A cauldron full of fresh new content for armchair alchemists
Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky marks the latest effort from developer GUST and Koei Tecmo America to bring their stable of classic PlayStation 3 adventures to the Vita. More than a mere port of the original however, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus brings with it a veritable witch’s brew of new content including event scenes inspired by the Atelier Escha & Logy anime series that expand the game’s story, updated bosses and challenges to overcome, a new playable character and more. Simply put, if you’re a fan of GUST’s alchemy-centric role playing saga, there’s plenty of fresh new ingredients brewed into this portable potion, but are these added features a recipe for success?
Marking a first for the long-running Atelier series, Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky allows players to choose between two main protagonists; the young Central City transplant Logix “Logy” Ficsario, an alchemist and new government official, and Escha Malier, a lighthearted native of the game’s starring city of Corseit and fellow alchemist who works alongside Logy in the city’s R&D department. This choice greatly impacts the overall style of the adventure, as playing as Logy provides a more traditional RPG experience with a focus on exploration and combat, with Escha’s scenario more focused on the daily life scenarios made prominent in previous Atelier titles. Whichever character you choose to play as, the other will be a constant fixture over the course of the adventure as a fellow party member. The choice to play as either Escha or Logy is a welcome one, giving players an incentive to experience multiple playthroughs to see everything the journey has to offer.
Like previous entries in the series, the clock is your biggest enemy as you look to undertake a variety of quests within a given time. As members of Corseit’s R&D team, Escha & Logy will be assigned major tasks on a quarterly basis, along with numerous optional objectives to complete before the quarter ends. These tasks range from synthesizing new equipment with alchemy in the facility’s atelier, gathering new ingredients in the game’s dangerous wilderness and hunting down special enemies and boss creatures scattered throughout the landscape. Every action you take, from gathering ingredients to traveling to dungeons, shaves days off of the calendar, and you’ll have to learn how to efficiently manage your time if you wish to make solid headway on each assignment. The successful completion of these tasks will earn you a positive review at the end of the assignment period, which directly affects how much money is awarded to the team through their monthly stipend. Suffice to say, making steady progress on your burgeoning backlog of quests is a necessity if you wish to have the means to outfit your party with new gear, better alchemy recipes and other helpful tools to help you make your way through the story.
The fact there is always something you could be doing keeps the action fresh and addicting, offering plenty of challenges to help players scratch that completionist itch. Which is a good thing, because the story of Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky is a slow burn that feels like an afterthought when compared to the rest of the experience, largely dealing with the team’s efforts to bolster Corseit’s R&D division’s reputation and the exploration of mysterious ruins looming above the land.
As an Atelier game, it goes without saying that you’ll be spending plenty of time whipping up goodies through the power of alchemy. Thankfully, the crafting, always major focus of the series, is more streamlined than ever in Atelier Escha & Logy Plus. Whether you’re concocting healing potions of provisions for your party or imbuing swords and armor with enhancements, everything is easy to understand despite the depth of each system thanks to the game’s numerous tutorial sequences that allow players to get a feel for each of the game’s new mechanics as they’re introduced. Trying to get the perfect balance right to make the a high quality piece of gear or adventuring item is addicting, and it’s great fun to just experiment with random ingredients to see what you come up with. Once you’ve crafted an item they can be duplicated by the R&D department’s resident furry friends, the homunculi, saving you the trouble of having to repeatedly synthesize the same gear over and over again.
One of the most engaging aspects of Atelier Escha & Logy Plus’ gameplay is the combat system, which delivers a rich and multi-faceted thrill as you battle the various monsters and baddies who call the various ruins and wildernesses you’ll explore home. Beginning with 3 characters but quickly growing to a full party of six, players position their party on front and back row to manipulate during combat. As players attack and heal eachother, the Synchronization Guage will fill, which will allow party members on either the rear or front line to support the party with Guard Assists or counter attacks. Using Guard Assist to allow your tanks to take the blow for your lightly-armored healers is always a sound strategy. Additionally, as your synchronization bar fills you can unleash up to 9 consecutive attacks, allowing you to inflict major damages on your enemies. This mechanic creates a very fast, fluid and strategic combat system that proves to be one of the biggest draws of Atelier Escha & Logy Plus, because there are situations where it’s best to hang back and hoard your synchronization points. Additionally, players with low health can fall back to the rear, allowing another member of the team to take their place as the character who returned to the rear steadily gains health and MP, not unlike a versus fighting game. Simply put, the combat system in Atelier Escha & Logy Plus‘ marks the best in the series’ history yet.
As for the new stuff, one of the most enjoyable additions to Atelier Escha & Logy Plus‘ package is the addition of Nio Altugle, who also appeared in Atelier Ayesha and Atelier Shallie. She joins the Corseit R&D team and becomes an invaluable member of the party thanks to her skills in whipping up potent medicines. Nio comes complete with her own story arc, further expanding the game’s story with its own new event scenes. In addition to a new playable party member, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus also brings with it an array of new and challenging missions and bosses to test the mettle of even the most seasoned Alchemists.
Lastly, this updated package comes with a slew of new costumes that run the gamut from cool to cute, in addition to all of the costumes including in the PlayStation 3 release of Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. While it’s hard to say if these new features are enough to warrant playing through the game again if you already experienced the game way back in 2013, they go a long way toward making Atelier Escha & Logy Plus the definitive version of the game, and certainly provide a great reason for newcomers jump in and see what the game is all about.
In terms of presentation, Atelier Escha & Logy Plus is a bit of a mixed bag. First, the good stuff – the game’s characters and various creatures look simply great on the Vita’s bright screen. They are colorful, vibrant and especially well detailed, easily standing as the most enticing part of the game’s visual package. They look fantastic in combat as well, with well animated attacks that feature tons of flash, keeping the action visually impressive throughout. Unfortunately, this same attention to detail hasn’t been given to the game’s backgrounds, which look largely static and lifeless, making them completely at odds with the wonderful cel shaded character models. The game’s music fares better, with composer Tatsuhiko Urahata’s score providing a score that largely fits the game’s on-screen events like a glove. From the whimsical theme of Colseit itself to the pumping battle anthems, there’s a whole lot to like about Atelier Escha & Logy Plus‘ sounds. However, there are some times when the music is a bit out of balance, drowning out the game’s otherwise solid voice acting, but it proves to be a minor annoyance that only pops up from time to time.
Atelier Escha & Logy Plus may not feature the most compelling narrative or memorable cast of characters, but the game still succeeds due to its sheer wealth of content to keep players entertained. With the clock always ticking, there’s never a dull moment as you attempt to uncover every assignment and grow the R&D division to the pride of Colseit. Throw in one of the most refreshing combat systems in recent years and you have a recipe for an adventure well worth undertaking.
Final Verdict: 4 / 5
Available on: Vita (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Koei Tecmo America; Developer: Gust ; Release Date: January 19, 2015; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Atelier Escha & Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky provided by Koei Tecmo America