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About Traditional Art / Hobbyist J. Michael GallenMale/United States Recent Activity
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This reviewer will admit that he’s not a big fan of the tactical subgenre of roleplaying games, although there are certainly entries in the subfamily that he definitely has enjoyed, even if they do have their flaws. He was certainly hesitant at first to attempt the Nintendo DS remake of the very first installment of Nintendo’s long-running Fire Emblem franchise, Shadow Dragon, and was right to take trepidation in the experience, as he didn’t actually beat the game during his first playthrough, only doing so when starting from scratch years later with the aid of a player’s guide. However, upon hearing that the pantheon’s first Nintendo 3DS entry, Fire Emblem Awakening, was making optional a certain characteristic he didn’t like in the series, he decided to give the franchise another shot, one well-deserved.

Combat naturally bears many similarities to that in prior Fire Emblem titles, with the player able to select from several difficulty settings upon commencing a new game, although a new feature is casual mode, in which characters that the player loses in battle revive after victory and are usable in other battles, contrary to the series standard of permanent character death that’s definitely a burden to compulsive gamers. This adjustable feature actually originated in the DS remake of Mystery of the Emblem, which remained in Japan. Of course, more masochistic players that especially prefer games prior to Awakening can keep the standard character demise system intact, accounting for an experience on par with series entries prior to this one released in North America.

The game is divided into a little over two dozen chapters, each with a battle necessary to advance the primary storyline. Before a battle, the player can select units to participate, with the number of allowed characters usually dependent upon map size. As in other games, the player and the enemy have alternate turn sessions in which they can move their units around and attack, the weapon triangle from prior entries playing a strategic part, and the player’s allies obtaining experience from successful actions aside from using consumable items on themselves. Leveling naturally results in increased stats for a character, units promotable upon reaching level ten, although it’s advisable only to promote a character when they reach the maximum level in their initial class of twenty, since they can only advance twenty levels in their upper class.

Another addition to the casual mode in Awakening is the ability to save in up to two files in the middle of battle, a feature bequeathed from more contemporary entries being the ability to bring up a “danger zone” that indicates spaces where the player’s characters will be vulnerable to enemy commands. The death of protagonist Chrom or the player’s avatar character results in a Game Over, the player consequentially needing to reload a previous save made in and out of battle. If characters need levels, the player can luckily fight enemies that appear on the overworld with or without the help of consumable Reeking Boxes, with the levels of enemies dependent upon the place the player uses said item. Overall, the battle system works excellently, appealing to both series enthusiasts and less experienced players, with the only real shortcoming being the potential to waste playtime on a losing battle.

Control is generally well above average, with a linear direction that always keeps the player moving in the right direction, story battles accessible from a line-and-dot-connected overworld, although one-stop shopping would have definitely been nice since places across the game’s world have different inventories with items buyable from money that the player acquires from selling various sizes of gold bullion acquired from defeated enemies in combat. Helping in particular to speed up battles is the ability to turn off animated sequences that play whenever a player’s character and an enemy engage in combat, not to mention the always-welcome skippable cutscenes. Overall, interaction is very much top-notch.

The same goes for the narrative, focusing on characters such as Chrom and a player-named avatar who join with several others to battle an ancient evil named Grima. There are some derivative elements such as amnesia and time-travel, although the game tells its tale well, with variations depending upon which characters survive (in classic mode), with Suikoden-esque epilogues for all characters after the main storyline. The translation is largely spotless, although there seems no reason why anyone would think it natural, for instance, for a character to say “defeat” right before they die. Even so, story has largely been a strong suit of the series, and Awakening definitely doesn’t disappoint in this area.

Another area that doesn’t let down is the game’s audio presentation, with plenty of epic tracks that always fit the mood, regardless of the situation, although there are rare silent periods. It also follows the Skies of Arcadia school of voice acting, with occasional voice clips accompanying the dialogue that are well above average and always fit the character, and ultimately, the title sounds superb.

The visuals look nice as well, with nice character designs, three-dimensional graphics during the appearance of said portraits, good battle animations, excellent cel-shaded cutscenes, and so forth. The only real blemish is that the character models during story scenes always seem to be standing on their toes, but otherwise, Awakening is hardly an eyesore.

Finally, the main storyline is fairly short, taking less than twenty hours to complete especially if the player speeds up battles thanks to reduced battle animations, with plenty lasting appeal, as mentioned, in the different difficulty settings.

Overall, even as somewhat who freely admits that he’s not a fan of the franchise, given his limited experience with its more classical titles, this reviewer found Fire Emblem: Awakening to be an excellent reintroduction to the series, given its countless positive elements such as the permadeath feature native to the franchise being optional for a change that ultimately makes the title more playable, superb control, an enjoyable narrative and translation, great music and voice acting, polished visuals, and plentiful replay value. There is very little going against the game aside from maybe the need to grind characters a few times, although it ultimately receives this critic’s seal of approval.

The Good:
+Adjustable difficulty appeals to players of all skills.
+Excellent control.
+Great story and translation.
+Superb music and voicework.
+Polished visuals.
+Adjustable difficulty creates plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Some grinding necessary.

The Bottom Line:
An excellent entry point into the series for newcomers.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 9.5/10
Japanese Developer Gust’s Atelier series commenced on the first Sony PlayStation in 1997, although the franchise wouldn’t see English release until the beginning of its Iris subseries, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana released in North America in 2005. Both entries of the sequel series Mana Khemia appeared like the Iris games on the PlayStation 2, and 2009 marked the start of a new subseries, Arland, its first entry Atelier Rorona, which got its American release the following year on the PlayStation 3. Four years later saw the release of an enhanced port of the game for the PlayStation Vita, Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland, which features some improvements over the original version and is generally solid.

