Review: Atelier Shallie Plus relies on a solid formula

Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is one of the best entries in Gust’s Atelier series. It introduced so many quality of life improvements and anti-frustration features. When the ultimate edition comes to the Vita, of course it’s going to be a welcome addition to the handheld’s library. Aside from a few technical hiccups, Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea does more to provide additional resolution and closure in this final installment in the Dusk trilogy.

Atelier Shallie Plus is a tale of two Shallies. After a brief introduction, in which the motivations for each heroine is introduced, players have an important choice to make. They can follow Shallistera, a young woman who’s head of the Ship Clan, practically a princess, and has come to the city of Stellard to seek assistance for her town. A drought has hit the area, causing water to dry up as the Dusk Sea expands, and her storyline sees her running tasks for various agencies in Stellard, attempting to build her reputation and learn more about the cause of the water shortage. Hers is a more mature storyline with a grander scale. Meanwhile, Shallotte is a young alchemist following in her deceased father’s footsteps. She’s doing odd jobs around town as she works to find fame and fortune. Hers is more of a slice-of-life tale.

Neither story is framed as better or worse than the other; they’re equally important.

The key is that the two storylines balance each other out. Both Shallies’ paths eventually cross. The one you don’t choose will join your party. Neither story is framed as better or worse than the other; they’re equally important. In one case, we’re focusing on a bigger picture, while the other is more personal. Each one helps better establish Atelier Shallie Plus’ world. And, if you want to understand it all and see a true ending, both storylines must be completed.

Offering more of that storyline is what sets Atelier Shallie Plus apart from Atelier Shallie. There are so many new events in here. Part of these new tales are expanded and added events involving the original heroines and heroes, but others involve Atelier Ayesha’s Ayesha and Atelier Escha & Logy’s Logy. These help us learn more about the world and what’s happened with characters like Ayesha, Escha over the last few years. More loose ends are tied up, offering a stronger resolution to every affair.

I like to think the additional bosses and dungeon also work to help make Atelier Shallie Plus act as a better bookend for the trilogy. The Beast King’s Champion and other overwhelming opponents appear in this entry, as does the previous version’s Abyss area. By giving us these additional areas for fighting and gathering, we have a greater sense of purpose. It’s a feather in these alchemists’ caps when they can complete such enormous tasks.

While having Atelier Shallie Plus on the Vita is quite a feather in the handheld’s cap, it does come at a bit of a price. I’ve noticed a bit of a lag in the game, as the system struggles to keep up with what’s happening on the screen. This is most evident at moments when many things are occurring at once. When Shallie is making something with alchemy and the animation plays, when she’s roaming a town or field area where many enemies or people are present or perhaps during a battle with a large number of foes or flashy effects appear. Yet, it also inexplicably appears during less cluttered moments too. It most often popped up when I was sending Shallie to a different location on the world map. The cursor would slowly move to the destination at times, even when there weren’t all that many places to be or icons alerting me to places that would help me complete sidequest objectives.

You’re practically encouraged to take your time and savor every possible adventure and encounter in this installment, with patience typically rewarded with additional materials and moments with virtual friends.

This technical hiccup isn’t too devastating a downside. After all, Atelier Shallie Plus is a slower-paced game. Time limits are abolished; you have as much time to complete objectives, gather ingredients, explore spaces and meander through additional events as you’d like. Tasks are well organized in a list brought up with a click of the left trigger. A tap of the right trigger brings up a quick warp map of locations, to eliminate needless traveling. The turn-based battles are well organized and efficient, with a burst system to rely upon when facing field event enemy mobs or stronger than usual random opponents. You’re practically encouraged to take your time and savor every possible adventure and encounter in this installment, with patience typically rewarded with additional materials and moments with virtual friends.

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea knows its audience. The game lets you choose the storyline you’d like, offering one large scale plot and one focused on daily life. It makes gathering and questing more efficient, thanks to the removal of time limits, map indicators that show you where you need to go to complete sidequests, an easy reference guide attached to one button and a fast travel menu attached to the other. You’re given more story segments to enjoy, many starring additional characters from this Dusk trilogy. The Vita port may struggle at times to keep up with all the content that’s there, but it never detracts from the overall experience.

Score: 8/10
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Developer: Gust
Platform(s): Vita
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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