Welcome back to Neko’s Shiritori! Hard to think it’s been one year since Atelier Escha came out. We’re excited to review the 3rd entry in the Dusk series: Atelier Shallie!
Atelier Shallie is about the adventure of two girls: Shallistera and Sharlotte. Shallistera comes from royalty of a small island of starving residents while Sharlotte is a poor girl with an athletic build that hasn’t quite figured out what she really wants to do in life. Both have the gift of alchemy and learn more about what they can do in the world as they traverse. In a way one girl has the burden of responsibility for her people while the other lacks responsibility and respect and wants to be useful.
The first thing to ask is: do we need to play the rest of the Dusk series to play this? The short answer is no. Neither Atelier Ayesha nor Atelier Escha & Logy need to be played to understand the premise. Atelier Shallie works quite well as a standalone. Not only is the adventure separate, but there’s no direct influence from previous adventures. At most you would know familiar terms and names due to the characters existing in the same world.
The game has several new functions. You can do mining, fishing, and many other typical functions that were quite potent in olden days to gather resources in this scarce world. Imbuing and alchemy has carried over from the previous game, while several new functions such as Burst have seamlessly be implemented without making the game more complicated. The keyword to remember is chain considering that both in battle in alchemy you can do chain combos and multipliers for extreme production.
Despite the standalone nature, the Dusk series does feel rather complete with Shallie being the 3rd game. It happens to mix a number of positives from the previous two games, such as getting flexibility to adventure on your own means as well as having guidelines to progress the story. Due to this mix, the nuances of previous games are also eliminated, whether it is not knowing what to do or having to blow time just to continue to story.
The balance of dialogue and story compared to gameplay is noticeable. Time limits do not exist in Atelier Shallie! That means there’s no pressure on the slowly ticking clock that progresses forward as you harvest, do alchemy, or explore. Naturally as you venture through the game, you’ll notice if one aspect of the game is being done too much while another aspect is not attended to enough. This is without the game forcing you to complete things.
Not having a time limit has its share of oddities too. For example, getting defeated in battle respawns you at the same point on the map that you were defeated at. Normally in the Dusk series you lose 1 day, but in Shallie you lose trust level with your allies. This makes sense as any character getting knocked out in battle leads to a drop in morale. No time limit also allows you to battle, harvest, and do alchemy to your heart’s content. The only trap is that requests to complete also have no time limit which depletes the active need to filter out what is not worthwhile to accept since no penalty exists either.
Alchemy is still the core of the game. The way it is implemented is far more practical. Instead of figuring out a complex alchemy algorithm, bonuses are simplified to do exactly what they say they do. There’s at least enough incentives to explore and do battle to not have to spend hours on alchemy optimizing before progressing further in the game.
Having two heroines contribute to the story rather well. Unlike Escha and Logy where the story was revolving around Logy while Escha complements him extremely well, the two Shallies are more of a pair that share more similarities despite being of different backgrounds. You still end up picking one heroine route to go through with completely different perspectives and goals from the other. For battle differences, Sharlotte is more physical while Shallistera would be more optimal on alchemy and item usage. Despite all the features, there’s a lot of character related events.
The game runs quite smoothly and makes the characters and background quite lively. The flow of the game is also more streamlined, removing all instances of momentum being sluggish. This fact alone leads us to highly recommending this game considering every previous nuance we could think of is genuinely gone, whether it is item decay, time limits, or any grind infested aspects. Let’s never forget that Atelier has always had nice 3D cel shading, and Shallie looks quite refreshing!
Atelier Shallie is only on the PS3 and a projected Atelier Shallie Plus for the PS Vita is likely in the near future. The game size is a tad under 8 GB for the digital version, and the game length is about the usual: 50 hours depending on how much alchemy you do. There is neither a PS4 nor a PC version.
The game has an interesting feature where you can adjust the difficulty level of the game. Players who are greatly familiar with the Atelier system can jump right into hard mode which grants more rewards while powering up enemies. Newer players can play normal or easy mode. The scaling is rather reasonable where you can even change difficulty throughout the game. The battle system is quite fair and manages to avoid being monotonous despite its repetitive simplicity.
The replayability in Atelier Shallie is solid. Venturing the game itself is easier to navigate, leading to the need to only play through new game plus at least once so you can play both girls’ stories. With the Life Task system, aspects of the game are adequately segmented so that it is clear what type of benefits you get for performing certain tasks. You basically have the main quest with bonuses in the middle, with side bonuses surrounding the central progression. Relationships between characters are not only more down to earth, but the characters themselves are more relatable.
The music in this game is what you would expect in an Atelier game. The theme for Shallie better fits the scenario and environment given the sea theme. I would go as far as saying the music selection is stronger in Shallie than both Ayesha and Escha, but this is only natural because Shallie also gets access to the previous two games’ background music.
As far as the controls go, the first thing is the 3D camera motion view. Shallie marks the first time you can actively rotate to gain a dynamic perspective view. Menus are also simplified to use symbols to assist in marking differences in functions. We literally felt like we had full control of our character, an easy time navigating from place to place, as well as enough freedom to not be restricted by the game forcing limitations on what we can do.
Unfortunately, the game itself is not without flaws. There are minor nuances that can easily be overlooked, such as a few localisation errors such as the game display not matching the quest title. The English version of Atelier Shallie actually has a game freezing bug in a page available later in the game that happens to have Japanese text. Once this gets patched, the game should no longer have freezing issues. We also realized it was possible to completely miss one part of town due to not exploring it.
On a design standpoint, the characters appear far more happy and energetic than the dark apocalyptic world projects. Though, concerns of resources being extremely scarce are noted throughout the game. Rather than mope and wither, the characters actively do what they can. We quite like the attitudes and themes presented in this game as it is quite believable. Simplicity becomes a really big strong point.
The game’s preorder bonuses for the English version were good; Amazon offered music whereas Gamestop had costumes. NISA had limited edition copies which includes an artbook, collector’s box, OST, poster and free DLC.
Give Atelier Shallie a shot. It’s quite a fun game!