Koei Tecmo are a cold, calculated machine programmed with only one goal in mind, and nothing will stop them in their tracks from pumping out as many Atelier games on to the Switch as possible. I’ve lost count. But here we are, three more delights coming right up. Let’s check out the Atelier Dusk Trilogy.
Now, as this is a review of a collection games, yes, they are sold individually but are also sold as a bundle too. We thought we’d be slightly more broad rather than repeating ourselves over three video reviews. So this is a general review of the package as a whole to see if it’s worth your hard earned cash. Are they all worth it digitally? Or is it worth that very, very tempting import physical copy?
Story-wise, this trilogy of games each have their unique stories and starring characters, while still taking part in the same shared universe with overarching themes and character crossovers. This theme being the Dusk. What is the dusk? Well, that’s what you’re playing the games for. Handily, the in-game stories follow in line with which games released first. Atelier Ayesha is the beginning, with Escha & Logy in the middle, and then Shallie rounding off the trilogy.
While they do have connections, you have no need to worry about having to start from the beginning. You can happily start anywhere if you so desire without feeling you’re missing too much. Plus, if you just fancy the first game, don’t worry. Each game has their own satisfying conclusion. Like I said, it’s more of an overarching theme than a large connected story.
Individually, they are fine. The standard Atelier-type stories you may be used to by now. A heavy, heavy focus on story. Lots of talking and tons of cutscenes for side character development – getting stopped every five seconds for more talk – where people will probably complain. But that’s why I enjoy these games so much! A cute character and nice supporting casts each with stories you’ll want to see through to the end. None of them grabbed me immediately like Atelier Ryza did, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the mysteries that these games have to offer!
Gameplay follows very similarly to most games in the series. If you’re unaware of the Atelier games, they’re a mix of your standard JRPG battling mixed in with item creation and fulfilling the requests of the towns people.
If you’ve played any of the Atelier games before, you’ll pretty much fit right in without any worry whatsoever. As each of your protagonists goes about their major story arc, you’ll be spending your time wandering around various environments with a task in mind. You’ll be picking up vital ingredients from bushes, ponds, etc, and your head will be spinning at just how many things there are to collect here. But don’t worry, you’re going to need it. All of it. Picking up these materials might not be so easy, however, since there are plenty of nasty monsters hanging around too.
Battling will be taking place often. Each of these games has their own distinct battle system, although hardly the more adventurous. It’s nice to see the series always try something a little different each time. Ayesha has a unique set up whereby your allies surround the enemies. Escha and Logy has a row system; 3 up front, 3 behind, kind of like Suikoden but slightly more impactful. I get that you may feel a little fatigued jumping from one game straight into another, as I perhaps did for this trilogy review. So I do personally advise you have a palate cleanser game between each of these.
Item Creation and Time Management
For me, these Atelier games always come to life in their item creations. This is where all the materials you’ve picked up from all the environments and defeated enemies will be useful in creating pretty much everything you’ll be using. At first, in each game you start off quite limited in your alchemic abilities. But as you grow as a character, you’ll be able to create more and more things. The systems may look a bit daunting at first, but the game eases you in nicely enough and generally guides you through the process. While all the games have the same principle, the way they are presented in each individual game makes them feel different enough, which is important. They have little quirks and additions that have a surprising amount of depth.
What may be uncomfortable to some is the anxiety-inducing time management. While each game handles time a little differently, you are most certainly up against the clock. Yes, if you don’t complete the game fast enough, it’s game over. Well, that’s the threat anyways. Picking up ingredients passes time, moving locations passes time, even doing your atelier mixing takes up a bunch of time.
Now, if I was in your position, I’d have instantly paused this review right now and wrote a comment saying I was passing on the game because I hate being rushed. I understand. That’s me. But the fact is, for the most part, the time limit is almost a facade. The only way you could possibly exceed the time limit is if you really tried your best to do so. As an example, in the first game, Ayesha, you have 3 in-game years to complete the overall main goal. But you will probably be able to 100% the game within just 2 years. If that’s not enough to convince you, then you may want to only pick up Atelier Shallie, the last game in the trilogy. It completely replaced the time management with the Life Task system.
The Plus Versions and DLC
It’s worth noting that these three releases are all based on the Plus versions of the games. If you don’t know what that means, basically, these three games were originally released on the PlayStation 3 but then later ported to the PlayStation Vita with additional stuff. Including previous DLC, updated mechanics such as party swapping any time, new characters, costumes and so on. And that’s what you’re getting here, the full-fat definitive version. This is not the base, original game.
And that means pretty much all of the DLC ever released for them is included here aside from one or two things. Koei-Tecmo weren’t clear on which couple of things were missing. And no, there will be no paid extra DLC. This is the full package. Which, considering this is from Koei-Tecmo, the Kings of minor DLC, I almost feel like fainting from surprise.
So has anything been added to the ports in terms of gameplay? Well, not really. Only a couple of quality of life features have been added. And although they may seem minor, they are very welcome indeed.
