The Atelier series has always been about personal stories rather than grand “save the world” ideas, and Ayesha is no exception. It makes a few changes to the usual formula, but do they result in a stronger product?
Ayesha lives alone in her workshop at the base of an ancient ruin, her only contact with the outside world through the delivery boy who transports her medicines to stores. She hasn’t really visited with other people since her sister, Nio, disappeared. One day, she goes to visit the garden where Nio disappeared and is greeted with an apparition of her sister. A passing academic witnesses this as well and realizes that it means Nio can still be saved. Armed with this knowledge, Ayesha resolves to head out into the world to learn what she needs to in order to save her sister.
As you would expect, Ayesha is pretty much clueless about the world, having lived in isolation for as long as she has, sometimes to ludicrous levels. Thankfully, that doesn’t last too long, and she experiences personal growth throughout the story, as she meets others along the way to rescuing Nio.
A good chunk of the story is advanced via the Memory System, in addition to certain objectives. Memories provide backstory, information and character bonuses when purchased with Memory Points, which are earned via exploration, character interactions, alchemy and just about everything else you can do.
As with the other Atelier games, the heart of the gameplay is the crafting, and that’s where most of the changes are focused. It’s easier to make many items now, thanks to increased flexibility in ingredients for recipes. Unfortunately, removed is the ability to decide exactly what properties a created item will inherit.
The combat got a few changes as well. Follow-up attacks are more common now, along with the alchemist being able to do them now as well. For some reason, turn order appears to be somewhat randomly assigned, which can result in enemies getting to attack multiple times while you wait for another chance.
One thing to note: you won’t earn money from combat. Just about the only reliable way to earn cash is by completing NPC quests. They are generally easy and very profitable, but there’s no method for keeping track of requests within the game. There’s a time limit of three years, though that’s not really a problem. As long as you make steady progress, you’ll have no problem meeting the deadline.
The cel-shaded graphics look great on the characters and buildings, though the environments themselves aren’t very impressive. The voice acting, too, fits each character very well.
Atelier Ayesha may be the start of a new Atelier series from Gust, but it’ll still feel familiar to fans of the Alchemist of Arland series. A few small changes to the usual formula, both good and bad, set Ayesha apart from previous games, enough so that fans of the series will enjoy it as much as ever.
Pros: more convenient crafting, lots of character growth, more interactive combat
Cons: random turn order in combat, less fine control over crafting