"Rorona Plus is a simple and charming RPG that welcomes you with a pleasant world and heart-warming characters"
- Heart-warming cast of characters
- Immersive alchemy
- Fun exploration and combat
- A huge array of soundtracks to choose from
- Deadline system is a little bit restrictive, but meeting objectives is unusually easy
- A lot of characters get cast aside for the major ones
Atelier Rorona is a bit different than the usual JRPG games. It doesn’t make you travel the world in an epic quest and confront powerful foes to save the world or your loved ones, but instead focuses on one girl’s trials to keep her beloved alchemy shop open in the kingdom. The Plus version improves the original’s overall quality and for newcomers, this is a relaxing and charming RPG that is slightly hampered by an impending deadline system and some slogs here and there.
The story takes place in the Arland Kingdom, where the local lone alchemy shop has been targeted to shut down. But as a last chance, the kingdom would allow the inexperienced young Rorona a total of 12 assignments to finish in three years in order to keep the shop open. And along with a heart-warming cast of characters that you’ll meet along the way, Rorona has to meet deadlines to prevent it from closing. Each assignment comes in order so for about 90 days you have to meet the criteria and the deadline or rather its game over, and while the deadline system seems forceful and restrictive, it allows the player to plan ahead and act accordingly, and how you’d want to pace the game. The characters are as charming and attractive as the clumsy Rorona, and while only a few characters like the tough knight Sterk, childhood tsundere friend Cordelia and Rorona’s perverted alchemy genius teacher Astrid; other characters are eventually set aside and focus on the minimal story elements that is starting and ending an assignment, plus some bonus scenes along the way.
The main aim of Atelier Rorona is to go gather ingredients in a field, return home and synthesis the items to create the items that are required to meet the objective of the assignment. But there isn’t much to be done to meet the requirement, since it is incredibly easy to meet almost every quota. So the fun in Rorona comes from exploring the game’s multiple dungeons to collect material, fight some monsters along the way with up to two hired characters and then return to create new items. This process rarely gets old, and combat is surprisingly fun and addictive, despite it being mostly simple and easy and lacks a bit in strategy. When running in an area, enemies will approach you and Rorona has to swing her magical staff to get the upper hand before the enemy hits, but this system doesn’t really work since you can just run into an enemy like you do in the Tales series, and still get to start first.
But then there is the deadline system, aside from needing to meet the objective at the end of the third month. Travelling to a dungeon consumes days and even exploring different dungeon floors, which is the game’s way to make you advance. But spending too many days away from town may lead you to lose some of the game’s events. Synthesising items will consume days and mana, depending on the item. And there are so many items to create, including food, weapons and lots of cool looking items. You can find the ingredients on the field or even buy them from the numerous shops in town, but while you can buy and sell, you can’t actually sell them in your own shop like in Recettear on PC had done extremely well. But you can use the created items for the objectives and some even in battle like bombs or healing items, whereas others can be used as an item for creating another item.
There are plenty of sidequests to do that can earn you money. Talking to Esty in the Palace, she will give you small quests like gathering a number of an item, or defeat a number of enemies, in a limited number of days. Aside from the main quest, Sterk gives you optional objectives that will reward you if you meet the requirements. So there is a bit to work through, and while earning three stars is enough to finish the assignment, perfectionists will be compelled to earn all the assignment’s star, item number and quality, along with these optional quests that will sometimes have you thread to unknown lands and beat rough boss battles. There are a few boss battles which are tougher than regular battles, while you can only guess their power by actually fighting them, and if all the party is wiped out, you are sent home, losing the amount of days to go to that dungeon, and a few others depending on your distance travelled from home, but retaining your items.
Combat is simple and consists of having Rorona as the leader along with the characters you choose to go with. The game indirectly forces you to keep the same two characters with you since you will have to level up all characters if you want them to fight alongside you, and with imminent deadlines and tough dungeons, it will be difficult to keep everyone up to speed, especially since some characters have very few HP and MP and can be knocked out quite effortlessly by dangerous foes. Only Rorona can use items that vary from bombs to healing items, whereas allies can use magic (Rorona can too though), guard or use their weapon. Turns are displayed on the right side of the screen which can allow you to prevent enemy turns. While characters level up, you will only rarely find new weapons in a dungeon, forcing you to spend money and material at the blacksmith to upgrade them, along with accessories and gear.
Atelier Rorona is a really pretty game, even if it is mostly quite simplistic looking. There are some diverse dungeon, varying from woods, ruins and the like. Characters shown with the game’s engine look decent enough, but the dialogue skits look really good in comparison, showing colourful characters and reactions. And this is technically an anime inspired game, packed with cute and sexy young girls and some perverted humour which could turn off non-anime fans. The Japanese voice acting really brings the anime characters to life, while the English voice acting does its usual job, which deteriorates the story. Also, Rorona Plus includes every single soundtrack in Gust’s franchises, and you can switch virtually any soundtrack, which is a welcome bonus. And it’s cute all round presentation wise, and it only real stutters heavily against a single boss when it performs a super move, and the frame rate crashes completely. Otherwise the game is pretty stable.
There is an Overtime additional story at the end of the main story, which gives more freedom and cranks up the difficulty spikes, while introducing some cameo characters. For most part, Atelier Rorona Plus is really fun, packing simple but effective combat, worthwhile exploration in order to increase your skills in alchemy to create new items. The lack of an antagonist and occasional restrictions with deadlines can mar Atelier Rorona a little compared to other JRPGs on the PS3, but it retains a spot as a simple, relaxing and charmingly cute JRPG.
Graphics = 8.2
Sound = 8.0
Presentation = 7.6
Gameplay = 8.0
Story = 7.4
Recommendation Level = Medium
Rorona Plus is a lovable JRPG with a special kind of charm. It’s not the epic kind like how most JRPGs aim to be, but it is a nice deviation from the usual generic concept.
Level of Difficulty = Variable
It’s quite straightforward and easy to pass assignments. Combat keeps getting tougher and tougher, but rarely overwhelming. In the Overtime story though, the difficulty spike is too excessive.
Hours Played = 22 Hours
It greatly varies depending on your choices, whether to craft items or go fighting. So how fast three months pass will be up to you.
Rorona Plus is a simple and charming RPG that welcomes you with a pleasant world and heart-warming characters