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Game Info:

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX
Developed By: Gust/Koei Tecmo Games
Published By: Koei Tecmo Games
Release Date: January 14, 2020 (original PS3 released on March 5, 2013)
Available On: Windows, PS4, Switch (PS3 as Atelier Ayesha, and PS Vita as Atelier Ayesha Plus)
Genre: Role Playing Game
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: T for Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
MSRP: $39.99 (or $89.97 for the trilogy)
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Koei Tecmo for sending us this game to review!

Ayesha Altugle lost her sister a few years back - and I mean lost. She has no idea where she went, and while she did make a grave for her, she always held out hope that she was still alive. One day while visiting her grave in a nearby ruin, she sees a floating apparition that looks exactly like her missing sister, Nio! As luck would have it, a traveling alchemist from another land named Keithgriff (he goes by Keith) happens to catch the tail-end of Nio's appearance, both confirming it's real and encouraging Ayesha to investigate the clues using both the glowing flowers that showed up along with Nio, and with alchemy.

As it turns out, alchemists are incredibly rare in their part of the world, and Ayesha was passed down lots of skills by her family before their untimely death a few years ago. She always thought that she was merely an apothecary; it turns out that she's actually been making medicines using alchemy this whole time. And she has an incredible natural gift for it, that impresses even the jaded and experienced Keith.

I have yet to experience an Atelier main character that is not charming (this is the sixth game I've played so far), but I really, really like Ayesha. She is quite naive, and may seem a bit ditzy at first glance, but she's really kind, sweet, and caring. The character design, and especially art, is absolutely excellent. I'm not sure what it is exactly, but I really don't dislike anything about her. Each of the other protagonists has had something I didn't like about them; Rorona is a major airhead (but funny); I like Totori, but she is almost too perfect and a bit plain; Meruru is a bit too positive. As for Lydie and Suelle (and Firis and Sophie), I like them a lot. And Nelke is great, too. But I would say Ayesha is my favorite so far. Something about her is just right. Maybe it's the art style; each trilogy, they use a different set of artists, so maybe I just really like Hidari's art.

Anyway, I've gone all this time explaining why I like the characters without even telling you what kind of game Atelier is. These games are role playing games (RPGs) with a focus on crafting and slice of life. Rather than a more typical 'save the world' that most RPGs ask of the player, in Atelier titles you may or may not have an overarching story or goal. Often it's 'become the best alchemist'; this one has a more engaging story, by trying to save your sister. In Ayesha, you meet people, discover new locations, and get to know the world you are in, while always keeping that focus on rescuing Nio.

Highlights:

Strong Points: Lovely characters; really great art; very catchy music; excellent English voice acting; interesting storyline and setting; battle system that's more complex and interesting than many Atelier games; great balance between crafting and exploration; treats a player's time with respect more than any other game I've played in the series; solid crafting system; plenty to explore; performance is excellent even on low-end hardware; good replay value, with lots of endings
Weak Points: Resolutions above 1080p are scaled up with no anti-aliasing, rather than being rendered at a higher resolution; guides and/or multiple playthroughs needed to see all content

Moral Warnings: Fantasy violence against natural(ish) and mystical creatures, like beasts, golems, and dragons; minor curse words like 'd*mn' and 'h*ll'; alcohol use, including by playable characters, with drunkenness shown in some scenes; one major character smokes cigarettes and talks about how much he likes them; there is some suggestive dialog, including fantasies of romance (both heterosexual and homosexual, including why two girls can't be together), breast sizes, and so on; there is a hot spring scene, with tons of cleavage shown; most of the female cast dresses conservatively, but some have midriff and cleavage shown; one woman talked about how men used to slap her butt until she put them in their place; magic is used, and crafting new things in a cauldron with components is a massive part of this game; dark past of alchemy discussed; one character is a witch; gods are mentioned

The Atelier game that is closest to Ayesha in gameplay style is probably Totori. Both have an emphasis on adventure and exploration, while still requiring crafting to accomplish various goals. But rather than collecting and delivering items to an impersonal adventurer's guild, instead you deliver them directly to the people who ask you for them. Each town has their own people and items to deliver, which is a nice touch also, especially as each person has their own story to tell through dialogue. When you complete the task, you get not only your reward, but also memory points, which are used to gain permanent upgrades for Ayesha. There are a lot of things to do; always check your notebook if you aren't sure what to do next. I found it interesting that your goals and tasks just magically appear - if you never check your notebook, you might be quite lost on what to do next!

As you accomplish tasks with other characters, either social or related to the main quest, these unlock memories. Once unlocked, you can spend the memory points you gained through tasks, talking to folks in town, and other various ways to grant yourself permanent upgrades. Some of these upgrades are rather significant - they can be huge time savers (and time is a limited resource in this game) or can make you more powerful in battle. Other ways to gain strength is through character levels; there are both battle and alchemy levels, and they are separate. Outside of levels, the most important way to gain power is through crafting - along with pretty much everything else; even the main quest requires it.

