Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout Review – Returning to Alchemy

atelier_ryza_review_07

The latest entry in the longstanding Atelier series puts a new spin on old mechanics while introducing a brand-new alchemist to the Atelier family with Ryza. However, we’re curious, can she and her friends make the cut?

Continue reading

Review: Blue Reflection – Staring off into the Deep Blue Sea


BlueReflection_Screenshot11


Pros:
+Absolutely beautiful character animations and character growth
+Absolutely stunning visuals and use of sound designs
+A solid combat system that grows as the game gets underway
+The school is an absolutely joy to explore
+Lacks Gusts previous time restrictions from the Atelier series

Cons:
-Offers absolutely little challenge in combat
-Enemies variate very little outside of bosses and offer almost no change
-NPC dialogue changes very little and remains almost the same throughout the game


Have you ever wondered what the daily life of a Japanese school student was like? What if it involved taking on a spot as a video game successor to the smash-hit anime series Sailor Moon? That’s where Gust’s latest title comes into pay. Players take on the role of first-year student Hinako Shirai as she begins to attend Hoshinomiya High School.

Continue reading

Review: Atelier Firis and the Mysterious Journey – A Journey to Find What We Want

Pros:
-A lovely and enjoyable Story
-Great Continuation of the Original Alchemy System
-Time Management Returns from previous titles
-New Game+ Returns offering post-game extensiveness.
-Smooth Battle and Party System
-Unique ways to Finish Main Game
-Outfits and Atelier Decor


AtelierFiris_Screenshot09

To begin Atelier Firis and the Great Journey is a great game. It’s one that definitely gives of the vibes of the last gen games from the same series and ones close to it. Atelier Firis goes back to the smooth-opening moments and compliments such with a good start to what turns into a magnificent story.

With Atelier Firis you start out as a shut in girl who just wants to experience the world. This isn’t just metaphorically, she and her entire village are located inside a mountain and aren’t allowed to leave. One major difference between this game and other Atelier games is alchemy was unknown to the village. After a traveling alchemist visits, the game sets in motion the events for her to take this journey to become an Alchemist herself. This lets you experience two things that make this a great quite early into its gameplay time.

First is the alchemy system which come as no surprise. It’s a trademark system for Firis and is mostly a continuation of the one introduced in Atelier Sophie. The controls and navigation for it seem to be much smoother. Something very useful is that beside each recipe is a symbol that indicates if you are able to craft the item. If you are not there are different symbols as to say why. If its only cause you missing a component that you can craft its a triangle. This is where the second part of usefulness comes into play. Going into the recipe you want that is missing the component you need it will quick link you to the recipe to make the piece your missing.

AtelierFiris_Screenshot08

Now unlike Sophie and even the last two Atelier games on PS3. Firis, fortunately, has brought back the age old Time Management System. This is a definite must to consider having in the game. This mechanic influences how players will play and approach everything they do. This even includes the games core mechanic – alchemy. A lot of your time can get sucked up real fast doing alchemy, specifically with the quick link to missing components. The time system is split up in 2 sections of the game. First is you have 30 in game days to finish your tasks in your village where you begin or you don’t get to leave. The second and major part is once you leave the village you get 365 days to complete your main quest and get to the end game city.

This can seem like a lot but it can disappear without a trace in no time. If this happens its game end with the not so happy ending for our Ms. Firis. This sadly happened to me, but it introduced one of the most fun aspects to return to the series that was absent from the previous one, New Game +.

For fans who missed this in Atelier Sophie this a great thing to have reestablished within the franchise. Especially with the implementation of the Time system. With New Game+ whenever you do beat the game you get a clear data save. If you load this save file you can start you next play through with all gear, gold, and Alchemy proficiency for items you have crafted. The only things that wont carry over are level, items, and any adventure quest items. This will give you a nice early start in the next playthrough and even make it easier to play at higher difficulty if so desired.

AtelierFiris_Screenshot02

The battle system for Atelier Firis is very smooth and extremely reminisce of old systems. Characters can equip 2 weapons except for Firis herself. While in combat you have you action bar on right for attack order and a chain meter on left. Great thing about this is you can plan out your combos with ease. Enemies can also be knocked back to extend the turns for your characters. With the chain gauge you can get your other party members to shield Firis against attacks. Or once its full you go into essentially combo mode. As long as your character are in line to attack after each other you can chain attack items and skills for each. After reaching a certain level two different times you get to unlock chain breaks and chain finishers.

