Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland ReviewSkyler Bunderson
It's no secret that Japanese RPGs tend to tread a lot of familiar ground. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but it makes those that tell more unique stories all the more memorable, notwithstanding their flaws. Atelier Totori: Adventurer of Arland is one such memorable game.
For those unfamiliar with the term, atelier is a French word meaning workshop or studio. The game is named Atelier Totori for the alchemy workshop the protagonist, Totori, runs. Though Totori wants to be a good alchemist, her true passion is adventuring. She longs to become a great adventurer like her mother, who disappeared many years prior. In fact, the game's main quest is Totori's journey to find her missing mother.
That said, very little of the game focuses on that quest. First, Totori must get her adventurer's license and work hard enough that, when the time comes, it will be renewed. She does this by exploring the world alongside the friends she makes and fulfilling requests filed at the Adventurer's Guild. The game focuses on the back and forth of performing alchemy and hunting down monsters, with the charming writing and delightful characters as a pleasant background element framing that experience.
To perform alchemy, one needs ingredients. Most of those ingredients are out in the wild outdoors where monsters and spooks abound. Many other ingredients can only be obtained by slaying these foes. Of course, Totori isn't especially strong herself. She needs equipment, bombs, and healing items. In other words, she has to perform alchemy to adventure and adventure to perform alchemy. This aspect of the game is well-executed and never becomes frustrating. Both are fun and engaging in their own ways. The alchemy itself has an astounding amount of depth unseen in other item fusing systems.
Perhaps the only major problem with this is the combat, which lacks the same depth present in the alchemy. The battles are built on the most basic of turn-based systems, and success is reliant on level, equipment, and what items one has in their inventory. It makes perfect sense for a game where players must build the items and equipment they take with them but still feels a bit archaic.
Visually, the game has its ups and downs. The character models and the environments are lacking the polish one generally expects from current generations games. However, the character portraits are gorgeous and the character models manage to do an impressive job at bringing the art style to life. It's merely a shame that it doesn't live up to its art nearly as much as it could.
The weakest point is, without a doubt, the audio. The music is certainly pleasant and memorable, but the voice acting is a disappointment. Even experienced voice actors deliver some simply bad performances. A handful of characters are voiced almost flawlessly, but those performances are almost immediately forgotten the moment one of the terrible voices enters the scene. As is always the case with NIS games, players are at least fortuitous enough to have the Japanese voice acting available at a moment's notice.
Atelier Totori is a great game dragged down by weak presentation and combat that is just a bit too simple, but the end result is still quite good. The characters are charming, the story is memorable, and the experience is easily worth the time invested. There are few Japanese RPGs like it. If you consider yourself a fan of the genre, it's worth checking out.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
"Skyler has been reviewing games for over three years, and hasn't seen the sun once in all that time. He's an avid gamer with a special fondness for flawed masterpieces."
About the Author: Skyler Bunderson
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