that characters get can be very powerful, but take enough MP that you can't just throw them out willy-nilly.  Unfortunately in the beginning, only one of my characters had a usable battle skill.  The other party member, Gino, only got one after giving him an item, which took too long to get.  The first character that could replace him was too low a level to be of any use.  Given the limited time in the game, I didn't want to spend the time grinding her level.  After a while, I was able to add Rorona to my party, and she helped a lot, which made things a bit easier.  You will want to use everyone to get their endings though.

Atelier Totori has a balancing act of finding ingredients, fulfilling requests and fighting monsters.  Early on I was pretty good at it, but as I increased my rank, I would open new locations with monsters that were stronger than my party.  I needed to synthesize things to make better armor and weapons and spend precious time fighting enemies at my level so I could adventurer further out.  Normally, this is not a problem, but I always feel the time pressure on every action I take (or waste).  As I went along, I got much better at balancing out all of the different aspects and had a smoother experience.

Now on to the trophies.  A large bulk of the trophies are for viewing special events that contain a nice picture and getting the various endings of the game.  While getting all the different endings is easiest with multiple playthroughs, it is actually possible with one run.  Be prepared to follow an exact list though.  There is a new game plus, which keeps your current equipment and your money.  It would be nicer to keep more of what you earned, but this is at least nicer than starting over with nothing.  With a little planning, you can make subsequent runs much easier and maximize what you keep.

If you like JRPGs and have a Vita, I'd definitely recommend picking up Atelier Totori, even over the PS3 version.  It looks great and has added content, and no touch screen interaction (other than optionally on the save screen and tapping the back screen for an extra animation) to smudge up the Vita's beautiful big screen.  I had over 40 hours of playtime (that seems to be common for my first run through RPGs nowadays), and plan to make at least one more run through it all.  Unless you follow a guide letter by letter, you too should get multiple runs through the game and Atelier Totori is well worth the asking price.

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