After releasing the Arland DX trilogy a little over a year ago, Koei Tecmo has just unleashed the Dusk DX trilogy to tide fans over until the next game arrives. For starters, let's take a look at Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX and see how it holds up.
The Alchemist of Dusk stars the delightful homebody Ayesha who lives a solitary life making medicine in her faraway workshop. She used to live and work there with her sister Nio but she apparently perished on a trip to gather materials. Upon learning that she may have a chance to bring Nio back, Ayesha heads out on a journey to learn more about alchemy and hopefully revive her dear little sister. Along the way, she'll meet a handful of delightful chums such as the tomboy prospector Regina, the lonely guardian Linca, the mischievous little witch Wilbell, the mysterious alchemist Keithgriff, the upbeat and nurturing Ernie, the strapping yet sensitive baker Fred, the attentive barkeep Kyle, the charming nomad Nanaca, the goofy salt saleswoman Tanya, and the bagpipe-playing Ranun. The cast is one of my favourites in the entire franchise and the story that ties them all together is absolutely lovely.
The gameplay systems of Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk come together to form an engaging adventure that's hard to put down. For starters, you'll constantly have a huge list of goals, tasks, and deliveries to complete and as you do, you'll unlock memories that you can write about in your Memory Diary by spending Memory Points which are earned through completing side-quests, finding flyers, and talking to people. I'm fascinated with the concept of collecting memories as it makes the journey feel tangible and much more immersive, especially considering the memories range from heartfelt to cute moments like when you help Nanaca's constipated cow calf.
As with the other games in the series, Atelier Ayesha's core gameplay revolves around synthesizing items, exploring locales, and fighting monsters. One aspect that I love is how open everything is. More specifically, locations open up frequently and you can purchase rare materials almost right away which basically puts progression in your hands. Anyway, the alchemy system is one of the simplest as you can just select ingredients and go for it. However, those looking for more depth can try and optimize effects and properties via special commands while placing ingredients in the order that they find works best. Meanwhile, the battle system is very fun as your party may be scattered about the battlefield which allows them to perform back attacks as well as help each other with follow-up attacks and defensive stances whenever characters are close together. It's all extremely rewarding stuff that'll keep you hooked.
Atelier Ayesha DX is a fantastic RPG that I highly recommend but it does have its downsides. First, I find the graphics in this DX version to be rather disappointing. Not only were the visuals much better in Atelier Rorona DX, I feel like certain aspects are a bit of a step down from the original Atelier Ayesha. The main issue that stands out is characters' mouths which they tried to make look livelier by animating them but it only makes folks' eyes appear deader as they remain cartoonish. It's weird and distracting. Gameplay-wise, although the pacing and everything works together very well, many of the later objectives merely involve running between waypoints which becomes tedious very quickly. I wish these portions were merely cutscenes instead of forcing you to travel to and from locales.
If you played the original or Plus versions, Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX is the same wonderful experience except with all of the DLC costumes and a couple of mechanics that help streamline the gameplay. Namely, you can run while exploring and you can also speed up battles. Although these are great inclusions, I don't really see the point in speeding up the battles since they play out rather quickly anyway but I do appreciate being able to run around towns and dungeons. Also, if you own the original or the Plus version then there really isn't much here to make double or triple dipping worth it unless you're a hardcore fan, of course.
Atelier Ayesha remains one of the best games in the long-running series and this DX version is a great excuse to play it if you haven't already. It's such a wonderful adventure that Ayesha's memories will welcomely become yours as well.
- + Same incredible game with nifty new features to streamline the adventure
- + Lovely story and cast of characters
- + Great battle and alchemy systems
- - Graphics are underwhelming and characters have weird-looking mouths
- - Many later quests are quite tedious
- - Not much improved over the Plus version