Rorona to Ryza: An Atelier Retrospective Part 2: Atelier Totori

This is part 2 of a Retrospective, If you would like to read the first part click here

Welcome to part 2 of my Atelier retrospective, “Rorona to Ryza”. After the success that was Atelier Rorona, Gust’s next course of action was obvious: to create a sequel. However unlike the Atelier Iris series, this sequel wouldn’t be called “Atelier Rorona 2” or anything like that. Instead it would be named after its own heroine, Totori. The name to transfer over between titles was the setting, Arland.

The basic gameplay of Atelier Totori is unchanged from Rorona. Alchemy is nearly identical, and the same goes for the battles. Totori is just as useless in battle as Rorona was. For a rundown of how alchemy works please go and read part 1 of this retrospective: Atelier Rorona.

Before we talk gameplay, let’s turn down the music and sound design. Atelier Totori’s sound mixing isn’t very good at all. The default music volume makes it impossible to hear the voice acting in cutscenes most of the time and it completely drowns out the voice actor’s performances. Thankfully there’s the option to turn it down in the options menu, though it is still mildly irritating to need to do so.

Even though the gameplay itself is identical, the structure on which that gameplay is used has been completely changed. The setting of the game, Arland, is what was carried over in the title. However while Rorona was the alchemist of Arland, Totori is the adventurer of Arland. Atelier Rorona had you going to gathering areas for a few days and then returning to town, where the city of Arland was a central hub where you would always return after a few days. Atelier Totori’s first month is like this. You constantly move to three small gathering zones and then return to Totori’s town, to craft. Totori and her best friend Gino want to become adventurers and advance beyond this cramped routine, just as the game series does and once the first month is over that happens. Totori and Gino take the wagon to Arland and get their adventurers licenses. The structure of the game is flipped henceforth.

No longer are you going to be going to gathering areas just to get materials and heading back to town. Now you’ll be going to gathering areas to kill monsters, collect materials, and unlock new gathering areas to make paths throughout the land of Arland. Doing all of the above tasks accumulates Adventurer Points, which you use to level up your license, which allows you to progress even further in the game. With this new expansive structure the calendar system has also been changed from three years to five years.

This is Atelier Totori’s main gameplay structure. However, unlike Rorona where that structure is all there is to the game until the calendar runs out, Totori has an end goal to accomplish. Throughout the game you’ll (hopefully) be accomplishing goals like creating a boat and making it to the eastern continent, where you will fight the final boss of the game and get an ending.

The models in Totori are a huge improvement over Rorona’s

The task to create a boat is a long process, and it will take Totori entire months to do it, but accomplishing it and finally being able to set sail is one of the most satisfying moments in the entire Arland trilogy.

However, I personally don’t think Totori handles this structure very well. Throughout the game there’s also very little indication on where to go for character events with your party members or where to go to progress the plot itself. While this goes together with the series’ themes of figuring everything out for yourself, some nudging in the right direction would be appreciated

And then there’s the sheer amount of time it takes to move back to Arland for basic tasks like using the blacksmith. It can take you anywhere from a few days to half a month just to get back to the blacksmith, which you will need to do frequently because the enemy encounters in Totori are numerous as you will be in constant need of more adventurer points. Compared to any other game in the series, it feels like I’m wasting much more time just traveling to town in Totori.

However, even though I personally don’t like how Totori changed in structure, others do. Some people really like Totori, and I personally know someone who loves the game. Which is something I want to talk about in this retrospective. Atelier is always changing from game to game. I don’t say that in a positive or negative sense, just a factual one. Change is neither good nor bad, but it is divisive. Some people will love how certain games in the series are and others will dislike them. The last thing I want to do in this retrospective is say whether or not a certain Atelier is better than another, just talk about what I find positive or negative in each game. With that said, now that we talked about my negatives, let’s talk about the positives

One thing loved by the entire Atelier fanbase, even people who dislike Totori the game like me, is Totori the character. While many Atelier protagonists can be loud and zany, Totori is a much more subdued and chill character, often playing the straight man in many of the game’s comedic scenes. Of course she has her own wacky moments as well.

Totori’s dialouge is one of the best parts of the game

The cast in Totori in general has some of the highest highs in the entire franchise. Characters like Mimi in particular stand out, as well as the returning characters from Atelier Rorona. Rorona herself had matured a lot between games, now being Totori’s teacher. However even though she has aged she is still the same old Rorona that we know and love.

The cast of Atelier Rorona returning in this game set a precedent for the mood of Atelier sequels from this game onward. Returning to Atelier feels like returning home after a trip away, you will be greeted by familiar faces and welcomed back into your daily routine as if no time has passed at all, you’ve just become older like the characters themselves.

While the plot of the game itself is very simplistic, the emotional beats hit hard, especially any moments that deal with Totori’s family. Simplistic plots with high emotional beats would be the Atelier standard from now on, and it’s great that Gust were able to nail it first try.

And I would be dismayed if I didn’t bring up the greatest thing in Atelier Totori, maybe the Atelier series as a whole: Chims. Chims are little homunculi you can make, and these Chims can be sent out to gather items or synthesize items for you, and they’re adorable. I love Chims so much.

Look at them! I love them! Why is there no Chim merchandise I can throw money at!

And that’s Atelier Totori, it’s honestly very low on my ranking of Atelier games. However with a series that changes as much as this one there is bound to be a game I don’t like as much as the others and as I said, there are people who love Atelier Totori.

Tune in next week as we look at the next entry in the Atelier series, Totori’s sequel Atelier Meruru

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