With the start of a new year comes new games, remasters and reboots. Luckily for me I get the pleasure of re-experiencing Atelier Ayesha DX, which is an updated version to its PS3 debut, that has been re-released on the Nintendo Switch.
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is the 14th instalment in the Atelier series and was originally released back in March of 2013. It is the first game of the Dusk trilogy and one of two that I have played in the past. Let’s see what will happen once I replay this title.
The story begins with our young protagonist Ayesha Altugle, a 17-year-old girl who has been working as an Apothecary in her tiny workshop. Sadly, three years prior, her little sister Nio disappeared around some ancient ruins that have long since existed in the land of Dusk. During a mournful routine check-up on her sister grave, located in the same ruins, some strange glowing flowers start blooming and out of the void Nio appears, but as an astral spectre. With the hope that her little sister is still alive and well Ayesha sets out on her journey to discover a way to bring her sister Nio back.
World Map and Travelling
Travelling is never an issue in Ayesha. As you enter the world map everything that’s available to you will be displayed as points of interest. Like most traditional Atelier games travelling from place to place will take up time. So if you see that there is an event happening in another city or you require a certain ingredient in a dungeon you will eat up days like a starved child. Speaking of events, if one so happens to be available the map will do a good job in pointing it out with an icon. Same goes with deliveries. Along your travels you may notice some of your friends standing around, this means they either have something to say or something to sell. And most of the time they are holding on to the good stuff so don’t be afraid to pull over on your… Ox? Pig? Oxenpig? And chat up a good deal.
Another thing I discovered is that each field location has a set of requirements that you may or may not choose to accomplish, but if you tend to shy away from exploring or fighting you may find that your world map will stay relatively small. Gathering materials and fighting EVERY monster in the area might just unlock a new hidden path, but be warned that if you choose to leave for a bit to restock on supplies without taking out all the enemies before returning, all the monsters from before will re-spawn.
Time management has been a factor in almost every Atelier game up to this point and Ayesha is no stranger to this. Ayesha has 3 years, in game, to find a solution to saving her little sister. I found I wasted a huge chunk of time exploring back and forth in the beginning of the game due to the lack of guidance the game chooses NOT to give you. All I know is that I have to find information on some glowing flowers… which I eventually did after almost wasting a YEAR, in game, to progress the story. Not only does the world map eat away at your days, so does synthesizing, gathering and fighting. I find I get frustrated when a game tends to keep pushing me along. With games like Atelier, where exploration and crafting are some of the best parts to the game, get cut in half due to not having enough time. Not being able to create every recipe in one go or visit every inch of the map in your first play-through is a bother.
Gathering has always been an essential part of any Atelier game, and in Ayesha its pretty basic. You can find material in towns or out on the world map. While exploring if you come across any sparkly points on the road you know you’ll be able to harvest some goodies. Each gathering point allows you to harvest up to three times and if you travel with your companions they may just lend you a hand, gaining bonus material with a chance of having a higher quality, but it is at random. Each time you’ve visited a previous area for gathering your world map will list all the ingredients you’ve collected in that area and even ones you’ve haven’t come across yet. It’s a great way to keep track of certain material if you can’t remember where you collected it or may need to explore a little deeper if your missing something to synthesize with.
Grab those materials and heat up that cauldron because we’re about to dive into the bread and butter of this game. What? Never been an Alchemist before? Don’t worry, because Ayesha will hold your hand through the whole game as you mould, bake and create new things.
Ayesha makes thing very easy by giving you an accessible workshop in every town you visit, so don’t worry about losing days travelling back and forth to your hub town if you are in desperate need of synthesizing stuff. Once you’ve shimmied over to your cauldron your window of recipes will pop up. All recipes available will be shown in the centre under multiple categories. You’ll be able to tell which recipes are ready to go when the image is clear. Note that some recipes will be unavailable to you, either your short on a certain materials, haven’t found it on the world map or your alchemist level is to low. You can easily check your Alchemy level in the bottom left corner and how many points you still need in order to level up.
Each item comes with a description, Alchemy level, Days needed to synthesize and the type of ingredient it require to make. For example, let’s say you choose to make a Baguette to help replenish your party health in battle. You’ll require material that need Grain, Seasoning and Fermented properties.
Each material will come with its own set of Effects and Traits. As well as Rank, Score, Value and Item Level. Depending on which ingredient you chose, all those elements will merge with the other ingredients you combine. The Estimate box will keep track of your ingredients and will show you the end results of your soon to be Baguette. Once you’re happy with your choice of material lets jump into synthesizing everything together. As you throw all your stuff into the pot you’ll see all the components come together. Note that if two or more of your materials have the same element such as Water Power or Well-Made listed underneath it, it will not double stack. Stir it all together and voila! You’ve Synthesized your first Baguette! Every completed item can either be transferred into your Container or Basket.
After every Synthesis you’ll gain Alchemy points, which will increase your level. The higher your level the more difficult items you may create. Along the way you’ll also be rewarded with new abilities that could help you boost your synthesizing, by giving you an extra 15+ points towards your item score or changing up a materials traits with another item. Your sense of creativity will continue to grow and grow.
Don’t forget to stop at your local item shop or market vendors to check out their wares. You might just come across a few recipe books to help you discover and create new useful items.
