When I received my advanced review copy of Atelier Shallie Plus, I was more than a little enthusiastic. Sure, I’ve grown to become a big fan of the Atelier series, but there was another reason I was looking forward to spending time with this game once again. A thing I love doing during my day job is spending some time before work or during lunch just reclining my chair back in my car and playing on my Vita.
There’s just something incredibly relaxing about being able to take an RPG experience like the one Atelier delivers on the go with me wherever I happen to be. It’s essentially the perfect platform for it. But at the same time, it made me wonder how much longer I would be able to experience this on a dedicated gaming handheld.
Sure, there are still titles being announced for the handheld, and the Nintendo 3DS will be around for a while longer. However, we appear to be reaching the end of both of their lifespans. With the Nintendo Switch most likely being a full-on replacement for the latter (despite whatever Nintendo claims) and the uncertainty over whether Sony will produce a successor, I hope my personal enjoyment with the Vita can continue on as long as possible.
Atelier Shallie Plus is an enhanced port of the final entry into the Dusk trilogy that follows after Atelier Ayesha and Atelier Escha & Logy. The story is set in a vast desert land where humanity is trying its best to survive as one village after another gets wiped out due to the severe drought. For further details about the plot, I recommend checking out my review of the first release.
One of the biggest problems I had with the original Atelier Shallie was how it left so many important matters unanswered once the game was over. Not only did the resolution of certain characters go unexplained, but the game failed to address how the Dusk came to exist in the first place. Overall, the game felt incomplete.
Thankfully, Gust rectified that mistake by including additional story chapters that goes far deeper into the unusual desertification phenomenon. They also add Ayesha and Logy as playable characters (Escha and Keithgriff are also playable, but they were DLC in the PS3 release), along with new dungeons and boss encounters.
A wealth of new content is available to explore, and really adds a generous amount of value to an already wonderful game. A lot of the translation mistakes and item description errors prevalent in the original Atelier Shallie have also been fixed, much to my delight.
Unfortunately, as was the case of many of Gust’s other attempts on Sony’s handheld system, Atelier Sophie Plus runs rather poorly in terms of technical performance. As soon as Shallie steps foot in town right at the beginning of the game, the framerate takes a big hit in comparison to the PlayStation 3 version.
This is the same problem I faced with Atelier Ayesha Plus and Escha & Logy Plus. We can point to the memory limitations that developers have been putting up with on the Vita as the likely cause, especially nowadays as video games become more demanding, but it’s still very noticeable. This is an even bigger issue during boss battles.
And like the other portable entries, Gust has removed some of the environmental graphics and effects to try to make the game run better. This comes at the expense of downgraded visuals, although the character models still look very nice close-up. Also, when too many characters appear on screen, things turn sluggish. Fortunately, this isn’t a factor whatsoever inside of the atelier when you’re synthesizing, which is where you’ll be spending most of the game, so that’s a big positive.
With the release of Atelier Shallie Plus, fans and newcomers will be able to play through both the Arland (Rorona, Meruru, Totori) and Dusk (Ayesha, Escha & Logy, Shallie) trilogies on a single platform. That in itself is something to be excited about.
While Atelier Shallie Plus still can’t compete with my adoration of Atelier Escha & Logy, I still found a lot to enjoy here. The characters are as incredibly charming as ever, and the addition of new story chapters helps breathe new life into what was previously a disappointing climax.
Despite my misgivings, I still had a lovely time with this game. If you’ve stuck around with the series up until this point, I certainly recommend this version of Atelier Shallie. However, if you’re a newcomer, you will definitely want to start with Atelier Ayesha Plus.