In the video game reviewer world, you should never begin a review with the following statement: “Wow. Just wow.” Using that to describe your enjoyment or disgust for something is shallow and a bit immature. However, I ever so desperately wanted to begin my review for Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk with those three words. Maybe I can use, “Yay. Just yay.” Or, “W00t. Just w00t.” Are you starting to get my point? I think you are, dear reader! Atelier Ayesha is the first game in the entire Atelier franchise to surpass my expectations. Much like Atelier Meruru, I can see myself playing this game again in the future despite having done everything during my first session. Why don’t we take a walk through the flowers as we discuss the merits that make Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk such a great game.
Atelier Ayesha takes place in a new world where industry is lacking and agriculture is thriving. An apothecary named Ayesha Altugle lives her life making medicine for people around the world. She lives a simple, enjoyable life in her small workshop. But, other than her cow, Pana, she is alone. Her grandfather passed away, and her sister went missing three years ago. However, Ayesha witnesses an image of her sister in some ruins near her home. After talking with an established alchemist named Keithgriff, Ayesha learns that her little sister is still alive and only Ayesha is able to save her. According to Keith’s estimate, Ayesha has only three years to accomplish this.
This is a great story that, at first, seems similar to Totori’s due to the heroine looking for the whereabouts of a loved one. Eventually, you realize that the two are very different. Ayesha knows her sister is somewhere, but only alchemy and research will be able to uncover her whereabouts. Sticking with the traditional nature of Atelier, Ayesha is on a time limit before the game ends. Luckily, this one is even more forgiving than the one found in previous entries. For once, you’ll feel as though you can relax and play at your own pace without the fear of missing character events or endings. As the leading character, Ayesha is lovely. If she were real, we’d be best friends. We would be sharing tea and cake every Thursday afternoon in a park surrounded by flowers, likely chatting about alchemy and gossip around the town. She is great, and the people that she meets on her (shout out to Wilbell) journey are just as great. All characters develop well over the course of three years.
Ayesha may work as an apothecary, but she knows her way around an alchemic cauldron. Ayesha’s journey will take her through various towns and dungeons. No matter the location, chances are you’ll find raw materials to use for synthesis. For the most part, gathering has remained unchanged since the Arland trilogy. Item synthesis has gone through some more drastic changes. At first, Ayesha will have a access to only a few recipes. As her quest continues and as her experience with alchemy rises, Ayesha will be able to use skills that enhance, reduce and/or add traits to the item she is trying to create. It might appear confusing, but like rest of the games in the series, it doesn’t take long to catch on. Before you know it, you’ll be using these skills to make effective items. The downside to this is that items like bombs take a backseat to weapons and armor. Instead of tossing a bomb to obliterate enemies, you are better off using skills, spells and the regular attack option. With proper manipulation of traits, equipment will totally crush any enemy in your path.
This leads me to the battle system. For the first time, battles have just as much to offer as the alchemy. Features like guarding and assist attacks are back, but now position on the battlefield plays an important factor. Striking an enemy from behind means you will deal critical damage. Once again, a meter can build up for all characters (except Ayesha) that will allow you to unleash a powerful attack. And once again, Ayesha is the only character capable of using items. Creating items and using items is nothing short of a fantastic time in Atelier Ayesha, despite being able to “break” the game and make your characters unstoppable. One final thing to mention about playing Atelier Ayesha is how to advance the story. As you arrive in new areas and meet new people, you will be given tasks to accomplish. This is similar to the system in Atelier Meruru, however this time you will acquire Memory Points. Memory Points are used in your diary to create diary entries. These will boost your stats and help with item creation.
A pleasant thing to mention is that flowers play a major role in both the story and in alchemy, so it’s quite fitting that you’ll see them nearly everywhere you explore. If you were a 60s or 70s child, you’ll especially feel right at home as you witness some gorgeous, anime inspired graphics full of fabulous flowers. Gust was at the top of their game when they developed Ayesha’s world because they stayed true to the theme of flowers. There are no volcanoes, snowy mountains or underwater coves. That’s not to say that Ayesha will be strictly exploring tree-hugging venues. She’ll also uncover floating islands, a desert made of salt and a haunted town. My one complaint is that, despite this beautiful world with beautiful characters, monster variety is terribly lacking. You’ll see the following: hamsters, wolves, bears, huggable looking spirits, floating balloons, demonic looking dogs and giants. Throw in a few bosses, and that’s about all you will see. With so many unique aspects, it’s hard to hold Gust guilty of being lazy. Still, the pallet swap is a tired tool and I know Gust can be more creative than this. Luckily, creativity is not lacking in the music and sound department. Ayesha’s soundtrack is worth a listen. Favorites of mine include Undine and Flower Scented Forest. Next, we have the sound. Before you get all huffy and puffy about the lack of a dual-language option, take a seat. The voice acting is great. Keep that in mind before going all “otaku animuuuu” and not giving the game a chance. Also, this applies to the future release of Tales of Xillia, as well. Stop your damn ******* and be thankful we got the game in our native tongue in the first place. Actually, the same applies to Atelier Ayesha. This is a niche JRPG, so count your blessings.
If you can’t tell, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk is a must buy. I recommend it to anyone looking for a laid-back RPG and for anyone who has been a fan of the Atelier franchise since the beginning. Take a walk through the flowers and discover what really happened to Ayesha’s sister in another excellent alchemic adventure.