With Finishers if chain multiplier is high enough you get to choose who you want to use there ultimate attack. Know you can only choose 1 of the 4 in your party for that combat. But, your allowed to have up to five total in party including Firis. This means you can be strategic with party comp depending on your enemies. Even with your party full there are at least 2 others you can switch in and out of your travel party. Post game you get another two after you meet some requirements.

AtelierFiris_Screenshot07

There have been a ton of Atelier games made going back to the era of PlayStation 2. With that being said this Atelier game has one of the most unique and interactive endings. If you are able to make it to the final city of the game within the time limit you get to take and Exam. Provided you have met your requirements. Now this isn’t just a standard u get there you pass. Oh you did what you needed and you made it your good, no. You the player actually get to take the exam. If your score high enough with a combined total for the 3 parts of the exam you pass. Even if you do pass the ending game exam there is still a lot you can do post game

When it comes to post game content, this one has a heck of a lot. If you choose to play post game you start back at your town and get to go explore the world again. Experience places and people you didn’t get to or couldn’t at first. You can also get new quests and alchemy recipes that you couldn’t your first time through. There is just so much waiting to be done after you finish the main story that it’s truly unbelievable. As was mentioned before if you do some requirements post game you get 2 more people for your party making choices and battle more fun. Some things can only be accessed post game, most useful is a doll for your atelier.

Atelier Firis and the Mysterious Journey – PlayStation 4
Developer:
GUST
Publisher:
Koei Tecmo
Cost: $59.99
Release Date:
Available Now

The doll you get you can give a certain item to to fill its inventory. It will then refill the uses on your equipped items as long as they have at least one use left. In order to use the doll you have to set it up inside your Atelier via the Atelier decoration system. This system is one of two that makes the game more fun and interactive With the decoration system you can expand inventory, get better perks for alchemy, or just deck out the atelier. The other system is the ability to change Firis’s outfit to one that has been unlocked in game. Each outfit can give different perks such as faster movement or being able to do more stuff before having to rest up.

Atelier Firis is definitely a remembrance of what the Atelier games are all about. The alchemy system, re-introduction of time management, and the return of NG+ are all wonderful to experience. If you want to enjoy the story or just explore the world and see what you can find on the journey of a lifetime Atelier Firis is a must play. All of this is thanks to the gaming bringing back what made the series great to begin with.


Our review is based upon a retail version of the game given to us by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 10 out of 10


About the Writer:

chris_adeeChris Adee is one of B.A.T.G.R.’s JRPG writers who seems to love three things. Sleep, games, and MOBA’s. He also likes games. A lot. Oh and anime. Did we mention anime?

Review: Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea – Does More Mean Better?

Pros:
+Highly rewarding JRPG elements
+Two stories that differentiate greatly between each other
+Unique scenery that becomes ever-more enjoyable with time

Cons:
-Frame rate issues can become problematic for those preferring smoother frame rates
-Encounters can become too easy for fans to enjoy, but at the same time, too difficult


AtelierShalliePlus_Screenshot20

Last year when I first got my hands on the Atelier series on PlayStation Vita, I was new to this series that’s been a long run JRPG franchise that has adored its fans for years. This was also the first game that would attempt to lure me in so that I would find myself enjoying. However, it was a series I wasn’t immediately hooked on due to the games creativity.

Thankfully, the Plus editions of the games are ones that carry on a bountiful amount of new content players have yet to see. Luckily, the Plus versions seem to be rather hefty in content for their discounted price. Technically speaking, for a new version of the game that comes to life, and offers plenty more for fans to enjoy with the games new improvements. Lucky for us, we get to see this new version continue the cycle, even with the release of Atelier Firis coming up this week. With a plus version for the PlayStation Vita, we get to see the series reach an even broader audience in order to bring in new fans.

Released just shortly before Atelier Sophie, Atelier Shallie was the final title to launch on the PlayStation 3 for the series, but it was also the finality to the Dusk Trilogy of the Atelier series. Luckily, the games do see some minor improvements to the games overall lifespan as well as dungeons for fans to enjoy. Luckily, some of the tweaks help fine-tune some of the games narrative in order to help iron out complaints from the fans such as plot holes, improvements of characters, and even a chance to quash out any nuances within the game.

AtelierShalliePlus_Costume02

Much like the last time we reviewed this game, the story revolves around Shallistera Argo and Shallotte Elminus, or Shallie for short. The game introduces players to both through small introductory scenes where they will get to experience both of the characters momentarily before ultimately choosing who they wish to experience first story wise. Both players will find themselves rather familiarized with the games town as both of the girls live there, and both of them are ultimately after the same goal. While this seems that playing the game in the same setting will make the game boring, transparent, and lacking for content, that’s not the case with this game.

