Anyone who feels disillusioned with the current state of mainstream JRPGs (and let's be honest, by that you probably mean the state of Final Fantasy) should give highly creative, peculiar titles such as Gust's Atelier series a shot.
The crafting-heavy Atelier series has been around in one form or another since the PS1 era, though not all have made it to the West. In the current generation of consoles, there are presently four Atelier games available for PlayStation 3 -- three making up the "Arland" series and one forming the beginning of the new "Dusk" series, with the next to follow in the near future.
Each of the sub-series within the overall Atelier brand has done things slightly differently, but it's the Arland games in particular that are worthy of attention, since they abandoned all pretense of being traditional role-playing games in favor of embracing an odd fusion of JRPG battle and item farming mechanics alongside elements of strategy and management sims.
In each game, you're cast in the role of an alchemist in the small European-style town of Arland and tasked with fulfilling various orders for people. Meeting the requirements of your clients isn't simply a matter of farming drops from the local wildlife, however; you have to actually make the vast majority of the items they're requesting.
The crafting system found in these games is considerably deeper than that seen in many other JRPGs -- you have to take into account items of varying quality plus special traits individual instances of an ingredient might have. A client might request a particularly delicious kind of pie, for example, which means you'll have to use high-quality ingredients and ensure you attach the appropriate traits in the process. Over the course of the three games in the Arland series, the formula was refined further and further, with each new game seeing a new character taking up the mantle of Arland's alchemist under the tutelage of the protagonist from the previous game.
Atelier Totori, the second game in the Arland series, saw a remake for PlayStation Vita earlier this year, bringing various enhancements and additional content to the base game, but its predecessor Atelier Rorona remained untouched, despite arguably being more in need of a revamp than Totori.
Now, however, it seems that Rorona is going to get the same treatment, this time in a complete remake of the original game for both PlayStation 3 and Vita. The new game, announced in this week's Dengeki PlayStation magazine (via Gematsu) is known as New Atelier Rorona: The Origin Story of the Alchemist of Arland in Japan, though it may adopt a less clumsy moniker should it make it over to the West.
New Atelier Rorona will incorporate a number of changes over the 2010 PS3 original. Most notable among these is the fact that the character models have been completely remade -- in the PS3 original, the cel-shaded models looked good and were animated well, but looked considerably younger than the characters' depictions in close-up 2D art, whereas in New Atelier Rorona they will have more accurate proportions, allowing for a more consistent look across the whole game.
The new version will also incorporate a variety of new story events, an extended time limit, a new gardening component, new party members and costumes. There'll be Cross-Play support, allowing those who own both the PS3 and Vita versions to take their saves on the go with them, and the PS3 version will import data from Atelier Totori and its sequel Atelier Meruru along with the Dusk games Atelier Ayesha and the yet-to-be-released-in-the-West Atelier Escha & Logy -- doing so will unlock as-yet unknown bonus features.
New Atelier Rorona is set to arrive in Japan in November of this year. There's no news of a Western release as yet, but we can probably expect one to come courtesy of NIS America sometime next year, going on past patterns.
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