Pick a Shallie.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the final chapter in the Atelier Dusk JRPG series from Koei Tecmo and Gust on the PS3. The world may be dying, but players are more free than ever to explore and enjoy the sights and sounds.
Set after the events of the previous games, the expanding Dusk is taking its toll on the world, with water running out and everything slowly dying. It’s pretty grim, to be honest. But let’s not dwell on the misery as we have two young girls, each nicknamed Shallie, to choose from and play as in this JRPG.
Shallistera heads to the big city to find water for her suffering village, whilst Shallotte live in the city and dreams of becoming an Alchemist. They are two very different girls, with two very different stories and the players choice of which to play as will result in two different experiences. There are plenty of shared scenes between the girls, but each adventure is quite substantially different from the other. This provides the player with a strong reason for going back and playing through as the other character once completing the first. It also means that Atelier Shallie is a substantial game and great value for money.
Besides the inclusion of two different characters with largely different stories, Gust seem to have made strides to make this final chapter in the Atelier Dusk series more approachable to newcomers, with a number of changes to the core mechanics. This seems like a strange decision considering that it is the final chapter in the story, trying to draw in new players for the very end. The two stories also appear to be geared to either a newcomer or a veteran of the series, with Shallistera’s story being much easier to follow and Shallotte’s encounters being that bit more difficult.
The big change over the previous title is that time limitations have been dropped, providing the player with much more freedom over what they do and where they go. Now, the player is instead given various goals to achieve for either continuing the story or to work towards on the side. This all results in a much more laid back experience which is likely to appeal more to the newcomers than the veterans of the series.
The combat has been streamlined, which makes a nice change over many JRPGs which seem to just add in extra mechanics for no discernible reason. Players can go into battle with a team of six characters, each with a nice variety of different skills to make use of. Any of the three active characters can switch with the reserves once their meter is filled, and a group burst meter fills which gives access to extra damage, boosts and buffs once active. New skills and abilities are slowly introduced, giving new players a simple system to learn whilst veteran players will still find themselves able to go fairly deep with the mechanics.
And the alchemy system, for which the series is rightly famous, also appears to have had a transformation of sorts, resulting in a much less complex system for creating new items or weapons. The player is slowly introduced to the idea of collecting items and then combining them to create goods to sell or use, with the more intricate details slowly added as the player becomes more proficient. There are plenty of options for the budding alchemist, but they never feel overwhelming.
Visually, the game is very pleasing to look at. Obviously, being last gen, Atelier Shallie will not win any awards for good looks. But the game follows in the style of the previous games, with a slightly muted colour palette and a combination of olde-world meets high fantasy theme that works really well. The cut scenes are beautiful and the gameplay is smooth and enjoyable.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the most approachable Atelier JRPG to date, with the ability to appeal to both fans of the series and newcomers alike. The game can be slow to move forward at times, but the new found freedom and other changes to the Atelier formula result in an incredibly enjoyable game. Atelier Shallie is highly recommended for any player wanting to indulge in a JRPG on PS3, and bodes well for whatever Gust bring to the current generation of consoles.