Continue reading

Review: Nights of Azure – Dancing in the Night with Demon’s

Pros:
+Solid battle system that feels like a true spiritual successor to Folklore
+Beautifully crafted romance between the leading ladies
+Character designs feel solidly crafted to fit the world perfectly
+A very relaxing soundtrack that soothes throughout the game

Cons:
-Muddied and blurred CGI scenes
-Breast emphasis is a bit overwhelming


NightsofAzure_Servan08

When it comes to games that are thick and immediately accessible on a narrative, it’s Nights of Azure. This seems quite simple to say that this is good, something that we know Gust has been great at with past titles like Ar nosurge Plus have proven that stories are something they are great with. With Nights of Azure, we’re given quite a few twists and even characters to remember as the story gets underway, which is easy to say – is a good thing as Gust has gotten it all right with this title. With our leading ladies Arnice and Lilysse, we find the two as our characters of interest. That being said, we get to see them at the same locale where they just happen to run into each other – the abandoned Ruswal Island. Otherwords? A place known as “The Land Without Night”. A place where the island’s inhabitants turn into monstrosities after the wicked Nightlord through contaminating them with his Blue Blood, which corrupted their very souls.

After having come in contact with it, Arnice has managed to somehow managed to retain at least half her humanity. This enabled Arnice to turn into the demon-slayer we get to know. Like any tale of where night dawns, this is where Arnice finds herself at her peak, and will find herself purging the island of the residents that were cursed by the Nightlord. The downside to this tale? Arnice must find a way to stop him without having Lilysse force herself from being sacrificed in order to do so.

As much as one would expect, the story is one that is rather respectively done as the relationship for the two women is a same-gender type. One that is not littered with cheap, porn style emphasis nor does it take on the internalized shame experienced by either women. This makes their relationship believable, realistic, and noteworthy as the women get their story underway. All you need to know with these two? They love each other, they find themselves sweet, refreshing, and enjoyable for the viewers to experience. Something that is pure as it gets when it comes to any game out there yet. One that does feature natural drama and action within the story elements given to them.

NightsofAzure_Transformation12

While the story is what shines the most, the games battle system is one that shines quite a bit. As those who experienced Folklore will know, the game seems to be a successor to that same one, and even offers up unique battle sets that are comprised of “Servens” that players will have battle it out during the battle phases. During the combat phase, players will find themselves pressing upon the corresponding button to that Serven in order for them to attack. The biggest difference between Nights of Azure and Folklore? You have to pres the buttons instantly in Folklore to attack while Nights of Azure allows for companions that are summoned to be summoned into combat and fight with the player. This gives the characters you fight along side a sense of life as they fight uniquely as part of the party rather than being controlled as the party. This is something that also seems that Gust has intuitively designed using Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch as a reference point. The biggest feat to this entire system? Players can unlock new Servens as they progress through the game in order to change up how the battlefield feels. This allows for the combat situations to feel rather fluid as if it was meant to be this way without any second thoughts.

While combat does see Servens as a big part of it, transformation as well as weapons play a rather large role within the game. As you know, combat coincides with the use of Servens, which you equip through your loadout, which allows you to change up during situtations as players will find themselves building up a transformation bar. Here players will find Arnice transforming into a demon-esque creature. One that is based upon what Servens are in the character loadout when playing. This means that are multiple transformations, but the two experienced most? Fire demon, which is the basic transformation that is obtained upon starting the game. The second and personal favorit eof mine? The Bunny Girl, one which makes fast jabs, kicks, and even uses a finisher that allows for enemies to be hit in a certain vicinity. If you’re used to playing the .Hack G.U. games the weapon change system will also seem rather familiar. All weapons do have their uses based upon the enemy type being fought. The downside? The changing of weapons does feel sluggish from time to time.

NightsofAzure_Screenshot13

Combat aside, the game shines through its soundtrack where players will find themselves relaxed to each soothing tone, one that can be attributed to its light side as well as its beautiful darkness that is embedded within it from time to time. Something that is beautifully accentuated by the games ambient sounds that are perfectly placed to add more essence to the games life. Something that seems to follow perfectly with the games graphical designs that allow for an anime-like approach that works quite well. While areas of combat are smooth and stay so for most of combat, the game does see slight frame rate dips in high action moments. Though the dips are not as noticeable as one would would think. The games graphics offer quite a bit of clarity to the detail while the depth of zones are easily enjoyable thanks to the games use of background as well as backdrops while exploring.

