Atelier Ayesha: Alchemist of Dusk

Atelier Ayesha: Alchemist of Dusk comes as highly-recommended as I can possibly make it, an absolute must-have in the PS3’s library.

By Din5193, Posted 20 Apr 2013

Short Review

Atelier Ayesha boasts a robust and innovative alchemy system, which, along with an unmatched soundtrack and gorgeous environments, makes this game a must-have for any PS3 owner.

Long Review
For those who are unfamiliar with the series, Atelier Ayesha is the 14th game in the Atelier series, famous for its item synthesis mechanics and heavy story elements. And let me just start by saying, Atelier Ayesha does not disappoint in either of these ways.

Atelier Ayesha’s combat system is standard JRPG fare with some minor tweaks. Allies and enemies take turns choosing their actions as shown on a slider on the right side of the screen, based on their speed stat. Each action they take will move them back down the slider, with the waiting time based on the action taken.

Each character has the basic HP gauge (same as any RPG) and MP gauge (which allows them to use their skills). Underneath those lies an assist gauge, which fills up with every hit that character deals or takes. When a full gauge is filled, a second one starts building, and you can use full gauges to perform special actions to assist allies that are next to you, such as taking hits for them, circling around and pummeling the enemy they are targeting, or shooing all your allies away from an incoming area attack. Some special moves may require more than one full gauge to use, such as Wilbell’s Meditation command, which will restore a good chunk of her MP. There is also a fourth gauge that fills up whenever that character takes an action, which, when filled to 100%, can be used to unleash a single, high-powered skill.

Here you can see the turn order on the right side, and the purple assist gauge at the bottom, as well as the current assist actions that Wilbell can take during Ayesha’s turn.

Though as an Atelier game, Atelier Ayesha’s focus is not on battling, but rather on gathering ingredients and synthesizing items out of them. Each area has a number of gathering points, from which you can gather a number of items (usually three). In addition, the two party members you took with you will also gather items, with each character having certain types of items and certain environments that they work best in.

Once you gather your ingredients, you can return to any of Ayesha’s workshops throughout the world to synthesize them into new items. Each ingredient has traits and properties that will pass down to the item you make them into, as well as a quality meter (a base reading of how good your materials are) and values for each element (earth, wind, water, and fire), which will be passed down to the final item as well. Items often require specific combinations of ingredients, or broad types of ingredients (for example, one might require a specific item known as Distilled Water, while another can simply require any kind of liquid), and you can only know which ingredients to use by purchasing or finding books that contain recipes for alchemy. Of course, not all your materials can be found in the wild; you’ll have to create some advanced materials from base ones, or buy them from stores.

A standard visual of the synthesis screen.

When it comes time to finally synthesize your chosen ingredients, the first thing you will notice is the five main bars in the synthesis menu. These correspond to five different aspects that will change the final product; quality, fire rating, water rating, wind rating, and earth rating. The quality bar is an average of the quality of all your ingredients, while the element ratings are the combined element ratings of all ingredients. Traits from the ingredients will also be passed along and stored in the window to the right, known as the “stock yard”. These traits can influence many things in the synthesis, such as increasing the amount each ingredient will raise a certain element’s rating, or further increasing the item’s quality.

Often, you may see small notches on an element’s rating gauge. If you fill that element past that notch, it will generate a new effect for that item, generally stronger than the old effect. For instance, a bomb item with a fire rating of 20 will deal a small amount of fire damage, where a bomb with a fire ranking of 80 will deal a large amount of fire damage. Other items may have absolutely no use for certain elements, or even come with standard drawbacks that can be removed by filling up a certain element’s gauge.

As you synthesize, you gain EXP to raise your Alchemy Level (a level that works separately from your normal combat level). With each Alchemy Level, you may attempt more difficult recipes, increase the amount of traits/ratings that you can pass down to the final product, and even gives you some neat abilities you can use mid-synthesis, the most basic of which allows you to choose which order to put your ingredients in, allowing you to fine-tune the final product.

