I'm going to sound like an ass saying this but I think it's safe to say that the NIS efforts for the PS3 have been a little bit, underwhelming. Cross Edge
wasn't very good, Trinity Universe
was a slight improvement, and I don't even want to talk about Last Rebellion
. So it was with a little bit of caution that I took a look at the latest NIS title to grace the PS3, Atelier Rorona. It's a plucky little RPG that feels almost too basic for its own good. From a graphical standpoint we saw better efforts out of second generation 360 games, and from a gameplay standpoint we've seen better from the PS2 era. Atelier Rorona feels like developer Gust is still trying to get their PS3 legs, and unfortunately this game goes a long way toward undoing all the praise and goodwill they had earned during the PS2 Atelier games. All the saccharin-soaked characters in the world can't save a game from plodding and downright boring gameplay.
Atelier Rorona's story follows a cheerful female protagonist, surprisingly named Rorona, who is an apprentice at an alchemy shop with an owner who comes off as lazy (on a good day) and has a creepy little sister complex to boot. The kingdom in which this shop resides has decreed that the shop must be closed down unless it can be proved to be an asset to the community. That's where you come in as Rorona, to save the shop by meeting requests set forth by the castle and by assisting the townsfolk. As the story goes on you'll see that the attempt to close the shop is not without ill intent and with the help of Rorona's friends you'll keep the shop from going under. The characters of Atelier Rorona are tolerable at best, with a somewhat loveable Rorona who's clumsy clueless attitude can be at times too much to bear with the rest of the cast falling a little on the dull side. You've got Rorona's rich yet bratty friend Cordelia, her cheerful chef friend Iksel, and a stoic castle knight named Sterk to name a few. Everything feels cookie cutter except for Astrid, the alchemist who owns Rorona's shop. But even her borderline deviant behavior toward Rorona can go from humorous to awkward in a flash.
These characters look great when you see them in their character portraits, but unfortunately the transition to 3-D is not very kind. Rorona goes from looking like she's 17 to looking like she's 12. The character models just feel like they aren't very detailed compared to their hand drawn portraits. The enemy models don't feel like they are much better. Even the basic Puni enemies look worse in 3-D, and the world the characters inhabit feels flat and lifeless. It's going to sound harsh, but the most accurate way to describe how this game looks, is like a lower quality version of Eternal Sonata, which was released years ago, yet still manages to look better than Atelier Rorona. I actually would have preferred high resolution 2D sprites instead of the lifeless 3D shells. Audio is your typical Atelier fare with lots of wind instruments and solid voice acting from a lot of industry mainstays.
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