In the game’s hub town, protagonist Rorona can synthesize various items from raw materials gathered on fields and in dungeons outside towns, or from enemies, with item creation both successful and failed netting her alchemist experience for occasional level-ups that allow her greater success in synthesizing higher-level items, most recipes acquired from books bought from shops. If the player wants to go to a field or dungeon for want of raw materials, Rorona can hire up to two adventurers for a fee to accompany her in battle, fights commenced when she contacts a visible foe, the player able to gain an initiative by striking an enemy with her staff.

Battles are turn-based, with characters and enemies taking turns depending upon their speed, with a noticeable improvement over the original Rorona being the inclusion of a turn order meter that shows who will go when. Rorona and her allies have a variety of commands from which to choose, such as attacking enemies with their equipped weapon (one character having an area effect to her standard attacks), use an MP-consuming skill (another change from the original version, where HP allowed characters to use spells), use a consumable item, or attempt escape from the enemy, which doesn’t always work.

Fights tend to be quick affairs, and reward all participating characters (even those that die in battle, who revive with one HP after fights) with experience for occasional level-ups (separate from Rorona’s alchemist level) and increased stats, alongside money and experience. One can also take jobs in town that involve turning in specific items or fighting a certain number of specific enemies for more monetary rewards, and if the player fulfills certain conditions during an assignment’s period, they can receive additional rewards. Aside from the mentioned potential of the escape option to fail, combat in the port is definitely a step above that in the original PlayStation 3 version, the game also nice to players when they die, in which case they return to town with some days consumed.

To fulfill specifics during assignment periods seems to be easier in Plus than in the original Rorona, with failure resulting in a Game Over, so players might wish to make additional saves at the beginning of each period in case of such a situation. The game’s linear structure definitely helps more than hurts, with crystal-clear direction on how to advance the main storyline and easy controls, although the Vita version does have a rare tendency to crash, which may result in a broken system if the player forgets to save upon returning to town. There’s also slight difficulty in viewing overall playing time, only visible within the saving interface, but interaction is by no means a total writeoff, even if it’s the weakest aspect of the game.

The narrative, fortunately, is much better, with a diverse cast of likeable characters and varied endings depending upon whether the player goes up and beyond the base requirements necessary to complete certain assignments. The translation is also largely devoid of errors other than an incorrect objective for a constant extra requirement during each period, not to mention a somewhat disappointing normal ending, but otherwise, the plot decently glues the game together, the game failing not to remember it.

Music has always been a strong point in Atelier games, and Rorona definitely doesn’t disappoint in that area, with plenty of diverse tracks, such as a remix of the shopping theme depending upon which shop in town the protagonist visits. The voice acting is also superb, the only real hangup being the occasional shouting of a skill’s name during the execution of MP-consuming abilities. Otherwise, a great-sounding game.

The graphics also bear some touching-up from the original version, with character models containing more realistic anatomy and a cel-shaded style, although as with the initial incarnation, Rorona makes the odd decision of fuzzing out the graphics during cutscenes to allow static character portraits to narrate the storyline, odd considering the three-dimensional visuals shine, but the game still prospers in the graphical department.

Finally, the game is shorter than average for a Japanese RPG, taking less than twenty hours to finish, with the choice upon completing the main storyline of undertaking an extra scenario or starting a New Game+ with the opportunity for a different ending.

Overall, Atelier Rorona Plus is an ideal example of an enhanced version of a game, given the improvements to its gameplay mechanisms alongside the preservation of many aspects that highlit the original version, such as the story, aurals, and visuals. The port does have a few aspects going against it such as the occasional crash and the disappointing standard ending, perhaps the possibility of locking oneself into a situation where the player can’t reload a previous save file if they fail to complete an assignment within the allotted intervention, but those that haven’t played the first version definitely owe it to themselves to play the Vita port.

The Good:
+Solid battle and alchemy systems.
+Nice story with polished localization and likeable characters.
+Great music and graphics.
+Multiple endings add replay value.

The Bad:
-May crash occasionally.
-Standard ending feels lacking.

The Bottom Line:
A nice remake.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 7/10
Story: 9/10
Localization: 9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Easy
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 9/10
Kitana Sketch #2 by jmg124
Kitana Sketch #2
First revised sketch of my art trade with :iconlilbighuman: of her feline character Kitana, due to a request for larger ears.
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  • Watching: Defiance - "Dead Air"
  • Playing: Atelier Rorona Plus, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
  • Eating: Gum

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jmg124
J. Michael Gallen
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
United States
I'm mostly a writer and RPG critic, but occasionally an artist.
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:icontrainman3985:
Trainman3985 Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
thank you for the watch it was vary kind of you
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
No problem, thanks for watching back.
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:icontrainman3985:
Trainman3985 Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2015  Hobbyist Artist
your welcome ^^
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:iconxtendedversion:
XtendedVersion Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2015   Digital Artist
Hey there watchers! by XtendedVersion  
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
No problem.
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:iconxtendedversion:
XtendedVersion Featured By Owner Jul 11, 2015   Digital Artist
=)
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:iconfurrhanblackwood:
FurrhanBlackwood Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015
Thanks for the watch!
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:iconjmg124:
jmg124 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome.
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:iconarnef:
arnef Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Added to my devWatch! Bunny Emoji-66 (Thank you arigatou) [V3] 
Kao Emoji-93 (Excitement) [V5] 
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:iconhukley:
Hukley Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Heyo :)

Thanks a lot for the watch! :D
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