While each environment seems rather dark and gloomy, it works quite well for the games story approach as well as the world that it takes place in. This case makes it rather gorgeous, beautiful even. While each zone may seem small, each is well designed, thought out, and easy to navigate so that players don’t get lost when trying to navigate between zones. The fact this has been done, seems easily to attribute to Gust’s Ar tonelico franchise. The downside? Some are ones that will shine that the boss is there by simply stating “BOSS” on the entry way, notifying players what encounter is up ahead.

Nights of Azure_Servans05

Aside from the games overall design, there is something unique that comes to happen as players enjoy the title: Decisions matter, and they matter big time. Depending on the decisions made, the game does change out the experience that players will have as the title gets underway. This can be things such as dialogue can depict on the aspect of things that can happen. This also means the options that become available throughout the game. This means even negotiating within the games progress with currency such as Libra and Blue Blood, which allows players to obtain items they need. Libra being the basic that can be used at trade shops for items or Blue Blood, which is where decision making really comes into play. This currency can only be obtained through defeating enemies. This currency is used to purchase items from alternative traders, which have items that can be used by the

While the game gets the good graces it deserves, there are a few places where the game stumbles quite a bit. This comes to cut scenes, which seem rather muddied, blurred even during their moments. While the CGI moments seem rather problematic, but when the game uses the in-game animations? The graphics remain pure, clean, and beautiful as if they were never bothered with during their creation. Sadly this seems to follow through with the character breasts, which seem to take center stage at times as they seem over emphasized upon. While this isn’t bad for some games, it’s something that does take over during certain scenes as well as parts of the games story as the character chests bounce during walking, running, and even while breathing during stand-still moments. This seems to take away from the games sincerity quite a bit during the campaign, but doesn’t deter the enjoyment of the overall title.

Nights of Azure – PlayStation 4 (Reviewed)
Developer: Gust
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Price: $59.99 USD
Released: Available Now

Overall, the game is enjoyable, one that has noticeably and carefully crafted for players to experience during their time with Gusts latest title. This title is one that fans of both the Atelier and even the Ar tonelico franchise can come and enjoy when looking for a new game to play by the same developer. For Ps4 owners? This is definitely a game that should be considered during the drought of JRPG’s on the console.


Our review is based on a copy provided to us by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 8 out of 10


About the Writer:

chris_adeeChris Adee is one of B.A.T.G.R.’s newest writers who seems to love three things. Sleep, games, and MOBA’s when he’s not goofing around on Warframe and SMITE. He also likes games. A lot. Oh and anime. Did we mention anime?

Review: Ar nosurge Plus – Shining Bright in the Darkness

Ar-nosurge-Plus_LOGO


Pros:
+Sharp and crisp graphics that offer a PS3 like experience on the Vita
+Solid control scheme that won’t leave players stumbling when trying to play
+Added content such as costumes is an added bonus to the game
+Sound quality transfered well when the game was ported

Cons:
Frame rate staggers, hindering this beautifully rendered game
Combat is intermittent; requires leaving and returning to a zone to fight and level
Dives Points required to progress through the dive story arch requires points from combat


06_Save

A year ago I got my hands on this hidden gem on the PlayStation 3 when it originally launched as just Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star. Honestly I was somewhat disappointed by the game since the hidden undertones of love, friendship, and the questioning of life as well as kinship seemed to stumble more than once. With the return to the PlayStation Vita I decided to tighten up my jaw, wipe my memory clean of my past experience and one more dive into the title I previously played on the PlayStation 3.

As many of you know, the PlayStation Vita has become a formidable handheld experience against Nintendo’s 3DS. Both having a rather robust catalogue of Japanese role-playing titles, it’s no surprise that the Vita has become the go-to place for them, and that’s easily backed up thanks to the constant barrage of titles that seems to land on the Vita. This time around? Gust has once more graced us with one of their titles, but this time in the name of An nosurge Plus. To be quite honest? Had I played the game here, I may have enjoyed it a bit more since it seemed more like a pick-up and go title that is filled with a rather unique adventure that is followed up by a quite amusing story if you take the time to play through it.

02_Felion

To give you a feel for the title, it takes place on a rather large spaceship that houses the remnants of a destroyed planet. Their sole survivors having gone to space in order to find a new home, and quite quickly? You are to be associated with a timeline of the events in the opening cutscene. Though from how the game starts you won’t instantly be intrigued by the unraveling events around you. It’ll take roughly five hours for this to happen. However, if you wait, there are plenty of twists, turns, and even head spinning moments that will eventually come to fruition when the events take place between Pulse and their enemy Sharls are on the verge of an all out war no-thanks to the enemy protagonist by the name of Zill. To put it in short? On one side you have a religious order known as the Genomirai Church who believes humans should work with the monsters known as the Sharl in order to survive, but at the same time they are killing off those who do not see things as they do and then there’s Pulse who seeks to protect humanity from all who seek to harm anyone.

