“Gust/Koei’s ever-present Atelier franchise gets another taste of the Switch treatment. And last generation’s trio of Arland games are here in one snug package, offering Switch gamers a fantastic entry point (it’s also seeing PS4 and PC releases, I hasten to add).”
This three-part series of reviews continues, with Atelier Totori.
Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland DX
We’re back and we’re still knocking about Arland, sure, but this time in the lively fishing town of Alanya, five years after Rorona’s rise to alchemist celeb status. Enter Totooria Helmold, affectionately known as Totori, and, well, she’s pretty similar to Rorona, truth be told.
If you’ve read the previous part of this review, you’ll know I enjoyed the happy-go-lucky demeanour of the last Arland protag. However, though arguably a little better adjusted, Totori is characteristically very similar to Rorona, to the point of even sharing their name-shortening quirk. It’s leaned on for comedy relief frequently, and generally works just fine, but I eventually found these similarities to pose problems towards the final third of the game. After spending so much time with Totori, I was hoping she would eventually carve out a little more individuality beyond the adventurer-focused gimmick.
What Totori lacks when compared to Rorona is the gravity of the teacher-student relationship. Astrid may have shown rampant disregard for what Rorona was up to day-to-day outwardly, but the game was never subtle in displaying Astrid’s affection for her understudy. The equivalent role, rather than being occupied by Totori’s own sensei in Rorona, is instead taken by Totori’s sister, Ceci. To put it bluntly, Ceci isn’t the most interesting character to return home to, with her being the ‘older sister’ character through and through to a fault. Things get better where companions are concerned with another wide selection of buddies to hire, each with their own scripted events and skill sets, and a good few returning characters. Won’t lie, Esty’s absence stings.
Last time it was a battle to keep the Atelier’s doors from permanently closing, this time, for young Totori, the stakes are higher, as her quest is to find her missing mother, a revered adventurer to whom you’ll gradually find more about as you progress. This progression involves exploration and triggering events in the main, rather than the organised tasks of Atelier Rorona. I found this freedom refreshing initially, but there were times when I was left wondering what to do next; Atelier Totori is missing the signposting found in its predecessor, such as the event notification within the fast travel menu. It’s a minor absence but it is felt.
I have another small complaint when it comes to quality of life changes. This might seem petty but Totori’s run speed, even after triggering the enhanced movement speed option, still feels significantly slower than Rorona’s. Naturally, I got over this (eventually) but having played to two games almost back-to-back it was jarring. Another irritation comes in the form of the rest option; the menu does not display your current health and MP, meaning you’ll be guessing how much you’ll need without flicking back through the menu, something you didn’t need to think about in the last entry. .
The UI is very similar in animation and functionality and it’s nice and easy to slot back into your methodical gathering/battling cycle but, as mentioned, there are just a couple of minor changes in the wrong direction.
Timing is Everything
You’ll embark on a half-adventure, half-alchemic journey through a larger-then-before-sized Arland. There is a marked difference between the areas in Totori DX compared to Rorona DX, with the size of the individual field areas in which you battle and gather ingredients scaled back substantially in favour of having more variety in each smaller sandbox. The world map allows you to plot your route through an array of mini-locations, rather than having a ‘hub’ with sub-sections as before. Though not a major departure, I tend to prefer the dungeon-feel of Rorona DX’s locations.
The next major difference is in how time lapses. Where previously travel time and alchemy were the big killers, gathering now plays a far bigger role in puncturing your punctuality. Each time Totori crouches down to gather ingredients, a phantom time portal warps reality around you and a red bar fills, dragging you frantically towards the next month before unceremoniously dumping you back with all your outstanding deadlines missed.
Alright, I’m being a tad dramatic but it honestly took me until my second run to get the balance right, with my first playthrough bagging me some high-end gear and an adventurer’s record that would give Lara Croft a run for her money, but ultimately the shame of a bad ending.
You’re Not Making Any Sensei
Rorona might not be quite at Astrid’s level just yet but she does manage to introduce you to a means of creating a chibi homunculus army to do your synthesising and gathering bidding. Though a little more high-maintenance then Rorona’s Hom setup, there’s scope to have a nice production line on the side if you can make enough pies to fuel it. The charm still oozes out of the series in curious ways like this and it’s all great fun.
Totori’s alchemy will feel immediately familiar as all the mechanics are pretty much identical. There are some nice extra recipes and the expected character-specific equipment builds but nothing has fundamentally changed. The trait-and-quality crunching is completely intact; it wasn’t broken, so didn’t need fixing.
Graphically, though only a minor upgrade, the game is more stable than Rorona DX in handheld mode and colours are a tad brighter, with locations receive a touch more detail. It’s not huge, but it is appreciable. Naturally the fantastic artwork is as beautiful as last time. Returning to Arland city for the first time feels like revisiting your hometown and, frankly once I’d heard that catchy-as-hell shop theme return, I wanted to move back. Then good old Cordelia actually let me! Two homes, two alchemy pots. Bliss.
Overall, as much as I loved the new characters, the more interesting endings, and the graphical and performance upgrade, I couldn’t help but accept that I marginally preferred Atelier Rorona. The freedom of the structure is great but sometimes, your ingredients need weighing before you throw them in the mix.
Overall Score: 8/10
Format: PS4, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Price: £79.99 (three game bundle) / £34.99 each (UK eShop)
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Europe
Developer Gust Co. / Koei Tecmo Games
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 04/12/2018 (UK eShop)
Review copy provided by publisher