Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland is, at its best, a wonderful hybrid of simulation and RPG, offering up satisfying combat, addictive gameplay, and a memorable cast.
At its worst it's a bit tedious - especially with its boring introductory tutorial.
But all in all it's a win. Series newcomers will find plenty to discover in this colourful gameworld, while returning veterans will enjoy the new, more directed approach towards questing.
Shopkeeper till you drop
Atelier Rorona Plus puts you in control of Rorona, an insecure girl who's forced to take over a failing alchemy shop. She's pretty lousy at her job, and she faces constant teasing from her master, Astrid.
When the poor girl is tasked with saving the failing atelier her friend Cordelia takes her outside the town and shows her the ropes of combat and survival, thus beginning her adventure.
Combat contains some new features, but for the most part it remains true to its simple roots, never really reaching the strategy or depth of more combat-focused RPGs while still offering enough options to keep you busy. Atelier Rorona Plus is primarily a game about collection, task completion, and time management.
As Rorona's adventure continues you'll run into a variety of collectibles and materials that can be used to craft items for trade and combat. This is where the game shines, and where most of your time will vanish.
Plus or Minus?
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland was initially released in 2010 for PlayStation 3 - so what makes this re-release worthy of the "Plus" in its name?
The first thing that veteran players are likely to notice is the game's higher level of polish.
A lot of issues from the original release, such as its awkward quest structure and lacklustre pacing, have been addressed. As a result, the sense of vastness and the gameworld's distinctive identity can really shine.
The questing system has also been streamlined. It doesn't ever truly hold your hand, but it's much better than the previous effort at communicating its goals, making it easier to manage your precious time.
You even get notifications when you're running out of time, or when there are opportunities for new quests.
Not every new idea is welcome, though, and some players may find themselves groaning over the new tutorial system's length and utterly boring presentation. While this new tutorial isn't required, it's definitely recommended for newcomers and players who could use a bit of a refresher.
Despite this, Atelier Rorona Plus is a fine addition to the Vita's already bursting library. The newly implemented quest system makes the game easily accessible, and its deep attention to crafting will have you engrossed for hours at a time.