I loved Atelier Rorona. It was fun and extremely innovative, but weak graphically speaking. Thus I was looking forward for Atelier Totori with much excitment. When I saw the dreadful marks it received from French websites, I was furious (I crossed the line and got banned by the way). But at the beginning of the game, I slightly wondered whether I was the one wrong.
The 3D animated characters do look better than in Rorona, but it really depends on the characters : Sterk, Melvia and Totori are near perfect but Rorona and Mimi look weird. Of course, the general design is still one of the best in JRPGs. Backgrounds also are still a bit awkward, but more impressive then in the previous game.
At a first glance, the battle system seems unchanged : your characters still disappear when another attacks and your alchemist can be protected by her companions just like before. But when you have to fight harder battles, you’ll realize that alchemy is critical to beat bosses. Weapons, gear, bombs or defensive items are necessary but not that easy to make, and there are so many possibilities that it makes Atelier Totori’s battle system far deeper than it looks.
Another aspect that made me like Atelier Rorona returns in Totori : its exceptional sense of humor. Believe me or not, this game has the most brilliant dialogs I have ever seen! I don’t know how the devs come up with all that, it’s almost magic. Of course, it’s a Japanese kind of humor so it’s most likely directed to anime/manga fans in the first place… But the plot deals with some serious themes also and the end of the story, far from being naive like I read somewhere (those idiots probably didn’t make it this far), is absolutely touching.
But the best part of Atelier Totori is indeed its crafting/mission system. This time, adding to the management of your alchemy/gathering orders, you also have to watch your adventurer level to progress in the game. You will be given points when you achieve pre-set objectives. There are a bunch of them : creating certain objects, beating bosses, discovering a landmark, completing 30 alchemy orders, etc. Unlike what has been said by those ruddy French reviewers, this game is never boring. That’s all the more true that it’s actually quite hard! Choose your missions or go exploring without proper planning and you’ll get the bad end for sure! The reason for that is simple : the story in Atelier Totori is set in a limited amount of time (six years in the game). I can’t just wander around to get XP, every move must be carefully planned and you’ll have to set objectives every time you leave town. And believe me, even if your daily orders are easy to complete, the long-run objectives (adventurer level diamond, building the boat) are tight to achieve. Intermediate save files are your best friends (I have like five).
Finally, the soundtrack is one of the best I listened to this year (probably the second best) and really makes this game unforgettable, like in the epic final battle (well not exactly the final one but the one after is not mandatory). This battle was a huge moment in my gaming life. I got flattened the first time which in fact ruined all the effort I made to build the ship, but I refined my equipment and strategy, and then eventually defeated the beast in some truly intense fight. It’s moments like this one that I live for, and Atelier totori is one of those rare games can provide them. Undoubtedly my favorite game this year, unless Final Fantasy XIII-2 turns out to be even better.