Other Features and Final Thoughts on Gameplay
It’s kind of hilarious that the game now happily boasts about a feature allowing the character to run. Yes, front and center as a selling point is allowing the character to run. I don’t know why I find it quite funny. But despite the quaintness of the boast, it is a very welcome addition. Now that a gamer’s time is even more precious than ever, it’s nice to be able to speed up some of the more mundane things in games. Even more so is the speeding up battle button. I wouldn’t consider the battles here to be particularly long-winded, but when you’ve got 6 characters in your party, any little speed up is going to help. Plus there are a few different speeds you can choose from.
I mean, overall in terms of gameplay, it’s good stuff. You’re getting standard yet charming JRPGs with a heavy focus on the story and character interactions. When it comes to the pantheon of JRPGs on the Switch, these won’t be high up on the list of greats. But that doesn’t stop them from being very, very solid choices. The battle systems will probably lack something for many people, but for me, the more standard, the better. I hate overly convoluted battle systems. The alchemy will also please many people since it does have it’s share of depth that is always interesting to get a grip on with each entry, despite similarities. Anyways, Atelier Dusk’s gameplay is very, very solid.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
Visually, well, you can tell these games are like 6-7 years old, a generation behind. The character models look really nice, but the environment work leaves a lot to be desired and was probably the case even back then, especially with the first game, Ayesha. That looks pretty rough. But there’s a really nice art style working that Dusk theme very well with a melancholy look to everything. I like it despite suffering from culture shock after playing the wonderful looking Ryza. I mean, it really does show how the series has moved on and taken the necessary steps to become something more than it is. The artwork stills and animation are fantastic too. Really top notch.
There are very few big complaints I have about these games. But one is the performance, at least in the first game Atelier Ayesha. I said it’s the roughest, and it shows in the performance. I don’t know why, but in certain areas, the game is quite jittery. It’s not lag. I actually don’t know how to describe it. It’s like an error that shouldn’t be there. Thankfully it doesn’t ruin the game despite how noticeable it is, but the other two games run smooth as butter. Hopefully there will be a patch on or after release as I’m sure it’s just an oversight somewhere. Fingers crossed.
For the audio, it would be a struggle to go through the entire soundtrack for all three games, but I can easily tell you that I am always 100% impressed with the Atelier soundtracks. They have a magical adventurous feeling to them, and I hate myself for saying this, but there’s always one or two songs that give me vibes of something Joe Hisashi would conjure up.
Yes, saying the soundtrack has essence of a studio Ghibli film is as generic as saying something is Souls-like, but you know what? I don’t care. Aside from those Ghibli-esque tracks, the rest of the music is equally excellent, lost of variety, unique instrumentation, and always get you excited for the adventure ahead. Quirky, interesting, and catchy. I should really learn who puts these soundtracks together, because they deserve more respect from me. Hang on, let me Wikipedia… Daisuke Achiwa seem to be the mainstay, often with another couple of people who changes each game. Anyways, props to you guys. Koei-Tecmo don’t pay you enough.
Unlike the latest Atelier games, this trilogy of releases is home to some English Voice acting along with the Japanese. While I usually don’t have a preference, I have to go with the Japanese on these. The main characters’ English voice actors come off overly generic.
On the eShop, each of the games are priced individually at £32.99 in the UK, and $39.99 in the US and in Europe. A digital bundle is available for $90 and £73, which is saving yourself a bit of cash for sure. Pretty much buy 2, get 1 for half price. Sadly, due to embargo timing, I can’t quite warn you about the 10% pre-order offer, which would certainly have made things look even tastier for that bundle. But for the standard price, I don’t think you can complain too much. They may seem expensive for old games, but look at Final Fantasy X and XII, which have an even higher standard prices. You have to remember, these are niche as hell games. If you’re not entirely convinced, I would wait for a sale a few months down the line.
Now, both Koei-Tecmo Europe and Koei-Tecmo America aren’t offering these as physical Switch releases. They are only available digitally in those regions. However, there are options for those who really want to snag a physical release. There’s a Japanese release, but you don’t want that since they don’t have English and all three games are separate releases. But the release for other Asian regions is the one you want. Firstly, the Asian release does have English. Secondly, all three games come on one cartridge. Aside from the DLC, which needs to be downloaded.
Overall, for me, this Atelier Trilogy is a nice little addition to the plethora of RPGs now on the Switch. Atelier fans will lap these up, although casual fans or those curious about the series may want to plump for the latest entry, Atelier Ryza.
In fact, as nice as these three games are, they made me appreciate Ryza even more than I already did. But still, these are 3 lovely games that capture a certain feeling that most RPGs fail to. Packed with content, there’s so much going on, but at the heart of it are basic enough RPGs with nice stories that will keep you nicely occupied without ever blowing your mind with greatness. I know what you’re going to ask though, which of the 3 is better, right?
Well, the one I enjoyed the most was the middle one, Atelier Escha and Logi. The partnership worked well, and I enjoyed the setting and backstory more for this one. I also found the Synthesizing better laid out and perhaps showed its depth more. As a package though, it’s a healthy, solid 7.5 out of 10. Remember, if you want to pick up that Asian version physical release with all of the games together, here’s the link again. Be sure to check out my review of Atelier Ryza, and perhaps a recent review, Super Robot Wars X. Man I love those games. I’ll see you over there!
Thank you for stopping by and reading Jordan’s review! Happy gaming, everyone.