Altelier Totori: Alchemist of Arland 2 Review: We’re Gonna Need More PiesPosted 3:11 pm on Monday, September 26th, 2011 by Kansta
It’s been a long while since I played any Japanese RPGs(JRPGs), these days they’ve been getting rap for being relics stuck in the past for their archaic designs and cookie cutter plots. Before I start, I should mention that I’ve never played any game in to the Altelier series. Altelier Totori: Alchemist of Arland 2 is the twelfth title in the series and a direct sequel to last year’s Altelier Rorona. Jumping into any series that has long been established often intimidates me as I’m afraid I won’t “get” it or “inside” jokes or even icons that many longstanding series have. (Final Fantasies have their moogles and Dragon Quests have their slimes). But I digress, does Totori fill in that niche nicely? Read on.
Totori takes place five years after the original and places you in control of the cutest protagonist ever, Totooria Helmont (or Totori as everyone calls her), an alchemist apprentice who lives in the small fishing village of Alanya. Apparently somewhere along her travels, Rorona picks up a Totori and tries to teach her Alchemy. Totori looks like a fragile little girl who’d make the perfect white mage in an RPG. Early in the game, her goal is to become an adventurer while figuring out the mystery behind her mother’s disappearance (who was known as one of the greatest adventurers to live). Thanks to support from her family and friends, Totori ventures off to the City of Arland to become an adventurer.
Totori’s premise is perhaps one of the most relaxing plots I’ve experience in a JRPG. No worlds to save, no singular enemy of humanity, and most of all, not a single house to raid treasure chests from. In fact, it almost seems to me that plot takes a backseat in Totori. Most of the story is progressed through static portraits and dialogue a la Visual Novel-style. Partying yourself with different characters will yield a variety of little skits throughout the game. Add to the fact these are all voiced, the characters interactions add a dynamic dose of clever humor. These often give me a chuckle as Totori’s naivety runs into misunderstandings one after another. I expected to have to chase some huge baddie or a shocking plot twist curve ball my way after getting my license. Often times, you will After you’ve received your license, you are essentially free to do anything until your license expires. That being said, you must still accumulate points to receive a renewal on your license. To do this, you must help Totori with quests, alchemy, and battles, all of which will earn her the points needed to gain an extension.
Totori is what I’ve come to call a “sandbox” JRPG. Totori keeps track of time starting from your first year in the game, measured in Days. Most of your time at the start will be spent between your hometown, Alanya, and the main city, Arland. From the get-go most of the traveling will be done on a board-like world map. Traveling to any destination will consume a number of days. So careful planning to maximize your routes will save you a lot of time. The game’s first deadline doesn’t occur for another 3 in-game years. Given you have 30 days each month, that’s a lot of days to burn through. Gathering resources throughout the various fields will consume a third of a day. That being said, traveling far away from your home base will easily shave off a month on a round trip. At times the games feel extremely mundane, doing the same quests and venturing to the same area multiple times. The problem being is you are not able to gain access to some areas until you rank up your adventurer licenses.
The Hallmark of Totori by far is its engrossing Alchemy. It is the lifeline that supports your quests, battles, and resources. At first it seems rather simple, you combine raw items into usable potions, ingots for weapons, and attack items for Totori. As with any other actions in the game, making these items will consume days. Basic items such as healing potions and simple bombs will only take a fraction of a day, whereas Meteors (Yes. You can synthesize a Meteor) could take two and a half days. Thankfully, the game includes a helper system to assist you with all these tasks. Later, you will be able to use Chims, cute, tiny little creatures that are basically your personal workers. You can assign them to synthesis items while you’re gone or send them out into the wild to gather resources. It certainly helps while you’re trying to tackle several synthesis and gathering quests at the same time.
Graphically, Totori isn’t going to win any awards. The character models are very detailed and all of them add some charm. Unfortunately, everything else is subpar. Empty fields and towns, and unappealing monsters as we have seen in many JRPG that have been released, but does give a feeling of nostalgia. There are some colorfully designed bosses, as these will be some of your more challenging fights. I just wish there were more than 3 environment to face them.
By far the weakest point of Totori is its rather simple battle system. Monsters are scattered on each map, and walking into them will trigger a battle. Hitting the Square button will have Totori swing out her wand. Hitting them with this will give Totori the initiative. Its turn-based system lacks much depth compared with the lacks of Final Fantasy X, or Persona. It also doesn’t help that initially Totori won’t be of much use in battles as her role is relegated to simply attacking with her weak staff. Once you gather some bomb materials, her damage dealing becomes one of the most important as her items can deal elemental damage. Totori also features an assist command where either of Totori’s party members can either jump in to attack during Totori’s attack or tank any incoming attacks directed at Totori herself. In all seriousness, it’s rather fun, but, it delves into simply grinding the same (or some different variation) monsters to complete the same quests several times.
As a person whose never played a Altelier game before, I was also honestly surprised at Totori’s humble plot. Totori holds much of the same conventions of a typical JRPG. After not playing one for so long, it was nice to venture back into selecting commands and spending hours hunting for items with the best traits and quality. Unfortunately, those same conventions hammers the game with repetitive quests and lack of variety in things to do. At the end of the day, Totori is another grindy JRPG, but with a spunky cast of amusing characters.
Hokan Lo is a contributing writer for Nerd Reactor and likes Pizza Butts and Mello Yellow. Meet the Nerd Reactor Team