Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland

I loved this game!

Someone said it was what inspired Recettear, and I can totally see that. The characters are charming, the crafting is fun and the seemingly endless amount of items to collect and combine made my little internal packrat playing in a sandbox so happy. It’s definitely a niche game, but if it’s your niche by god you should check it out.

Check out the costuming!

CordeliaA1 EstyAstrid

Everyone is adorable and non-sexualized and quaint! No one wears armor — Iksel fights in his chef’s outfit — so these are totally in line with the male characters’. This kind of falls under what I call the “Harvest Moon Rule” for me, where if the game is going for a certain old-timey ascetic and the men are in equally formal clothing I don’t mind the women being by and large in dresses.

I actually also like Rorona’s outfit, as much as the feminist in me wishes she had tights on. I just think it’s really adorable. I actually bought a gorgeous figure of her because I thought it was so cute.

The plot of the game is that Rorona’s badass mentor, Astrid (the third person above), has pissed off the townsfolk by being aloof and combative, and now Rorona must prove to the kingdom that she can make the alchemy shop useful again or it will be shut down. You do this by completing specific requests for the crown and then also for the townsfolk. Along the way you meet lots of NPCs you can befriend and bring to fight with you.

Like Recettear, you run the shop by going out and collecting raw materials from monsters. You then return to synthesize items to fulfill requests. My only complaint is that I wish the game had been a bit more sandboxy, as I would have loved a post-game where you could just limitless explore and craft. There’s a New Game +, but it doesn’t carry anything except equipment and money over, so it doesn’t help exlporation or anything.

Unlike the Iris series, the focus of this game is actually on the alchemy! Most of what you’ll be doing is gathering and crafting. No convoluted plot, no stupid jRPG stock party characters, just good old shop stuff.

The characters were wonderful as well. The only alchemists were female as promised instead of some stupid better-than-even-the-best-woman dude, and I really liked Rorona. I found her endearing. Often the kind-of airhead character is annoying because they’re actually incompetent, but with Rorona it works because she actually is extremely skilled and capable, just kind of naive and happy-go-lucky. I also liked Sterk a lot, but I’m a sucker for the “serious-but-easily-flustered” male character. I liked Cordelia and her attitude. I liked Astrid and the zero fucks she gave.

The game, unlike the Iris games, really felt like it was aimed at women to me. It was full of positive female relationships, cutesy romance, great costuming, and notably lacked some of the more toxic jRPG stock characters. There was no ridiculous fanservice. In fact, the only really questionable thing I remember is the men leering at Tiffani, but it’s such a minor footnote that it didn’t seem like a for-men thing, just a boys-will-be-boys thing where the writers didn’t consider the sexism of it, if that makes sense? You also don’t usually see characters like Astrid painted in a non-negative light in games for males.

So, yeah, I loved this game. So much so that I keep coming in and editing more and more things I liked into the draft of this post.

Oh! Also — I played the Plus version, which I would rec because it apparently fixes a lot of the timing issues, flag-trip issues, and in general makes the game less frustrating, from what I read. Definitely go for that one.

I immediately moved on to the next game after I finished because the DLC was next and it’s a epilogue to the third game, but I really want to go back and do the NG+ and get all the endings. The series is batting .333 right now; hopefully it starts to trend upward from here.


  1. illhousen says:
    “The series is batting .333 right now”

    I see the game has Invisible Clergy’s blessing. I may check it out, Recettear was fun.

    1. Y says:
      Hey, illhousen, would you recommend Unknown Armies to someone who has basically no experience with trpgs?
      1. illhousen says:
        Hm. Well, it’s not the worst starting point, but there is a couple of points that can be tricky for beginners:

        – The system is based on failure. In other games, the general assumption is that the PCs are going to succeed in their specialization most of the time, unless they take on something far beyond them. In UA, failure is the norm, success is remarkable. Frankly, I don’t like it much, I think it’s one of those situations where high concept clashes with fun.

        – Rules are deceptively simple, but actually there is enough complexity between different types of situations (stressful, not stressful, automatic) and various peculiarities (flipping results, cherries on doubles) that it may be hard to remember it all at once. Well, it’s still more simple than D&D and such, it’s just not as easy as it looks at first.

        – Characters are supposed to change as they accumulate madness marks, which can be hard for beginners and even experienced players.

        – Handling adepts in play can be hard as well. They’re built on the idea you can either work directly towards the goals of an adventure, or do your own thing, which hopefully would give you power. Or get you in trouble, in some cases. Carelessness with them can mean complete derailment of the game because your urbanomancer went off to bomb a highway and got arrested, your enthropomancer and another character killed themselves via Russian roulette in an attempt to get major charge and your narco-alchemist is all out of drugs and wants to spend a few days at least making new ones.

