Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea review for PS Vita

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

Seeing as Atelier Shallie Plus is the sixteenth game in the Atelier series by now you should probably know what’s waiting for you if you pick it up. Girls in frilly clothing, some turn-based battles, a fair amount of gathering items, and a whole bunch of crafting (sorry, “alchemy”). No matter what changes the games may claim to have, deep down there’s not a whole lot of variety.

Of course, the other constant in the Atelier series is a certain level of consistency and competency that many — if not most — other franchises would kill to have. I’ve probably played about half of all the Atelier games (all of them on the Vita), and I can state without hesitation that I don’t think any of them could be described as bad, or even mediocre. It should come as no surprise, then, that Atelier Shallie Plus continues in this solidly above-average tradition.

It’s also got a few tweaks here and there that make it stand out, albeit in the kind of understated way that typies all the Atelier games. Atelier Shallie Plus makes a big deal about the fact that it features two heroines, both named Shallie, and that their intertwined stories bring the narrative arc of the Dusk trilogy to a close. While I can’t tell you how true that is, since I’ve never paid much attention to the games’ plots, I can say that because the game allows you to play as either heroine, you’re given a chance to play the game in two fairly different ways — one more plodding and methodical, the other a little more fast-paced and exciting.

Consequently, even if the eventual goals are the same and you’re still ultimately doing the same basic things (just at different speeds), it feels like the game adapts to different play styles. Personally, I much preferred playing as Shallote (the first titular Shallie) over Shallistra (the second Shallie), for the simple reason things seemed to move at a quicker pace, as her goals tended to be much more action-oriented. It also didn’t hurt that, rather than the usual frilly dresses that you usually associate with the game, she was dressed relatively normally.

Admittedly, as I said up top, Atelier Shallie Plus is not all that different from any other Atelier game. There’s a brief moment at the beginning of the game, when your characters are adrift at sea, when it doesn’t seem like things will be proceeding as normal…and then you hit dry land, and it reverts to the same broad formula. If you’ve been desperate for the game to switch things up, the simple fact that you can make things move more quickly probably won’t win you over now.

But if you just want another Atelier game that delivers on the series’ usual level of quality, you’re in luck. Atelier Shallie Plus lives up to the standard set by its predecessors — for better and for worse.

Grade: B+