Review: Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea (PSV/PSTV)

Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea Review Banner


  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation Vita

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS Vita


  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Atelier Shallie Plus: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
Format: Game Card / PSN (3.11 GB)
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Tecmo KOEI
Developer: Gust Co., Ltd.
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our PS3 coverage of Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea.

Atelier Shallie Plus is an enhanced port of Atelier Shallie which follows two young alchemists, Shallistera and Shallotte, who both go by the nickname Shallie. Shallistera is the daughter of the chief of a clan whose water sources are slowly drying up due to a phenomenon known as the Dusk. At the start of the game she sets off to the town of Stellard, which has abundant water, to study the Dusk.

Shallistera is a native of Stellard who runs an atelier with her mother and is trying to scrape by and make ends meet after her father passes away. She’s not quite sure what she wants to do with her life though, and is searching for something that inspires her.

Similar to the last game in the series, Atelier Escha & Logy, Atelier Shallie begins by letting the player choose their protagonist. The first few chapters of the game are very focused on that protagonist with only background shots of the other. Midway through the game they meet and become fast friends bringing the story together.

Atelier Shallie falls in the Dusk series of Atelier games, taking place after Atelier Ayesha and the aforementioned Atelier Escha & Logy. A few characters from those games show up in some capacity in Shallie and there are some ties to other game’s plots, but most of the story is self-contained.

The biggest thing that gets carried over from those games is the world. I mentioned it in my Atelier Ayesha review, but the world building in this sub-series is excellent and it all comes to a head in Shallie with Shallistera’s entire quest being related to a lot of what the previous games were trying to show: the slow decay of a world due to the folly of past civilizations.

Of course it’s still an Atelier game so the tone is very upbeat. The story itself takes a back seat to the day-to-day lives of the characters, especially early on, and most of the cutscenes in the game are fun or silly looks at the characters interacting rather than directly relating to the story.

… The alchemy is very robust and fun to explore …
I’ve always enjoyed this aspect of the series and Shallie is still a good example of it. One nice thing the port does though, is enhances the overall story of the trilogy. In the original, the story petered out near the end and didn’t give a great resolution to either the game or the trilogy but Shallie Plus fixes that. Almost all of the major characters from Ayesha and Escha & Logy show up, including the titular characters, and there are more scenes in Shallie Plus that tie the whole series together.

Most of the mainstays gameplay elements of the Atelier series are present in Atelier Shallie. The alchemy system, one of the biggest things the series is known for, is pretty good in this game. It has a lot of similarities to the alchemy system in Atelier Escha & Logy but ends up being its own beast.

The gist is still the same: add in several ingredients per recipe and use a few alchemy skills to enhance those ingredients. The alchemy skills are pretty different this time around though and the skills are tacked onto ingredients rather than being added in sequence with the ingredients.

The alchemy is very robust and fun to explore after the first few chapters of the game. Early on, when Shallie’s alchemy level is low and the ingredients aren’t as high quality, the alchemy can seem a bit limited but as the game progresses the system opens up to allow for a lot of customization. By the end of the game there are a lot of options for making the party’s equipment and search equipment (items that are used in battle such as bombs or healing potions).

… the new Burst system is fun and interesting in its own way …
Much like the alchemy, Atelier Shallie features a battle system that is similar to its predecessor but with a lot of changes. Battles are still turn based with the usual array of options such as attacking, defending, or using skills or items (but as usual only the alchemist characters can use items).

Although only three characters are involved in battle at a single time, there are three backup characters who can be called in for assistance mid-battle. There’s also a new mechanic called Burst. Attacking enemies fills up a Burst meter and once full, allied characters do extra damage and can be called in for assist attacks in sequence, leading a strong finishing attack called Variable Strike. Late in the game characters also unlock their Ultimate attacks which are charged up by using assist attacks while in Burst mode.

The battle system in Shallie is pretty interesting. At first I was a little disappointed that items/bombs didn’t seem to be as impactful as in previous games and instead managing the Burst meter is more important. Battles are less dependent on having killer synthesized attack/healing items which makes the battles and alchemy seem more disconnected than in previous games.

That said, the new Burst system is fun and interesting in its own way and I felt that a lot more effort went into making each party member feel different in this game. For example, one character has an attack that does more damage if more “time cards” are active. Characters who create time cards, recurring effects that are slotted into the turn order, can combo off with this character.

… there’s no calendar in the corner ticking off days …
Other characters have similar little quirks that make them more interesting and lead to some fun battle interactions to be exploited. These actually can make the battles tie back into the alchemy as items can help boost interactions or raise a specific stat that makes a character unique.