In order to craft items, you need ingredients. In order to get ingredients, you must gather them. Most of the time, when gathering, you will also find enemies to fight. Each character in your party not only affects what cutscenes you may find, but also are present in battles. They are turn-based, with each character getting their turn based on how fast they are. Unlike most games in this series, I found that the battle system is both interesting and fluid. Often, when attacking, a party member can perform a follow-up attack, and sometimes a back attack, which puts you behind them. Enemies can then turn and face another character, giving the back attack bonuses to another. You can also use area attacks, but they don't automatically affect everyone - where they are in the play field makes a difference as to who you can target. It's a good system, with interesting depth. I've enjoyed the battles - except when I lose, of course.

Most of the game is not too difficult, but there are definitely powerful bosses that can seemingly come out of nowhere and upset that balance really quick. If you want to beat the most powerful enemies, you'll need to craft the best whetstones and dyes to makes your weapons and armor as good as they can be. You can also craft attack items that Ayesha can use to do massive damage to the enemies, or heal you and your party members if you are in a bind. Battles are pretty fun in this game, and I like the battle system a lot better than the Arland games.

There are quite a few endings for you to unlock, and you are limited to three years to unlock them all. Unlike some in the Atelier series (*cough* Arland trilogy *cough*), the time limits for both the main quest and individual tasks are quite generous. Most delivery quests literally give you years (or until the end of the game) to accomplish them. The main quest must be completed in three years, after which the game will end abruptly. Thankfully, this is plenty of time, and I never felt any time pressure until the end, where I couldn't quite complete all of the endings. If I had followed a guide I probably could have, as this game is nowhere near as strict as the previous ones on time limits.

Honestly, this game was pretty refreshing, as Ayesha does a wonderful (perfect?) job of respecting the player's time, while still having some sense of a deadline. Time management is a huge part of the earlier Arland Atelier games, and the Dusk trilogy is where that finally started to be phased out. I love that I can do what I want to in whatever order I wish, as long as I get it all done. Later titles in the series all but remove (or even remove entirely) the time limits, so it's interesting to see where that all started. In my opinion, it's much better for it.

Another thing that this game does well in respecting your time is that gathering automatically stacks, so unnecessary trips back home just to empty your basket are kept to a minimum. On top of that, you can still craft baskets and portable containers to make the trip even less often. Again, this game really respects your time - both in the game and out.

It also helps that the audio - both the voice acting and especially the music - is a joy to listen to. I've been listening to the soundtrack while writing this review to remind me how great it is. Yup, it's great. Graphically it's a little dated. The PC version doesn't render above 1080p either, which is a real shame. It's honestly its biggest flaw, as I haven't had any performance or other issues with it. (This is not the first game like this; Atelier Rorona and Meruru has the same issue.) It also runs really well even on Intel integrated video, assuming it's recent enough and the resolution is low. I did so on my GPD Win 2 at 720p and it ran great. On the other hand, the keyboard and mouse support is basic at best - I would strongly encourage you to keep a gamepad around.

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 92%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 74%
Violence - 7/10
Language - 7/10
Sexual Content - 5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

From an appropriateness standpoint, it’s not too far off from other Atelier games. There is fantasy RPG-like violence, where you issue and order, and characters attack your enemies, who are usually nature or fantasy creatures. Most attacks are a simple sword/staff/etc. swipe, or perhaps a gunshot. Some attacks are magical, whether through a character’s innate powers, or through items you can use. These include bombs, magic books or mirrors, and so on. It’s fairly light on the curse words, as I only noted ‘d*mn’ and ‘h*ll’.

Most females are conservatively dressed most of the time, but some wear outfits that expose midriff and cleavage, and there is a hot springs bath scene with quite a bit of cleavage shown. While romance isn’t a major part of the plot, there is some dialogue where it’s talked about, and it’s both heterosexual and homosexual. A conversation laments that two girls can’t be together since they are so compatible. Other topics come up like about how a certain female has grown, and comparing breast sizes. One woman talks about how she was not treated with respect, as guys would slap her butt until she put them in their place.

Magic is of course present, and one character is a witch. The relationship between witches and alchemy is also mentioned briefly (Ayesha is an alchemist). Items are created using alchemy, where ingredients are put into a cauldron, and different items come out. A god is also mentioned briefly. Alcohol and tobacco are referenced somewhat often and in a mostly positive manner, especially in the latter half of the story. The main character gets drunk once (from barely a drop) when she becomes of age, and says she likes it. She does not drink before it is legal for her to do so. Another character says how much he likes cigarettes.

Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX is perhaps my favorite game in the Atelier series to date. I honestly recommend it to anyone as a great starting point if you have any interest in this series. Ayesha is a wonderful character, the game is not too long, doesn't feel tedious, and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time (~40 hours). As always, consider any appropriateness issues before making your decision, but if that is not a problem, Atelier Ayesha is really a fun RPG if you are looking for something a bit different than the more typical Final Fantasy types. This game kept me playing longer than I should have and rarely was overwhelming. Highly recommended!

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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