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Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland
Score: 83%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Gust
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland is unique. It is a follow-up to an already good game with issues. Though it makes a couple of changes, they mean little in the grander scheme. Although fans of the original will like what it has to offer, it may not be enough to appease disgruntled fans or create new ones.

I absolutely love Atelier Totori's look. Although I'm not a major fan of "anime style" visuals, I can't get over how much like a cartoon the game looks. It's impressive, at least when it comes to characters. The animation is spot on and many of Atelier Rorona's smaller issues are gone. It would be nice if the animation would carry over into story sequences, though I've grown used to the character artwork style of storytelling.

Environments are bland and not that appealing. Although they fit the game's visual style, I wish there was a little more to them than a couple of flat, pastel-colored textures.

Just to get it out of the way, both Japanese and English voice tracks are available. And, yes, I played the game with the English track, though I did dip into the Japanese track. The two present slightly different tones. English voiceovers are slightly more deadpan compared to the squeaky excitement of the Japan voiceovers. As always, this is a completely personal choice; both are excellent.

The soundtrack keeps the same upbeat melodies as Atelier Rorona. Nothing jumps out, though every song has its place within the game.


Gameplay:
Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland is a sequel of sorts to Atelier Rorona. Set five years later, you play as Totori, a young girl apprenticing until Rorona. Since then, the government has devised a scheme to license adventurers by requiring them to head into the world and collect adventurer badges.

Similar to Atelier Rorona, Atelier Totori's plot is more about self-discovery than solving world-shaking events. Most of the plot revolves around Totori finding out what happened to her mother, a government-sanctioned adventurer who went missing. While this story plays in the background, you'll spend most of your time winding through several side-quests as you get to know your party and build relationships.

The story flow is enjoyable and lends a sense of gameplay freedom that was missing from Atelier Rorona. There's one spot in the middle where you absolutely have to reach a specific milestone, though you're mostly left to your own devices. Rather than fulfilling requirements within a set slice of time, you're only required to earn a license and rank up to a certain level.

Exploration is changed for the better. Rather than following straight lines carved through each environment, you instead venture through open areas. Ingredients are scattered throughout the area in designated spots, as are enemies. Battles are initiated when a monster is able to chase you down, though you can get the jump on them by bopping them with Totori's staff.


Difficulty:
Earning points is incredibly easy, though time management is still a major play mechanic. Although you're give freedom to pursue points any way you please (nearly everything you do earns some points), that freedom will give you problems once the clock starts ticking. The timing system isn't as harsh as Atelier Rorona -- time is measured in pieces of the day rather than whole days - but everything you do will take away from your time. Gathering alchemy components, fighting monsters and traveling between areas will quickly eat away at your time and if you goof off too much, it is possible to not make one of your two major in-game goals.

Combat is revamped, adding a slight tick to the challenge. The system is still turn-based, though now all skills are pulled from a separate set of skill points rather than your health. Managing your health points - a major aspect in Atelier Rorona -- isn't as important. Instead, more emphasis is placed on crafting high-quality items and smart strategy. It isn't possible to "game" the health point system this time around and rely on big attacks, keeping the challenge level high even in later parts of the game.


Game Mechanics:
Keeping with tradition, item creating is front and center in Atelier Totori: Alchemist of Arland. The system is instantly familiar and fans should slip right into item creation with few problems. You're still collecting items with quality points and combing them to create new items based on an alchemy recipe. Some are handed to you over the course of the game, while others need to be purchased or found while out in the world earning adventure points.

There are a lot of items out there, so finding them isn't a problem as long as you have time to harvest, though getting better materials is sometimes just a matter of luck. You can easily burn a couple of day's time searching for a high quality point ingredient. Exploration is key to finding better ingredients. Although some items call for specific components, most are grouped in broad categories with individual items offering a better point rate than others. For instance, one mineral may only offer a small amount of points while another, harder to find one offers more.

Material types are important since they influence the item's effectiveness. An item crafted with low-grade materials won't do as much damage as one crafted with high-grade components. Each item also has a set of traits, which are also tied to the components. After crafting, you are given a pool of points to spend on adding traits based on the original materials. The system is a bit different from Atelier Rorona since you have more control, which is a big upgrade and helps when crafting/ upgrading battle items. It is easier to develop a weapon suited to your needs.

Atelier Totori is an improvement over Atelier Rorona, though the actual changes are small. The actual flow of gameplay is more open and doesn't feel as restricted, but at the same time, you're still confined to a set of time-based parameters. Fans will love the changes, though they aren't enough to win over new fans or pull back those who were disappointed with Atelier Rorona.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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