All in all, calling the alchemy system “massive and complex” would be a gross understatement. You’ll often find yourself spending extended periods of time just synthesizing loads of items.

Another common feature of the Atelier series is an in-game clock; the game measures how many days you have taken, with almost all actions, from battling to synthesizing to traveling, taking time off the clock. Events will happen only after certain times, and you have a total time limit of three years to complete the main story. Pacing yourself is key, since it is quite easy to lose track of time when you find an excellent gathering point or gain access to a bunch of new recipes.

Atelier Ayesha focuses on the adventure of the titular character Ayesha Altugle, an apothecary living on her own in a workshop roughly somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The main point of the game is her search for her sister, Nio, who disappeared one day while gathering some herbs for Ayesha’s medicine.

One day, while visiting the “gravesite” Ayesha had set up for her sister, she notices a number of strange glowing flowers and sees a ghostly apparition resembling Nio. After speaking with a mysterious alchemist named Keith, Ayesha concludes that Nio must still be alive somewhere, and vows to save her. Keith refuses to assist Ayesha, though does tell her that she must learn the art of alchemy if she wishes to save her sister.

Ayesha journeys across the world, searching for the connection between the strange apparitions and the glowing flowers, determined to find a way to bring her sister back. She is assisted by her friend and sister figure named Regina, a spunky witch-in-training named Wilbell, a humorless bodyguard named Linca, a strong nomad named Juris, and later, the unfriendly alchemist Keith himself. With their help, Ayesha begins to unravel the mysteries of both alchemy and her sister’s disappearance.

The story is interesting, to say the least. Perhaps my favorite part is that most of the story is never told straight-up. The player is kept in the dark just as much as Ayesha herself, with clues popping up as the game progresses, along with whatever cryptic hints Keith feels like giving. A number of plot points and a large portion of the backstory aren’t explicitly stated at all, but enough information is given in-game to allow the player to infer much on their own.

Characters are also well-written, though perhaps not as much so as characters from previous Atelier games (specifically the Arland trilogy of Atelier games that came just before Ayesha). However, they are still charming and varied enough to be entertaining.

Excellent character design as well, as is to be expected of the series.

Atelier Ayesha thrives on its presentation, with a lovely cel-shaded art style. Environments are beautifully varied and gorgeous, ranging from endless fields of grass, to cold dark caves, to a large abandoned library on a cliffside, to mysterious floating islands in the sky. One area that struck me as particularly stunning was pitch-black, with glowing flowers shooting out of the ground, and small patches of grass as the only indication of where you can walk.

Atelier Ayesha’s music is also top-notch, featuring a massive and amazingly-composed soundtrack that is among the best you will ever hear in the entirety of gaming. The soundtrack covers every spectrum, from happy everyday songs, to epic battle pieces, to melancholic and nostalgic music.

Unfortunately, dual-track audio is not an option in the US release of Atelier Ayesha. This means that you are stuck with the English voice acting, which is often lacking in localized JRPGs. However, Atelier Ayesha’s voice acting stands firmly above others in the genre, with a highly-regarded voice cast (such as Wendee Lee as the voice of Regina, and Johnny Yong Bosch as the voice of Ranun). The only voice that came off as particularly jarring was Ayesha’s herself, as performed by a fairly unknown voice actress. Her voice is easy to get used to, however, so the English voice track, while not as outstanding as the Japanese, is still great.

For its lower-than-average price tag (launching at $50, and likely available for less by now), Atelier Ayesha boasts a massive amount of content. The main game can be sped through rather quickly, though there are countless side-events and character-specific events that will easily put the total game time over 100 hours, not counting the large number of different endings that can be achieved based on how you progressed through the game.

Atelier Ayesha: Alchemist of Dusk comes as highly-recommended as I can possibly make it, an absolute must-have in the PS3’s library.

(No, really.)

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  • aarrggg! This and Ni No Kuni makes me want a ps3!
    Posted Apr 24, 2013


General Information

Platform(s): PS3
Publisher(s): Tecmo Koei
Developer(s): Gust
Genres: Role-Playing
Themes: Adventure
Release Date: 2012-06-28

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