        If you want to try it, my suggestion would be doing the Jailbreak scenario from Oneshots first. It’s a quick and easy module with pre-made characters and simple situation: a bunch of criminals and a hostage cop invade a home of a mechanomancer. See if the system agrees with you.

        Then do a short scenario with unpowered characters and/or avatars (they’re generally massively easier to handle, at least at low end of power) and try to inflict a few points of madness. See how players handle it and how they generally fit into UA mood and themes.

        1. Y says:
          Hmm. Okay then, I might play something else with a slightly lighter tone first then and come back to this at some point in the future. Thank you.
  2. Roarke says:
    See, that third picture up there basically sums up why I don’t think artists need to draw women half-naked to appease the audience. That outfit/hair is pushing so many of my buttons without just being blatantly, overtly sexual.
  3. Gust says:
    Ooh, they have it for Vita! For once, I’m not regretting buying the thing.
    1. actonthat says:
      I was considering getting it and the recent “hahaha fuck the vita” PR from Sony came just in time.
  4. Childish says:
    So, just curious. Far as character dress is concerned, your preference is tights? Anything besides that not counting the “Harvest Moon Rule?” It’s interesting to me as I’m coming from the community of anime MMOs and to be honest have very little experience with feminism. As for me, I’ve always prefered my female characters in slimmer dresses such as a kimono, or if by some miracle available, something with loose fitting pants.

    Also, are games like this common on PS systems? I’ve mostly stuck to Nintendo handhelds, but if this is normal, good grief I’ve been missing out.

    1. actonthat says:

      Well, it’s hard to deal in absolutes. In this instance, I think tights/leggings would be a good solution, because they preserve the intent and aesthetic of the design while removing the problem of sexualization (ie, her flashing everyone because she has no bottom on and her dress is so short).

      You can have women in dresses who aren’t objectified (like the blonde girl above), as well as women in pants who are.(helloooo Bayonetta). The key part of female costuming, for me, is the question of whether the outfit serves the story and the setting, or serves the players. There are other aspects, of course, but I think this is key because once the outfit is more in the interest of player titillation that story advancement, the fourth wall has been broken, and something important has been lost. Whether congruity with the work as a whole comes in the form of tights or sweatpants is contextual.

      What I personally prefer is a whole different story. I’m like a particularly stupid magpie; I just enjoy collecting lots of pretty things.

      The most similar games to this I can think of are PC (Recettear) and DS (Rune Factory). I wouldn’t get a PS Vita, but there is some good stuff out there that’s PSP-exclusive (Riviera, for instance), so a used one of those might be worth it.

      1. Childish says:
        Thanks for the reply. For some reason I thought you were talking about the character on the top right, but after looking at the game’s site and rereading your post I realized my mistake. That makes a whole lot more sense really…

        It’s rather funny. I came here because I’m trying to get into pokemon fanfiction, and was kind of looking for anything related to Farla. Anyways, hopefully it’s alright just having an account to post occasionally since a lot of people here seem pretty interesting.

        1. actonthat says:
          Of course! We have a unique kind of fun here in our little corner of the internet. I usually try to answer comments, though I’m not always great at it. Right now Farla is doing Let’s Reads of Unwholly and the Dresden Files, while I’m working on Fate/ Stay Night and, to a lesser degree, Fault in Our Stars. I believe January is Pokemon Fanfic Reviewing Month. ^^;
  5. Doortothe says:
    I really liked how Unskippable described this game’s plot as Rorona trying to prevent the alchemy shop from being closed due to incompetency. It’s also been described as the best game about property foreclosure they’ve ever played.

    I highly recommend checking out Unskippable’s videos on the Atelier series for a quick giggle. I think you’ll particularly enjoy them calling out Totori on her less than polite behavior.

    Also dear lord the freaking names this series’ main characters have. Holy crap, like how the heck do they come up with these. Which is your favorite and find the silly/dumb?

    1. actonthat says:

      I kind of love the names. It’s Eastern European language filtered through Japanese by someone who doesn’t have any familiarity with Germanic languages, and it’s completely wonderful in this super kitschy way. I think Meruru’s is the most over-the-top, but for pure pseudo-German wtfery, ‘Sterkenberg Cranach’ is probs the best.

      1. Doortothe says:
        Ah that makes sense. Makes more sense than Rorolina being named by Scooby Doo, but I find that headcanon more fun.

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