Also On: PS3
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Medium: Digital/Blu-ray Disc
If you're reading this review, you're probably already familiar with the Atelier series, but this still bears repeating: this image captures the essence of the franchise better than most reviews could. They may look like your typical moe games, with infantilized girls running around in age-inappropriate clothing, but the reality is far more complex. While you may get the odd hint of weird sex stuff, the games are all basically small business simulators dressed up in really frilly clothing.
It should come as no surprise that that's true of the latest game in the franchise to come West as well. Like all the other Atelier games, in Atelier Rorona Plus you're playing as the titular character (Rorona, in this case), building up your little workshop and doing all the things — gathering supplies, building up your network of acquaintances/party members, fighting monsters and going on all kinds of quests, large and small — that generally encompasses.
If you caught a hint of ennui in that last paragraph, that's wholly intended. While it's certainly awesome that these games have an audience in North America sufficiently large for Tecmo KOEI to keep bringing them over, for someone who's only a casual fan of the series (that is: me), it's starting to feel like the same game getting released over and over again. There are certainly some differences — I'll get to those in a moment — but if you were to place this game alongside the previous two Vita localizations, Atelier Meruru and Atelier Totori, you'd find far more similarities than differences. You're still a girl alone in the world, you're still doing all those aforementioned quests, and you're still in frilly pink bloomers.
As I said, though, there are slight differences. For one, this game seems more streamlined than its predecessors; maybe I'm just forgetting the timelines in the previous games, but it feels as though you have less time in Rorona Plus to fulfill all your obligations than you did in the other Atelier games. This, in turn, gives the game a slight sense of urgency that wasn't there before. Likewise, Rorona Plus has a bit more of an attitude than the other games. It's not like they're suddenly aping Demon Gaze or Conception or Monster Monpiece or anything, but the way the characters interact has a bit of snark that wasn't as noticeable before.
In the overall scheme of things, of course, that's more "making a nicer wheel", as opposed to streamlining it, That should be enough for diehards and newcomers to the series, though. Those people who already love the series will find everything continues on here as it should, while if you're never played an Atelier game before, then the relatively streamlined gameplay should make Rorona easier to get into. If you're right in the middle, though, and you're only a casual fan of the series? Then there's not as much to make it worthwhile — Meruru Plus and Totori Plus are just as good, and the differences aren't so great that you need to go out and start all over again. Atelier Rorona Plus is very good without ever threatening to cross over into "amazing" territory, and if you only have moderate interest in the series, that's probably not going to be enough.