Publisher: Tecmo Koei
If you’re the kind of person who’s really into moe/anime, I have bad news for you: this review probably won’t help you decide whether or not to download Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland Plus. (Of course, if you’re really into these things, you’ve probably already downloaded Atelier Totori.)
You see, I’m coming into the game without any previous experience with the Atelier series — or even with anime in general, to be honest. Truth be told, my interest in the game stemmed almost entirely from the way it was stealth released onto the PlayStation Store with literally no advance warning. I figured that any game that received so little pre-release publicity was either going to be abysmally terrible (and its stealth release was a sign of Tecmo Koei trying to fulfill some kind of contractual obligations) or surprisingly awesome (and its stealth release was a sign of…something unfathomable).
While you’d think “abysmally terrible” was the only possible option in this case (because, after all, why would someone release a good game and not tell anyone?), it turns out the truth is much, much closer to “surprisingly awesome”.
Of course, a big part of the reason it’s such a surprise is because Atelier Totori Plus is so proudly insular. Initially, everything about the game seems to be pitched solely at its pre-existing audience. It looks and sounds like your stereotypical creepy Japanese game: several of the characters are extremely young-looking girls in very short skirts, there’s some weird talk about massages, and the bonus for early adopters is a set of angel and devil bikini costumes (download the game before April 16th to get yours!).
On top of that, the gameplay doesn’t really go out of its way to explain itself. Yes, it tells you the basics — you form a party to fight monsters, you gather ingredients, you mix the results together to craft all sorts of things — but if you’re not used to this style of game, you’ll mostly be left to figure things out on your own. For someone like me, who likes obviously linear gameplay and no small amount of handholding, playing through Atelier Totori Plus proved to be a bit of a challenge.
At some point, though, the craziest thing happened: I found myself addicted. While I can’t say that I ever totally figured out what I was doing, I was able to figure out enough to get by — and at that point, I was hooked. Hours literally disappeared as I tried to gather just the right combinations of ingredients. And while the creepiness of playing as a young, somewhat scantily-dressed girl never totally went away, it wasn’t something I even noticed within a few hours because I was so focused on grinding through levels and quests.
I can guess the reasons most Vita owners won’t even give this game a second thought: it looks like it’s aiming for a very specific niche audience, and it got absolutely zero pre-release publicity. Don’t let either those things be a reason not to download it. Atelier Totori Plus is one of the deepest, most enjoyable games I’ve played on the Vita, and that’s all there is to it.