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'[GAME] Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (PS3)'

This thread has been linked to the game 'Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk'.
Wed 23/10/13 at 17:40:
Regular
"Carpe Diem"
Posts: 154
With today's generation of open worlds and big budget photorealism, the humble Japanese RPG has become something of a niche interest. With each passing year, this once beloved traditional genre has strayed outside of the gaming limelight, and found it's home on handheld systems, away from the 'AAA' allure of consoles. Enter Atelier Ayesha. Developed by Gust and originally published by NIS America for western shores, this latest entry in the cult franchise was released by the much loved Tecmo Koei. But in a game full of alchemists and ancient mysteries, is Atelier Ayesha a hidden treasure, or just another relic of the past?

The somewhat niche appeal of the game is evident straight from the opening scenes. Protagonist Ayesha is bubbly and cute, and the game opens with light-hearted banter set to a backdrop of Anime artwork. It is quickly apparent that the game eschews it's contemporary cousins in favour of a laid back and colourful world, far more concerned with it's own uniqueness than the flashy spectacle of modern examples. This is no Final Fantasy epic, and nor is it blessed with the magical touch of Level-5's acclaimed Ni No Kuni. Instead, Atelier Ayesha does it's own thing, and beneath it's surface of turn-based battles and saccharin cast of cutesy characters, lies a game full of charm and allure, that will warm the hearts of any gamer looking for something that little bit different.

Ayesha Altugle is a struggling apothecary, living alone in a small workshop after losing her sister Nio three years ago. To keep afloat, she sells home-made medicine to passing traders and distant shops, trying to hide the loneliness which has haunted her since Nio's disappearance. One day however, whilst passing her sister's makeshift grave, she is confronted with an apparition of Nio walking through the olden ruins. Convinced that she is still alive, Ayesha sets out on a journey to save her, and uncover the secrets of the crumbling ruins. Atelier Ayesha thus begins, and the player is left to travel the world and trigger events (cutscenes) by completing tasks. The story is reasonably non-linear, and instead of the expected traditional pacing, it allows an element of give-and-take as players decide which paths to pursue. Events are often delightful and cute, but many are hiding a spirit of sadness which explore the game's main theme of loss. Even the most capricious of characters will harbour their own heartbreak and grief, and unlocking such unexpected events will quickly become an addictive pursuit.

It is this obsessive, compelling nature which underpins the game's major allure. Combat is merely a means to an end, as the lions share of your time in the game will be spent collecting ingredients, to then synthesise in Ayesha's workshop. Maps are thus turned into foraging centres, with characters asking for various items and leaving Ayesha to hunt them down. Synthesising, a mainstay of the Atelier series, is performed by mixing your gathered ingredients to create a huge list of new potions and weapons. Of course, such features are present in many games, but are often left to the realm of side-quests, and are seldom the backbone of the experience. In Atelier Ayesha however, item creation is a main attraction, an addictive process which is somehow relaxing, and always rewarding. The places you visit may not be expansive, and are strictly linear in terms of their scope, but foraging within them for herbs and mushrooms is a game experience unlike any other.

Of course, such maps are not merely filled with plant life, and encountering an enemy on the screen will result in a turn-based battle encounter. On it's surface, combat is conventional and reminiscent of the genre's past, with a list of options in a pop-up menu to choose your attack or healing item. That said, battles do not feel stale or outmoded, and are energised with a hearty pace that removes the anticipated feeling of a chore. You can take up to three characters into battle, and each can choose to assist each other with prompts akin to turn-based QTE's. Therefore, your main attacker can protect a character with less HP, or can instead choose to assist them by attacking the enemy from behind. Special attacks are a glitzy spectacle, dealing less damage than you may anticipate, but making up for it with aesthetic appeal. All in all, combat is definitely not the 'grind' that many associate with the genre. It's execution may not be advanced, but it's filled with charisma and visual style that is hard to ignore, and easy to admire.

Such vibrant visuals are another of the game's beguiling charms. In a similar style to 2008's Eternal Sonata, the world is abundant with colour and detail, with standard fare medieval imagery re-imagined in a deep, Anime inspired pallet. This style, although admittedly not to everyone's taste, creates a world where fantastical imagery takes precedence over the high polygons of other games. Painted clouds float over a yellowed world map, characters move with an elegant flutter in their delicate clothing, and environments, although sometimes barren, create the sense of an artful, well imagined world. To top it off, the musical score is fantastic, with Celtic inspired flutes and pipes honing the mood from woodland exploring to fast paced battling. Voice acting may grate on the ears of some, but the overall vibe is one in tune with the world and story that Gust have created.

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk may not be suited to everyone's taste. It does not try to be everything to everyone, yet in many ways the game is better because of it. It has an edge of the retro about it's combat, a depth to it's narrative that's easily missed, and a pace which presents a relaxing alternative to an often bombastic gaming landscape. It is a game which requires you to give it time, both to settle into it's world and to grow accustomed to it's eccentricities. But once you have done this, Atelier Ayesha will reward the player with a charming game that is far more original that the genre label would have you believe.

