|Pub: Tecmo Koei|
|Release: March 5, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco|
Graphically, the game is more subdued than the Arland series, as is appropriate for a land in decline. It still features plenty of diverse landscapes, some of which are quite unearthly and magical. The stars of the show, though, are the character and monster models. They’re creative and interesting, and their in-game execution is excellent. Gust's graphical designers have become true experts at cel shading, creating some of the most lushly detailed models out there. The game could use a few more monster models, as there's a bit too much palette-swapping going on, but what it has looks amazing.
While it can still be somewhat annoyingly repetitive, the music in Atelier Ayesha is similarly a bit more subdued than that of the other recent Atelier games. Some of the pieces are quite lovely, especially those with a bit of a Western flair that is reminiscent of the music in the Wild Arms series. Other pieces are a bit wacky for some tastes, but in general the music has improved.
One of the more controversial topics surrounding Ayesha's release is that unlike its immediate predecessors, this game does not include the option to replace the English voice track with the original Japanese one. The lack of Japanese voices would be less of a problem if Ayesha's English voice performance were more bearable. The rest of the game's English voices range from acceptable to good, but Ayesha's sounds like somebody attempting to make her voice unnaturally high-pitched and childish (particularly odd because Ayesha is supposed to be seventeen at the beginning of the game). Whether this is a problem with the vocal direction or the voice actor's performance is unknown. All that can be said is that it's an obnoxiously grating voice that will cause many players to skip through Ayesha's dialogue as quickly as possible.
Although some of the game's gendered character portrayals don't quite mesh with our expectations here in the West (Ayesha's knock-kneed gait is borderline offensive, and the way she's treated by her male mentor is problematic), the Atelier series is one of the few game series anywhere that focuses so strongly on female characters. Ayesha is both traditionally feminine and a genuine hero. She's surrounded by a diverse cast of other women with strongly stated dreams and goals of their own. It's really too bad that these games aren't marketed or known more widely in North America, because a lot of young women would probably enjoy them quite a bit.
Atelier Ayesha is a solid, addictive game that shows nice strides forward in storytelling by the Atelier series. It has some minor issues in terms of quest direction and combat frequency, but makes up for that with a strong story, sympathetic characters, and solid gameplay systems. It's a great game for anybody who enjoys JRPGs and enjoys the item creation and time management features that are a hallmark of the series. However, I'd particularly like to see more young women try out the Atelier series with this entry, especially with the stronger storytelling it displays. They just might find themselves hooked on alchemy.
Date: March 8, 2013