Just like any JRPG out there, Ar nosurge Plus is slow to start off as it lets players become acquainted with their cast of characters, which is something that many should be used to when playing JRPGs such as this.

08_Genomap

What makes this game unique as possible is not the fact that the two factions can make you tilt your head or even find your brains gears turning in thought, it’s the hidden relationship system that is hidden quite heavily within the 30+ hours of gameplay you’ll encounter. This goes between Delta and Cass, whom have been friends all their lives, Cass being the Empress, but both working as special agents for Pulse. On the other side of the coin there is Earthes the mysterious robot and his master Ion. While there is noticeably a romantic build up between Deta and Cass, it’s not just their dialogue that makes their experience unique, but their memories as well as their little surprise event that occurs and throws a wrench in the story between the two and takes it for a rather amusing ride. However, the relationship between the tinman and Ion is also just as interesting due to how his role plays out within the story and her role in his story arc comes to play.

As explained earlier, the true story that drive the game home for me was through the graphic novel like moments regarding the games “Purification Ceremony” that ties in with the games “Dive System”, which we’ll cover both. Thanks to the game having many subplots and side stories; the Dive System is where players will take their characters into another character’s mind, spirit, whatever you want to call it, and see the world from within the other character. This can be related to their hesitance, love, despair and or whatever drives them to feel the way they do towards other cast members. Sometimes the outcome is quite hysterical and then there’s moments where players will tilt their head, scratch their chin, and turn away in a way that will leave others question to what they’re even playing. While the Dive System does play a major role and allows for Purification Ceremonies to happen, the idea behind the purification ceremony is odd since it heavily fills itself with sexual innuendos. During this time players can talk with their fellow cast members in order to find out more in depth dialogue regarding events, thoughts, and or viewpoints regarding certain topics. Doing this allows for trust building and provides a nice little relaxing moment that counters the constant action filled pace of the main story. Thankfully the game does not feed on the heavy handed sexual innuendos, but instead allows for a rather comedic moments that will allow for players to have a small chuckle and a shake of their head due to the hints of flirtation imbedded within the topics.

However, with the dialogue put aside, Ar nosurge Plus has quite a bit of new members players can bathe with or rather “Purify” with, and this includes the game’s main concept known as “Song Magic”, which plays a rather massive part to the titles main plot. Something that is strengthened when Delta and Earthes dive in order to protect their powerful song magic wielders who can use this powerful kind of energy into devastating attacks or even an ability to heal those that are wounded. Though for us? It’s to wound enemies and send the waves they are apart of dying.

13_Purification

Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star Plus – PlayStation Vita [Reviewed]
Developer: GUST
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Price: 39.99 USD
Released: Now Available

When playing the game I did find myself cringing here and there when having to go into the Dive system in order to enter a character’s subconscious in order to power up their bonds and their song magic. The nice part is? You’ll be even more devastating in combat, which is something the game is lacking entirely – even in this newly remastered version. With the combat system being as refined as it is and consisting only of the handhelds face button’s such as Circle, Triangle, Square, X, and even Start (to activate song magic); players will find themselves cringing since combat is very infrequent, which is uncommon among the JRPG titles we’ve all played and been introduced to. When it comes to combat attacks are performed with the aforementioned buttons, while players can use R and L to open up skills, they are often going to go unused outside of boss battles due to how fast Delta and Earthes can dispatch enemies before song magic can be used. However, there is the occasional chance to use it, and this is something highly recommended since those attacks can increase your turns in combat. With combat being just that minor, that’s all there is to really discuss about it since the game focuses so little on it, but instead focuses more-so on the graphic novel side of things, which makes one wonder – was this game meant to be a JRPG or a graphic novel or both?

Even with that aside the game does come across one thing that did become problematic was the game’s constant staggering between framerates. It wasn’t uncommon to see them stagger in highly graphic filled areas, which was a bit dumbfounding due to just how powerful the Vita is, and to some this could be a deal breaker, but it does not take away from both the powerful soundtrack, story or even gameplay mechanics that players will find themselves enjoying with the games 30-50 hour campaign. We just hope that North America gets a chance to see Ciel nosurge Re:Incarnation in the future.


Our review is based upon the release of the version that was given to us by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 7 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over onTwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.