Atelier Escha and Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is a PS Vita port of a 2014 PS3 game. Budding alchemists Escha and Logy have joined the town of Colseit’s government branch. Their office is tasked with missions given to them by outside sources. Beginning assignments include repairing the town’s windmill and exploring a set of ruins. There’s not much of an overarching narrative and for a game like this, it’s actually great. It’s a low-key, old school RPG where the characters are the stars. The cast is fairly likable, growing on players as the game progresses through story events. As fun as some of these conversations are, the text can get in the way sometimes, popping up a little too frequently when one might just want to get back to adventuring.
The game is structured around the duo’s mission objectives. Assignments are given an allotment of time; say 120 days to repair the aforementioned windmill. Players have to explore the surrounding dungeons, gather materials, and then report back to HQ in order to complete the mission. Completing other quests on the side improves the overall grade of the master objective thus granting better rewards in the end. Having any kind of time factor in a game may be hectic for some, but as is the case for most missions, players are given an ample amount of time. Any time left over is converted into a free period where players can wander around on their leisure before the next story quest pops up.
In order to complete these assignments, the party must venture outside. The map houses an ever-expanding variety of locations and entering a dungeon creates a subset of landing zones. Each territory is filled with monsters, treasures, and gathering spots. While it lacks a true open world, this mini outlay is great for the PS Vita. Simply jump in, fight some monsters, loot materials, back out, save, repeat. Plus the menu system is terrific, allowing for quick warps around town as well as getting around the world map. If this review had been for the console version, it may not have been looked upon as fondly, but again, for a portable, it works wonderfully.
Now let’s get to those monsters. Running into a creature and or striking them, which grants a bonus, will trigger battles. On the outset Atelier is framed like a traditional turn-based RPG system and that’s pretty much the case for the beginning of the game. Soon, however, things start to branch out as the team builds both in size and equipment. The party can consist of six members, three active characters on the front lines, while three others wait in the back and can be switched out, similar to Final Fantasy X. A meter fills up whenever monsters are hit, which is used for support from both the front and back. For example, Escha could attack with her wand and create a combo with her other party members, chaining up damage. If a player is near death, calling in a defensive cover to block the blow is always useful too. The gauge fills up pretty fast, but sometimes it’s best to use it strategically.
Escha and Logy are alchemists so their equipment differs from everyone else in that they can use items. This can range from healing salves to area striking bombs. Items will recover once player’s return to Colseit so while tasking only two members with items, in a limited slot range, can be frustrating, everyone else is balanced enough where it doesn’t get in the way. Other party members have spells, or skills that can assist where items cannot. Thankfully all six members earn experience, also evening the odds. For the most part it’s not a game one has to grind in at in general. Again, it’s a laid paid experience, emphasizing exploring and having fun with a team of lovable rogues.
Hard to imagine this review has gone on this long without discussing the series’ key gimmick: alchemy. At HQ, both Escha and Logy can create items. Escha is more of a traditional alchemist specializing in potions and the like whereas Logy is more of a blacksmith and deals with equipment. Using alchemy increases the duo’s level, opening new schematics to try out as well as improving the branch’s ratings. It’s as simple, or complex as one wants it to be also referring to every system in the game. The battles, tasks, world map, and alchemy may sound overwhelming, but it’s a breeze to learn and addictive to put down. Again, for a portable, this is one perfect package.
It looks gorgeous too with beautiful cel-shading on the characters in particular. The environments, however, suffer from a lack of color, creating an odd juxtaposition with the more vibrant models running around in it. The creatures also get repetitive quickly with pallet swaps happening faster than one would think. The music fits the world, but lacks that jazzy punch of bigger franchises like Final Fantasy, but as a plus, the voice acting is really good for a dub. Unfortunately most of the story is told through voiceless text so that point is a bit moot. These downsides may have been harsh for a console release, but the toned down environments and lack of an end of the world type narrative is welcome here, and doesn’t really affect the game’s genuine fun.
Atelier Escha and Logy Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is lighthearted romp. Atelier is a return to old school RPGs, accompanied with amazing mechanics. It’s not an epic RPG, but it’s a great one regardless. The cutesy anime look and the emphasis on alchemy may dissuade even hardcore RPG fans. Honestly this writer never played any of the previous games for that reason. How could alchemy be fun? Can a series no one talks about be good? A thousand times yes! It’s been overlooked for too long. It’s a perfect portable even if it is two years old. Escha and Logy are going to keep this writer company for a long time. Hopefully this review will persuade others as well.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: The publisher provided a review copy. This article was originally published on January 26, 2016 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.