With the spirit of a newborn Alchemist, Ayesha must come face to face with the fact that not every moment on her journey will be without hardship. Fighting has always been a part of this franchise and tends to be one of the mechanics that changes with each new title.
While exploring the map you can bet your sweet little sisters candy that you’ll find enemies roaming around. You can either run up to them or give yourself an attack of opportunity by whacking them upside the head with your staff. Once in battle you will be lined up in a party of three. The battle will be turn-base style which will allow you to strategize more effectively on what your next move will be.
All party members have 5 command boxes to choose from at the start of each turn. Attack, Item, Skill, Flee or Move. Strangely, in this atelier, Ayehsa doesn’t get the Skill command, unlike her other teammates. I guess the game will solely rely on how well you utilizes your alchemic weaponry crafting. Same goes for her party members not being able to access any healing or support items, that’s only available to Ayesha.
At the bottom of the screen you’ll see the characters stats, along with their Health Points (HP), Magic Points (MP) and Ability Gauge (AG). While using Skills will eat away at your MP, but your AG is consumed when certain actions are prompted throughout the battle. These actions can be a follow-up attack, back attack (Which always lands a critical hit), Guard or a special character reaction, which is different depending on who’s in your party.
Characters can only be recruited into your party by inviting them in. You can locate most of your party in the main hub town in the game or in remote locations if you progress the game story to a certain point. My only complaint about my party members is that 80% of them are females and the only males in the game are only accessible near the end. Don’t get me wrong, there are some strong bad-ass female characters like Willbell and Odelia, but I like a bit of testosterone thrown into my party in most RPG games. Unfortunately… the man in this game comes off a little stale for me… sigh!
Deliveries and Earnings
Probably one of the easiest ways to earn some cash, other than fighting, is the request or delivery system in the game. Each town you visit will have people with a delivery icon above their heads, which indicate that they need something from you. Approaching these strangers will allow you to find out exactly what it is they desire. Sometimes I’ll have the item on hand or other times I’ll have to return to the workshop and craft what they need. I find delivering these items is a great way of making an income compared to the subpar way of earning it through battle, where the enemies tend to drop like 25 bucks. At least in town if I deliver some goat milk to the old man on 5th street he’ll throw 800 bucks at my feet. Man, that must be some good stuff.
If you ever find you need quick access to Material, Equipment or Notes you’ll be happy to hear that it’s only a click away. The Menu system is like any other RPG style game, but as this is an Atelier game you will always be presented with your Basket and Container.
The Basket will always show what Ayesha currently has on her person, while the Container is what you have waiting back at the workshop. Note that your basket isn’t infinite and will eventually become full, as frustrating as that can be you will have to return to town and store all you goodies into storage.
Equipment and Status are pretty straight forward. You can check and change your Weapons, Armour and Accessories, as well as equip specialty item to Ayesha that will help give her bonuses in Gathering or Travelling. The Status window will show your character stats and skills. Skills can be acquired either through synthesizing or fighting.Notes and Album are a helpful way to keep track of your game progression. Your Notes will help in showing you your current Goals, Task, Log and Flyers that you’ll pick-up along the way. Album is a fun little addition that’ll challenge you to do certain things. By completing these challenges you’ll gain extra bonuses and cute concept art from the game.
Finally you’ll have access to your Library. This will keep all records of Items, Monsters and Characters you encounter in the game. It’s also a quick fix to helping you find certain items without having to jump into the world map and search.
Visuals and Music
For a game that came out back on the PS3, Ayesha still looks incredible, but I find all of the Atelier titles are stunning. All character designs were made by Hidari, also known as Left Side. While Animals and monsters were created by Ryota Murayama, background concept art was focused by Aquamary Images.
Unfortunately, I personally found that this game was a little simple looking. The only characters to really stand out where Ayesha and Willbell (best character). Dungeons and open field areas were plain and sweet and tend to centre around a lot of brown and smoky green colours. Only the towns seem to be the only places that had other colours splashed here and there. The enemies where cute, but most of them where just the same with different colour palettes to indicate that “Hey! I’m slightly stranger than the last guy.”
I did find the soundtrack to stand out quite a bit. Every moment in the game felt on point with the score. Especially all the sillier moments in the game. In fact, I find composers Daisuke Achiwa, Kazuki Yanagawa and Yu Shimoda to always nail the corkier moments in the Atelier Series. Along with some of my favourite battle music pieces. One of my favourite pieces in the game comes from when you visit the Oesten Marsh-Swamp, with its beautiful vocal performance.
The Pros And Cons
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of positive result. Other then Ayesha and Willbell being the only good characters in the game. The rest of the cast came off as flat and boring. The combat was basic and the world map was simple. Same goes for the story-line. I would believe that finding your lost sister of 3 years would be urgent, but Ayesha walks around like its at the bottom of her shopping list. Synthesizing is always a joy to preform. I like the feeling of discovering and creating something new that could potential help me along the way. And as per most Atelier games your New Game+ experience only allows you to keep your current equipment and skip the Prologue (Well at least the Prologue portion is helpful).
The Deluxe Experience
As this is an updated version of the game since it’s PS3 release, their are some added upgrades to this experience. Everything is brought up to PS4 high definition graphics, making everything pop with colour. You are given the “Run” option to allow your character to move faster on the map. Along with chat speed and battle speed increases. And finally we are gifted with a large amount of new DLC to explore until our hearts content.