Since Tecmo Koei’s localization of Shin Rorona was news to me, I went and bought the JP version of the game a month before the English version came out. Welp. As far as the game goes, the story is largely the same as the original’s, and even some aspects that I expected them to change (like having to pay your friends for them to accompany you) remained. For a “review,” it’d be faster to just list the changes and new content added.
Despite being called Atelier Rorona Plus in English, the added content is much more than what they did with Totori’s and Meruru’s Vita ports.
The story hasn’t changed, so game progression still follows the assignment structure, where a new assignment is given every 3 months. Game length is 3 years, and there are 12 assignments in total. New Rorona also adopts and modifies Escha & Logy’s bingo system, where the player is given a bunch of optional tasks to fulfill, and fulfilling one marks a slot on the assignment bingo. The main assignment always fills up the center space, but you get to choose where you place the optional marks. Creating a line of 3 nets you rewards. This gives you much more to complete than just the main assignment like the original game, albeit it is optional and your rating is still determined by how well you did on the main assignment and not how many optional assignments completed, unlike in Escha & Logy.
Hom is now leveled up through the optional assignment bonuses and can go up to level 5 for both synthesis and adventuring levels. She won’t level up by herself, so if you miss the chance to level her up (since the optional assignments and rewards change with the main assignments), she won’t be able to reach max level.
They also made assignment 10 easier to pass, since the map in Night’s Domain where you find the coral (one of the required items) has multiple gathering points rather than just that single one that gives you coral.
Esty now has an ending for the main game. The major addition comes in the form of an additional playable year after the end of the 3 years of assignments. Now it feels like Escha & Logy where an extra year of free play opens up if you complete the final assignment, except the ending still happens after the initial 3 years, so the extra year is reserved for the bonus scenario and preparations for the next playthrough. That means you still need to meet the ending requirements during the 3 years of assignments.
The new scenario features Totori and Meruru, who have arrived from the future via an item future Astrid made. The main goal for the extra year of gameplay is to collect the materials and make the item to send them back to the future. Two new dungeons are added, as well as a few more floors to Orthogalaxen, the original game’s strongest dungeon. The difficulty jump is huge, as the regular enemies in the new dungeons took a long time to kill, despite the Orthogalaxen being a cakewalk before then. Adventurer Level caps also get extended to level 99, although the cap for the main 3 years is still 50.
The extra year is actually quite uneventful compared to the main 3, and you cannot activate character events or unlock wholesaling at stores you did not unlock during the main story. Everything from the main game is carried over into the bonus chapter. There’s a few new CGs and fun scenes, as well as a swimsuit event involving Rorona, Meruru, Totori, and Esty.
Battles & Playable Characters
New Rorona adds Esty and Astrid as playable characters for the main story. Esty plays exactly like her older counterpart in Meruru, meaning that she excels in speed and multi-hit attacks. Joins in the second year at level 25. I kept her and Sterk in my party for most of the game. Astrid joins at level 50 and costs 9980 cole to hire, so I never used her. Supposedly she is very powerful, but with great power comes a great monetary responsibility that I am too cheap to take. Totori and Meruru also become playable in the extra year.
The battle system is redone to be identical to the one found in Meruru, bringing in time-based items. Characters also get 3 skills rather than the initial 2, and Sterk gets his skillset from Meruru. Rorona gets a special attack, and everyone gets enhanced support actions like in Escha & Logy. The problem being that with only 3 characters rather than 6, chaining support attacks isn’t nearly as exciting. Both combat and alchemy feels slow and ghetto coming out of Escha & Logy, but are still fun once you get used to it again.
Of course, Terabombs got massively nerfed. In the original Rorona, you could win every fight by throwing a good Terabomb or two, even if it’s against the strongest bosses in the game. That no longer applies here, and you gotta fight all your boss battles the “legit” way.
The new dungeons added to the extra scenario are a huge jump in difficulty, and are special in that they have a boss guarding every floor. These bosses are tough, too, and can give you trouble even if you managed to beat the original game’s hardest boss. You don’t need to beat all of the to send Totori and Meruru back to the future, but you do need to beat enough of them to reach a map where you can gather a specific material. Waiting at the end of each of the two bonus dungeons are powerful bosses that I did not bother reaching, let alone try to fight. Ocean Kaiser is one of them.
The balancing is off in that the final story-related boss I had to fight was terribly weak compared to the things I had to fight to unlock it.
The major draw of Shin Rorona, other than the improved system, is the upgraded character models. The new models are now of the game quality as the ones found in Meruru. Although the models still aren’t as animated or detailed as the ones utilized in the Dusk series, they are a huge step up from the SD models in the original Rorona. Most of the story is told via the 2D still portraits.
In comparison, the dull environments haven’t gotten much better. Nebel Lake, in particular, looks nothing like what the beach CGs would have you believe. There are also costumes and accessories for Rorona, Totori, Meruru, Cordelia, Lionela, and Sterk.
It sure feels like a step back coming from Escha & Logy’s battles and synthesis, but Rorona still has some of the best scenes and interactions to this date as far as the PS3 Atelier games go. I was afraid that my preference for Rorona’s characters over those from the Dusk series was a result of nostalgia goggles and it being the game that seriously got me into the series, but witnessing all its scenes again confirms that I do, indeed, enjoy Arland’s vibrant cast much better on average. Hmm, maybe I should go replay Atelier Totori one of these days.
For anyone who hasn’t played the original Rorona, New Rorona is definitely recommended. It was nostalgic to go back to Rorona, though, and this time I went for the endings I did not see before (Iksel, Sterk). I did get the Astrid End in the original, though, so I saw all the original character events already. Speaking of Astrid, it sure is nice being reminded of her portrayal and development at the end of Atelier Rorona. Also good to see is Sterk and Rorona, before the former turning into a lonely pidgeon guy.
Performance-wise, it’s not too smooth on the Vita. There’s hiccups here and there that feel like they should be when the disc spins in the PS3 games, but are many times more awkward when they happen on the Vita where the soothing sound of the spinning disk does not exist.