Atelier Arland DX Trilogy (Switch) Review – Gigantic
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Price: 39.99 each / 89.99 Bundle
The Atelier series is big, long-running and at least every JRPG fan should have heard of GUST´s franchise by now. Until this day itgets new spin-offs and main titles yearly, centering about young female alchemists and their adventurous journey to their dream. So, it was expected that this series would some day reach even the Nintendo Switch, though in what form? KOEI TECMO answered this question by bringing the whole Atelier Arland trilogy, originally released on PS3, in their reworked DX versions to the console and yes, that´s a lot of content.
Like in many other Atelier games, the three Arland titles Rorona, Totori and Meruru all have pretty classic storylines. While the first centers about saving your workshop from the crown, the second one is about Totori and her search for her lost mother. They´re neither exceptional nor full of twists, simply providing the base for the more slice-of-life, cute experience this trilogy aims for most of the time.
Otherwise, the revamped DX versions take care of pretty much any difference between the three titles in terms of gameplay. Anyone who feared Rorona might be worse than Merururu simply because it has older systems is surely happy to hear that pretty much all improvements from the following titles are also backwards implemented here, along new dungeons, enemies and quests, expanding especially the first game in the trilogy. While there are 1-2 elements unique to each game, simply because they´re core design elements not easily implementable into the other ones.
As a result, the whole trilogy feels very similar to newer entries, which is definitely not bad. In general, the general gameplay flow is the same: Collecting materials to synthesize powerful items. Done through classic exploration of the various lands, dungeons and defeating enemies, the Atelier series feels like a classic turn-based JRGP most of the time. Even the combat works nearly the same as anywhere else but laying more importance on supporting items and character usage, due to their different professions and strengths.
Overall, what keeps this series afloat, at least for me, is the fact collecting stuff feels so much more rewarding, since the alchemy system offers hundreds of different ways to combine them and create truly great stuff, once you get accustomed to the many menues and text. Combined with the time limit, which I never experienced as limiting but another tool to force you into actually planning your day like a true alchemist, going on adventures becomes a unique experience between having to work and having fun, I never felt during any other series.
In terms of side content, there´s also plenty, with new dungeons and side quests unique to these versions as well as the abundance of content already present in the original titles. Every game doesn´t only feature a dozens of hours long story but also many ways to have fun after it with the different items to craft, secrets to discover and much more. Given, none of it does something unique or new with the systems unseen in the main plot but serve as your typical “busy-task” known from many JRPGs, so there´s quite some fun to be had for people into that.
Graphically too, the Switch versions are actually really, really good. While the Arland games were originally released on PS3, they still look great, due to the fact GUST may never have the sharpest textures or models but always an appealing art style and presentation, that doesn´t require much horsepower. Even though the text may be a bit hard to read in handheld mode during alchemy, everything else works almost flawlessly well here and at no point do the games look like low-effort ports with massive downgrades (except the occasional crashes known from KOEI TECMO´s games).
So, all in all the Arland trilogy is a surprisingly modern treat, probably because the series never changed much during the years. Combined with the titles offering your typical Atelier story experience, or even more unique ones like Meruru, thhey´re some of the best I´ve played so far, especially due to the giant amounts of content added in these versions. Even the Switch port is quite well done. While the price may be a bit hefty, if you´re looking for more Atelier, well, here it is.
[A Review Code was provided by KOEI TECMO Europe]