I've always had a thing for games with item creation systems. Be it simply boosting current equipment to creating things from scratch, it interests me to create things from the junk you usually get through a game. Loot is always fun to get but doing nothing with the loot is lazy. Luckily, this series exists for this reason.
Atelier Ayesha is a game about two things, time and resource management. See the premise is that the player is an apothecary that dabbles in alchemy, Ayesha. Ayesha has lost her sister to some mysterious force and now she is living a simple life. While picking herbs in her normal spot for picking herbs, her adventure of self-discovery, becoming an alchemist, and saving her sister begins.
The story for the most part is pretty straight forward. There are not really any huge twists and it is pretty easy to follow. The part that shines is all the character interactions. Be it from the tomboyish mercenary with a pickaxe to the fledgling witch, each character grows through the story and you start to appreciate them for their quirks.
The gameplay is broken down between making things in the workshop to help you in battle or move the story forward and going out in the field to gather materials or fight monsters. This is where managing what you are doing comes into play. See, there is a time limit to how long the player has before the story ends. It is never rushed like previous games in the series but it does drive the flow of the game.
Alchemy is the central way by which items are created. These items are used for combat, story progression, or for cash. It is easy to spend months in the workshop trying to make the best item possible or just spamming bread. The only downside is that some of the recipes open too soon for the items that are available and it gets confusing as to what to make. The menus work well and I never got confused as to how the item I was about to make would turn out.
Combat is simple but there is more strategy involved in this entry. Positioning the party is an important part of each battle and some monsters will destroy the player if they did not plan accordingly. The game does progressively get harder at times and there are lots of times where a boss will be too hard to defeat. Luckily, these are few and often easy to pass with newer equipment or better items.
The shining piece from this game that still sticks with me is the music. It is full of memorable tracks and each area has a theme. Wandering around the land and listening to these tracks makes for a great experience.
For the start of a new saga, Atelier Ayesha is a great start. The developers have learned from the Arland games and realized that the time management in those games was far to frustrating at the pace that was set. The pace in this game is much easier and makes for a much better experience. Having said all this, I would recommend this for anybody that is looking for a simple RPG to play. It is relaxing and hardly ever frustrating. Sure some of the super bosses are difficult but the main story is a fun journey through a young woman's coming of age story. If you want to relax for 40+ hours, just sit back and enjoy the ride. Special props go out to Linca and Marion as the two best characters in the game but you only find out more about them the more you play. So go play it.