Atelier Ayesha Plus: The Alchemist of Dusk review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

To the untrained eye, Atelier Ayesha Plus: The Alchemist of Dusk may look like just another Atelier game on the Vita. After all, it features all the hallmarks of every other game in the series that’s graced the handheld: it’s still all about girls in frilly dresses running around a quasi-medieval world looking for ingredients for potions and fighting monsters along the way.

Actually, writing it all out like that, I’m struck by how true that is: Atelier Ayesha isn’t hugely different from Ateliers Totori, Rorona or Meruru. And yet…it is. For starters, the graphics — especially during the cutscenes — are markedly better. Everything here has a dreamlike quality to it, and the same couldn’t be said (at least to this extent) about any of the previous games.

Atelier Ayesha Plus 1

It’s possible, of course, that I’m just suffering from recency bias here. Or, even more likely, I’m being influenced by the slightly more melancholic tone this game has compared to others in the series. Where those previous games were all about bizarrely young girls making their ways in the world and proving their capitalist mettles (this particular graphic pretty much sums them all up), Atelier Ayesha has a much more personal, emotional tone: it’s about a young girl trying to find her sister, and she can only find her by interacting with her world and recovering lost memories.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t have a lot of same stuff those previous games featured. As I said up in the first paragraph, you’re still wandering around fields in a medieval-seeming world, searching for ingredients and fighting fearsome monsters. You’re still managing your inventory and learning all kinds of new recipes. The difference, though, is that that’s not the whole game. You’re now learning and doing all those things because they serve a greater goal: finding your sister.

Atelier Ayesha Plus 2

As if to reinforce that fact, Atelier Ayesha significantly de-emphasizes its calendar. No longer are you a slave to deadlines and meeting certain targets by specific dates; here you have all the time in the world to do whatever you want. On top of that, it rewards you for exploring and engaging with the world; you get memory points just for talking to new people, whether they’re main characters or simply bystanders.

And that’s what makes Atelier Ayesha Plus the best game in the series to date: because it puts you in its world and requires you to be a part of it. It may look like all the others that have come before it, but play it for any length of time and you’ll quickly find that it’s anything but.

Grade: A-