Atelier Shallie Plus is a handheld version of Atlelier Shallie with all of the DLC packed in, much like all the previous “Plus” versions of the Atelier games have done. I have not played the console version of Shallie or any other Atelier games, so my review is based entirely on the Vita version. Let me start with some less flavorful notes. The frame rate is appalling most of the time. While not entirely gamebreaking, there are a few moments when the game seems to really chug along. The characters are all highly detailed and look great. Even the backgrounds are pretty nice considering other games on the Vita in the series have had mostly flat and bland backgrounds or very specific setting pieces that didn’t change much throughout the game. Perhaps it’s these better looking backgrounds that are the cause of the frame rate issue.
If the frame rate doesn’t get you, the English voice acting just might. The shop keep on the main strip is my least favorite of them all and her voice is exceptionally loud and clear. To be fair, some of there are some very good voice actors here as well. The bad far outweighs the good though.
Gripes aside, let’s get into the good stuff. In the beginning of the game, you get to choose which Shallie you want to play as. Their stories come together at some point, but until then, you learn a lot about their particular struggles. If it wasn’t obvious, both of the characters’ have the same nickname, Shallie. Each has a different reason for doing what they do. Shallistera is the daughter of a village chief who’s village is running out of water. She’s come in search of a way to fix the drought. Shallotte is a sort of nobody in her village and wants to prove her worth, but everyone keeps treating her like a kid. The two Shallies end up working together to further both of their goals.
Along the way, each of them meets up with a different cast of allies who serve more to advance the story than they really seem useful in combat. I get a strong feeling that any character would be able to be thrown into any battle at any time and you really wouldn’t be worse off. Battles aren’t too difficult unless you stumble across something that far outclasses you. The real draw to battle is a way to gauge your progress in alchemy. You see, as you learn new recipes, you can craft better bombs, better clothes for you and your allies, better weapons, better healing items, etc. I advanced my alchemy much faster than my levels until one, seemingly random, battle boosted me 15 levels. This happened again a few hours later, and again to get me to level cap. I think it’s due to having completed certain side jobs all at the same time, but it was quite jarring. One minute, I’m relegated to low-level monsters, and the next I’m able to manhandle everything in the area.
At one point, the previous Dusk Alchemists join, but not to further the slice of life story telling. I guess this might indicate that, while I like slice of life anime, I really don’t care too much for it in video game form. I did enjoy the character building aspects of the early game, but it seemed to drag on for far too long. When the other Dusk Alchemists join you, the action kinda goes up to 11 and becomes much more adventure and action oriented.
I thoroughly enjoyed the crafting system, which I think may be the real draw to these games. It allows you to solve traditional RPG dilemmas with non-traditional solutions. There is a real sense of who each character is, but most of them are saccharine sweet, and it’s kinda strange to have an entire cast of well-mannered, good natured people everywhere you look. Even the “bad guys” are doing what they believe is best for their community. On one hand, it’s refreshing to see that not everyone is trying to get you, but when that’s what you’re used to, it feels almost like wishful thinking. I guess that’s this series’ bag though, and it’s worked for them for this long. Maybe it’s just not for me.