Atelier Rorona Keeps the Series Going

Not really an RPG for "hardcore" RPG gamers, but still a fun play.
Author: Andy Curtiss
Published: September 30, 2010
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Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is cute. There are no two ways about that. From the voice actors to the animation you'd be hard pressed to find something about the game that is not so cute (okay - maybe puniballs... but we'll talk about those later). The big question is if YOU like CUTE. If you find anime or manga patronizing or boring, then Atelier Rorona may not be for you. If you can get past the cute factor though, what you have is actually a mostly fun game revolving around item gathering and synthesizing.

The infrastructure of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland is actually mostly solid. The key word there is mostly. The item synthesizing process is actually very easy to use and understand. And because of the myriad of "traits" that you can pass along from item to item, there are hundreds of thousands of combinations of stuff you can create. This is the core of AR because it is what you will spend most of your time doing. Let me clarify this as well: I normally don't like item creation. In any game. The last time I spent *ANY* time in item creation for ANY game was Star Ocean 2. I usually find the concept unrewarding and mostly boring (and usually unnecessary too). Star Ocean 2 made it colorful, dynamic and even turned it into a competition. Atelier Rorona does this in a somewhat different way.

Remember how I said "mostly" in the paragraph above? While the item synthesizing process is fun and pretty deep; that seems to be the only part of the game that is "deep." Battle is very simple - borderline boring. It's funny because I see many RPG's as centering on battle and making it fun first and foremost. In AR, battle is really a little side occurrence that merely gives you another way to collect items (dead meat and fur from wolves, audra feathers from audra birds, etc...). Yes, the characters all do have flashy, special abilities... but aside from that there are no redeeming qualities of the battle system.

Atelier Rorona's story is very happy-go-lucky and VERY simple. Some of the character interaction reminds me of the old Sailor Moon mangas - just without the epic battles. Without giving TOO much away, the basic idea is that you are Rorolina Frixell, better known as Rorona to her friends. Your past times include baking, making up nicknames for EVERYONE you meet and generally missing every innuendo or joke made in your general vicinity. Rorona has recently inherited an alchemy workshop that has a rich history in the city of Arland. Well... no some inherited as thrust upon her by a lazy master - Rorona is still an apprentice!

Shortly after having the workshop (which is what atelier means - workshop) thrust upon her, Rorona finds out that the king wants to shut her down. Why? Rorona's master (the nap-prone Astrid) didn't really do very much. And the king believes (or more aptly put - the kings advisor believes...) that the space the workshop employs could be used to more effective means. But all is not lost young Rorona! The king is wise and kind and believes in second chances! He decides to put the workshop on probation. As the new owner, Rorona has 3 years to complete a series of timed assignments. For example, one assignment gives Rorona 80 days to cook as many food recipes as she can. She is then judged on the quality and quantity of the dishes prepared.

Between your assignments you find yourself interacting (through random cut scenes) with the people of town - from your master Astrid, to your best friend Cordelia, to the knight Sterkenberg. This is where the impressions of Sailor Moon come in. Rorona, while sweet, is actually quite naive. Her intentions are good, but she doesn't seem to understand how the world works. You really get the impression that she's been living in a cave or under a rock her whole life. Her best friend Cordelia makes up for Rorona's lack of chutzpah. Cory, as she's known, has very strong opinions and has no problem making them known. Oh - and she's quite rich. Then you have the gallant knight, Sterkenberg - known as Sterk. He doesn't seem to know how to express himself around Rorona and Cory. He means to nice and seems to care... but just can't seem to make those feelings work. See what I mean about Sailor Moon? Atelier Rorona even has two talking, mystical cats!

And yes - that's the whole story. There are no ancient demons threatening the kingdom. Rorona is not the reincarnation of a hero-of-yore. There is nothing epic happening at all. You're simply living 3 years of Rorona's life and in the process trying to deal with her lazy master, the king's advisor's irrational demands, and what may or may not be the advances of a certain king's knight that doesn't know how to quite handle himself around women.
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