8/10
There have been no replies to this thread yet.
Wed 23/10/13 at 17:40:
Regular
"Carpe Diem"
Posts: 154
With today's generation of open worlds and big budget photorealism, the humble Japanese RPG has become something of a niche interest. With each passing year, this once beloved traditional genre has strayed outside of the gaming limelight, and found it's home on handheld systems, away from the 'AAA' allure of consoles. Enter Atelier Ayesha. Developed by Gust and originally published by NIS America for western shores, this latest entry in the cult franchise was released by the much loved Tecmo Koei. But in a game full of alchemists and ancient mysteries, is Atelier Ayesha a hidden treasure, or just another relic of the past?

The somewhat niche appeal of the game is evident straight from the opening scenes. Protagonist Ayesha is bubbly and cute, and the game opens with light-hearted banter set to a backdrop of Anime artwork. It is quickly apparent that the game eschews it's contemporary cousins in favour of a laid back and colourful world, far more concerned with it's own uniqueness than the flashy spectacle of modern examples. This is no Final Fantasy epic, and nor is it blessed with the magical touch of Level-5's acclaimed Ni No Kuni. Instead, Atelier Ayesha does it's own thing, and beneath it's surface of turn-based battles and saccharin cast of cutesy characters, lies a game full of charm and allure, that will warm the hearts of any gamer looking for something that little bit different.

Ayesha Altugle is a struggling apothecary, living alone in a small workshop after losing her sister Nio three years ago. To keep afloat, she sells home-made medicine to passing traders and distant shops, trying to hide the loneliness which has haunted her since Nio's disappearance. One day however, whilst passing her sister's makeshift grave, she is confronted with an apparition of Nio walking through the olden ruins. Convinced that she is still alive, Ayesha sets out on a journey to save her, and uncover the secrets of the crumbling ruins. Atelier Ayesha thus begins, and the player is left to travel the world and trigger events (cutscenes) by completing tasks. The story is reasonably non-linear, and instead of the expected traditional pacing, it allows an element of give-and-take as players decide which paths to pursue. Events are often delightful and cute, but many are hiding a spirit of sadness which explore the game's main theme of loss. Even the most capricious of characters will harbour their own heartbreak and grief, and unlocking such unexpected events will quickly become an addictive pursuit.

It is this obsessive, compelling nature which underpins the game's major allure. Combat is merely a means to an end, as the lions share of your time in the game will be spent collecting ingredients, to then synthesise in Ayesha's workshop. Maps are thus turned into foraging centres, with characters asking for various items and leaving Ayesha to hunt them down. Synthesising, a mainstay of the Atelier series, is performed by mixing your gathered ingredients to create a huge list of new potions and weapons. Of course, such features are present in many games, but are often left to the realm of side-quests, and are seldom the backbone of the experience. In Atelier Ayesha however, item creation is a main attraction, an addictive process which is somehow relaxing, and always rewarding. The places you visit may not be expansive, and are strictly linear in terms of their scope, but foraging within them for herbs and mushrooms is a game experience unlike any other.

Of course, such maps are not merely filled with plant life, and encountering an enemy on the screen will result in a turn-based battle encounter. On it's surface, combat is conventional and reminiscent of the genre's past, with a list of options in a pop-up menu to choose your attack or healing item. That said, battles do not feel stale or outmoded, and are energised with a hearty pace that removes the anticipated feeling of a chore. You can take up to three characters into battle, and each can choose to assist each other with prompts akin to turn-based QTE's. Therefore, your main attacker can protect a character with less HP, or can instead choose to assist them by attacking the enemy from behind. Special attacks are a glitzy spectacle, dealing less damage than you may anticipate, but making up for it with aesthetic appeal. All in all, combat is definitely not the 'grind' that many associate with the genre. It's execution may not be advanced, but it's filled with charisma and visual style that is hard to ignore, and easy to admire.

Such vibrant visuals are another of the game's beguiling charms. In a similar style to 2008's Eternal Sonata, the world is abundant with colour and detail, with standard fare medieval imagery re-imagined in a deep, Anime inspired pallet. This style, although admittedly not to everyone's taste, creates a world where fantastical imagery takes precedence over the high polygons of other games. Painted clouds float over a yellowed world map, characters move with an elegant flutter in their delicate clothing, and environments, although sometimes barren, create the sense of an artful, well imagined world. To top it off, the musical score is fantastic, with Celtic inspired flutes and pipes honing the mood from woodland exploring to fast paced battling. Voice acting may grate on the ears of some, but the overall vibe is one in tune with the world and story that Gust have created.

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk may not be suited to everyone's taste. It does not try to be everything to everyone, yet in many ways the game is better because of it. It has an edge of the retro about it's combat, a depth to it's narrative that's easily missed, and a pace which presents a relaxing alternative to an often bombastic gaming landscape. It is a game which requires you to give it time, both to settle into it's world and to grow accustomed to it's eccentricities. But once you have done this, Atelier Ayesha will reward the player with a charming game that is far more original that the genre label would have you believe.

8/10

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