Worthy for play on the go.
I’ve always appreciated what the Atelier roleplaying series strives to do, even if I haven’t always been thrilled with the ways in which it’s done it. Though the dialogue and voice work have never been terribly effective, many of these games’ characters still beg to be remembered, and few more than one Totooria Helmold, the star of Atelier Totori Plus. Earnest and open-hearted to a fault, her deeply personal motivation is the glue that, along with an intensive crafting element, holds this laid-back RPG together. And thanks to the Vita’s beautiful screen, the world around her looks better here than ever before.
Atelier Totori Plus is a Vita port of Atelier Totori that doesn’t disappoint in the least. It brings all the content of the original to gamers on the go, along with a few bonuses to sweeten the pot. Among other things: all the DLC characters from the PS3 incarnation, and more excitingly, a new post-game dungeon that Atelier Rorona fans will no doubt recognize. None of theses extras are game-changers mind you, but they do add an appreciated splash of extra variety whether you’re a new or returning player.
Totori’s technically simple, artistically intricate graphics really come to life on the Vita, as its sharp display brings out all the loving details in the characters’ designs. If you somehow failed to recognize how well-conceived Totori’s artwork is on the PS3, it’ll certainly come out and smack you in the eyeballs this time around. If you’re looking for it, you might spot an extra second of loading here, or a drop in framerate there, but none of it impacts gameplay. In fact, it inexplicably runs better than the PS3 version of Totori’s sequel, Atelier Meruru.
Still, this is a port, which naturally means it’s inherited the faults of its original. Totori’s flaws are few in number, but deep in severity, with the voice acting on the male side of the cast being the worst offense. Gino’s nasally delivery constantly grates, and the ever-whiny Peter proves to be just as rage-inducing on a small Vita screen as he is on a big one. The voice actor playing Totori’s widower father acquits himself reasonably well, but only to the extent that the clumsily wrought script allows him to. While the female performances are stronger on the whole, they aren’t enough to save the day. Given that Totori relies even more heavily upon dialogue than your average RPG, this sub-standard level of craft will be a sizable problem for many.
Of course, just as a port brings its big brother’s baggage along with it, so too does it bring the good stuff. Despite the writing and acting issues, I still find Totori and her quest to discover the true fate of her missing mother to be a suitable, if unlikely motivation to push through. Unlike Meruru and Ayesha after her, Totori has genuine bonds, either by blood or by history, with the people around her. This lends her interactions with them significance, especially where her family and her presumably deceased mother are concerned. Even amidst the airy, care-free atmosphere, there’s a heartfelt tale here about a young girl who refuses to accept the loss of her parent, and challenges herself to discover the truth. As someone who’s been slaying dragons and confronting world-ending evils since Dragon Warrior, it’s a refreshing change of pace.
Fishcraft? I don’t know what that is.
Having reviewed the PS3 version of Totori last year, coming back to it after moving on to Meruru and Ayesha really drove home why it’s my favorite of the PS3 Atelier games. Of all the main characters, Totori’s tale mattered most to me, and the cast surrounding her finds a comfortable sweet spot between light-hearted fun and believability. In terms of gameplay, Totori packs all of the franchise-signature crafting depth, and marries it to a well-tuned, free-form quest structure that’s rife with resource management. You can check my original review for all the sordid details, but in short, it’s less restrictive than Meruru’s system, but more open and challenging than the spoon-fed quest track that Ayesha runs you through. Striking such a balance in a system with so many moving parts is really quite commendable, especially given that neither of its successors could truly manage it.
Atelier Totori was a very good RPG to begin with, but its stylish, technically modest graphics, and focus on bite-sized quests make it an ideal candidate for handheld gaming. Everything that made the original what it is, for better or worse, is here on the Vita – including the near-constant interruptions by poorly executed dialogue which still bar it from greatness. But its additional content and small-screen visual presence make Atelier Totori Plus the definitive version, and an easy recommendation for franchise fans and RPG buffs in general.