Atelier Rorona Plus - The Alchemist of Arland is an update to the first title in the Arland trilogy of Gust’s alchemy-based JRPGs which originally arrived here back in 2010. It was also the first 3D title Gust had developed, and their skills with 3D games has improved a lot over the years making this the perfect time to update the original. This time around it has improved graphics, which are more in-line with the box art, along with new stages, enemies, and various other improvements. Now you might be asking, “Is it worth forking out $80 - $100 again though?”
AR Plus’ gameplay is a combination of time management, battles, and gathering ingredients. You have a certain amount of days to complete tasks, the main tasks you can complete - the minimum required of the castle’s request to keep your workshop - in about a week or two, depending on how many of the ingredients you need to get.
The further out you go, the higher the level of enemies, so you will need to train and gather ingredients with caution. That said, this game features a fast travel system - so you can escape back to your workshop and put away anything you’ve collected if you run into trouble. Although It can become repetitive - accepting a request, going out to get the ingredients, create the item, report in, and repeat - it’s somewhat bearable due to the fantastic story and interesting cast of characters.
Speaking of the story, AR Plus features the same as the original: where a knight by the name to be Sterkenburg (Sterk) - comes knocking at Rorona’s workshop door, informing her that her teacher’s alchemy workshop is to be closed. Rorona, the game’s main protagonist, is promptly promoted to apprentice alchemist and now you must help save the workshop.
As with the rest of the Atelier titles, the battle system is turn-based giving you time to strategize your next move. You can use allies to block attacks directed at Rorona, use items to regain health, or attack the enemy with attack items - such as crafted cannons. You can regain your health by either sleeping for several days to recover, or using health recovery items, such as food or potions. If you get knocked out in battle you end up back at your workshop.
As far as ingredients go, some are easier to locate than others – water (you can get up to twenty buckets from the wells in town), or meat (you will have to hunt beasts for it), while plant material can grow anywhere. When it comes time to craft you will fail a lot at first, but each time you fail you’ll gain improve your skills and eventually be successful at synergising the item you were trying to produce. It may require several trips out into the wild, depending on what you’re trying to make. Rorona can hire up to two friends to accompany her on ingredient gathering. At first it’s only Cory, but soon after she has a chef Iksel, and Sterk, the knight she’s reporting to accompanying her.
Visually, AR Plus’ graphics have received a makeover bringing in-game graphical quality more in line with the box art. In addition, you can customize the appearance of characters in game with the dressing room.
In conclusion, if you are picking it up for the first time, this is obviously the version to get. This is an improvement in so many ways - including navigation of Arland, swappable costumes, and everything you can harvest from such as wells, are highlighted. Between the visual upgrades - both aesthetic and functional – and the improved pacing, it’s hard not to recommend. This is well worth the money for new-comers, while owners of the original might want to hold off until the price drops.