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The Atelier series continues to upgrade and evolve to a different game with every installment. Nippon Ichi Software had a hold of the series for a while, but now Gust Co. is a subsidiary of Tecmo Koei the torch has been passed, and a brilliant time to pass it as well because the Arland series of Atelier was concluded with Atelier Meruru last year. A new alchemist, a new world, and a bunch of new items, there is a lot to discover in the new game. Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk feels new but the original feeling of an Atelier title is still there.
An apothecary named Ayesha kept to herself in the countryside with her sister Nio. One day, Nio went out looking for medical herbs for her sister and got side tracked by some glowing flowers. One day, Nio didn’t come back. Two years pass and Ayesha returns to the ruin where her sister was last seen. This time, she sees a ghost of her sister. Unsure of what to do, a man by the name of Kiethgriff points Ayesha into the right direction and she sets off on a journey to get her sister back.
The previous Atelier games had stories, but this one feels more personal. It is focused more on Ayesha and her quest to get her sister back. Unlike Rorona (Save workshop or she will have to not be an alchemist), Totori (She wants to become an adventurer), Meruru (Needs to save her kingdom with alchemy). They all end with their goal getting reached. It just feels kind of soulless in the end. They aren’t saving lives that will have some kind of bad outcome. With Ayesha, if she doesn’t save her sister within three years, Ayesha will never see her again. I find the story of this game to be a vast improvement.
The core gameplay feel a lot like Meruru’s system. Organized alchemy with a slight focus on combat, the combat is more driven in Ayesha due to the presence of boss side quests and side missions of killing all the monsters in a given area. A few new additions have come aboard in the new game like Memory Points and a new way to fulfill requests from NPCs.
Before you had to talk to a NPC about what item you had to make, accept the quest, make the item, then return to the person in time to complete the request. Now the people are planted firmly in place willing to give you a request for an item. The deadlines are very forgiving and you can make a note on what you need and turn in all the requests at once. The time restraints felt too stressful in previous titles and the NPC requests now are more lenient and are easier to do. The broken mechanic in this though is that it is really easy to amass large amounts of gold.
Memory points are a new addition that allows Ayesha to gain certain bonuses when she records them in her journal back at the place where she does alchemy. She will learn new recipes, gain better stats and abilities etc from using a certain amount of points. At first these are hard to get and you will have some trouble completing them. As the game goes on you will have so many memory points and nothing to do with them. I like the idea, but there are not enough events to use all of your memory points on to see a significant difference. Weapon forging has been taken out and it is a damn shame. You now find items from monsters and use certain synthesis materials to reveal their stats.
Atelier Ayesha has a better story, concise gameplay with some welcome but not very well developed mechanics that could be better. The game is still very solid and fun. If you are not a big fan of moe JRPGs stay away from this title and series. However, it you do like good JRPGs this is a unique game that you will not find anywhere else. I give Atelier Ayesha The Alchemist of Dusk an 8/10. It is available exclusively on the PS3 system.