Previous games in the Atelier series were known for their time management systems so I was a little surprised when I found out that Atelier Shallie doesn’t have one, at least not in the same way.

The basic gameflow ends up running similar to the other games even if there’s no calendar in the corner ticking off days. At the beginning of each chapter, Shallie will get a series of Life Tasks. The first few in the chapter are the story tasks and completing them usually advances the story. After a few of these story tasks are completed, the list of Life Tasks will open up for “free time” as I started to think of it.

During free time, Shallie gets a bunch of optional Life Tasks which give bonuses for completion, such as experience points or stat boosts. There are still “main” Life Tasks and completing these fills up a meter on the screen. Once full, the free time ends and whenever Shallie returns home the game will ask the player if they want to advance to the next chapter.

Theoretically, the player could continue doing whatever they want instead of advancing to the next chapter, however all of the optional Life Tasks disappear once the main ones are done and don’t reappear until the next free time. So while the game doesn’t technically have a calendar system, actively pursuing Life Tasks, optional or otherwise, is still mostly limited, at least up until the final chapter.

… no ability to transfer save files from the PS3 …
The one upside to the lack of a calendar is that the combat was made tougher than in previous games. I started the game on the Hard difficulty and for the first few areas I found myself returning to town to heal a lot more frequently than in other games.

In addition to healing, returning to town also replenishes usable items (Search Equipment) and there’s no longer a time factor discouraging it so players can return to town easily. Some of the bosses also presented a challenge, especially the optional ones near the end of the game. There are Normal and Easy difficulties as well for players who don’t want the added challenge.

This Vita port adds some gameplay to the game, mostly in the form of some new bosses to take on. There are also a few new characters, Ayesha and Logy from the previous games in the series, and all of the DLC from the PS3 version is included. Unfortunately for returning players, the new content is all clumped near the end of the game and there’s no ability to transfer save files from the PS3.

The graphics in Atelier Shallie Plus are pretty serviceable for a JRPG and don’t seem like a huge step up from the previous game. It’s clearly pushing the limits of the Vita though, as the graphics show some issues with framerate and pop-in. Things have been downgraded a little bit from the PS3 version but the gameplay doesn’t suffer since turn based combat and alchemy don’t really care about framerate.

Character models have the most attention as they try to capture character designer Hidari’s designs and manage to do a respectable job at it. Monsters have a similar amount of care but are also frequently palette swapped. The game also pulls a lot of enemies from the previous games in the Dusk series.

… the ability to skip the animations after having seen them a bunch of times would be nice …
Environments, as always, seem to be the low point. Look too closely at them and the somewhat low quality textures and poly-count can be apparent. Still, the game manages to blend everything well enough and the overall art direction is good.

The best part of the visuals are the over-the-top battle animations. It wouldn’t be a JRPG without them. The new combat systems allow for some silly attacks and they’ve packed in some variations of each. For example, the ultimate moves are slightly different if they’re going to kill the opponent. That said, the ability to skip the animations after having seen them a bunch of times would be nice.

The music doesn’t disappoint. The soundtrack is well composed with some good variety and some great individual tracks. Several boss theme songs come to mind as being interesting but even the less memorable tracks are still worth a listen.

As with some of the other games in the series, individual songs can be changed through the Save menu to any of the other tracks in the game. The game also includes a few remixes and songs from previous entries in the series and a bunch more are available as free DLC which is a welcome way to allow fans to decide if it’s worth the space on their Vita memory card.

… it offers more closure than its predecessor did …
The voice tracks are also pretty typical for the series as of late. The game includes both the full Japanese voices and a partial English dub. For the most part I didn’t have any issues with either track except for one character, Katla, who sounded a little shrill and annoying in the Japanese voice track. Overall, I preferred the Japanese voices mainly because everything is voiced compared to the English track which leaves some scenes silent.

This game is singleplayer only.

One of my complaints about the PS3 version was that the game didn’t seem like it had all that much closure, either for the game itself or the trilogy of Atelier games it ends. Fortunately, Shallie Plus fixes that with some of the new content. It’s still not perfect but it offers more closure than its predecessor did.

Overall I thought Atelier Shallie had some decent gameplay systems. It feels a little more streamlined to welcome newcomers compared to previous games in the series thanks in part to not needing to manage time. The combat is very accessible as well and the alchemy is pretty deep but doesn’t completely throw the player off the deep end to begin with.

It is odd that the last game in the trilogy is the most accessible. The references to previous games probably wouldn’t kill this one but I still might suggest starting at the beginning anyway. For those coming from the PS3 version, it might come down to how willing they are to play the whole game again. The new content is nice, it but mostly comes at the end of the game.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.



Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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