Progressively better than the last chapters - I love the storyline, relaxing music, item-gathering and [I view as pure comedy] pointless Japanese dialog. The characters are always lavishly dressed - which leads me to believe this game must be a launchpad for digital fashion design.
I will say as I do in all my Atelier game reviews, that this is not a typical game, and many will put it down because they think it's supposed to be "intense" or be overly challenging. I feel thats the whole point - it's not! No matter what your play style, you will not lose lives. The battles and missions which you can do any time throughout the timeline will give you points to level up. This allows you to see greater areas of map to explore and gather materials used in the alchemy, and further the storyline.
Time Requirements: actually, it seems like there are zero time restraints, but you are expected to find and reach certain goals in the games ie: "3 years", but it's almost a non-point. Winning in this game means finding Ayesha's sister, Neo, which almost has nothing to do with the gameplay. nor does any action you do in game come close to this (I find that hilarious!)
Characters: This chapter brings in a whole new combo of characters, and I feel the new alchemy expert, Ayesha is way less annoying and has a wonderful voice, attitude and personality (wheras in previous chapter, Meruru, was quite annoying with her shrilling, whiny voice.)
Storyline: This storyline is much more engaging, and takes you deeper into alchemy it's mysteries. Interaction with characters is funny and entertaining too.
Alchemy and gameplay: As you might expect, the new interface and alchemy goals are refined and in top form. Finding and using the alchemy ingredients to make things used in the game are in top-form as well. Making explosive weapons to battle the various enemies is just one of the many cool things that make this game fun to play.
Overall, Great game!!!
I rented this game because I had heard really good things about the atelier series. I found quickly that this game is full of nothing but annoying characters with no development, a great plot drive that wasn't nearly driven enough. and a combat system that spelled MEH to a T. Even the alchemy system was a total bore. I got about 8 hours into this game and still found myself just going from map point to map point hoping for the game to take SOME serious direction.
As a person who watches a lot of anime (part of the reason i wanted to play this) I hated the characters. Which means a lot. I have seen these character archetypes done a million times, and ive seen them done a million times better. All the characters were bland, annoying and had zero to no relationships.
The combat was exactly as such as well. Bland and boring. Hit them with your staff or throw a bomb or two. ugh!
If you're looking for an anime style game with great graphics and crummy characters and combat system this is your game, as the graphics are the ONLY redeeming quality. and even then it isn't NEARLY redeeming enough to make this game even remotely playable.