Any time a substantial game with multiple playable protagonists comes up, there are, inevitably, a few questions which people want answers to.
Firstly: is the game worth playing through multiple times from the perspective of those multiple protagonists? Secondly, does the game make it convenient to do so? And thirdly, is the payoff for the effort, however much it might be, worth it?
Since Atelier Escha & Logy allows you the chance to play as either of its eponymous protagonists, all of these questions are, of course, relevant — so that’s what we’re going to be looking at today.
This isn’t the first time an Atelier game has had two playable protagonists. Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny followed the adventures of Viese and Felt, though in that case their respective stories were intertwined within a single playthrough and you could switch between them as the situation demanded. Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy, meanwhile, offered a similar setup to Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky in that there was a fixed sequence of events that occurred, but you were able to witness it from two different perspectives.
There’s a notable distinction between Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky and Mana Khemia 2: Fall of Alchemy in this regard, though. While Mana Khemia 2’s protagonists were enrolled in completely different classes in the Al-Revis Academy and as such spent the majority of their time with a completely different cast of characters as the school year unfolded, in Atelier Escha & Logy the two protagonists are together for pretty much the entire duration of the narrative. This, naturally, might make one assume that there’s less value in playing through Atelier Escha & Logy as both characters.
Thankfully, there are a few aspects of Atelier Escha & Logy that mean playing through for a second time with the other protagonist isn’t as much of a slog as it could be — and indeed, it’s a worthwhile experience with a solid payoff, particularly if you’ve become invested in these characters and their relationships with one another over the course of the narrative as a whole.
Firstly, your second playthrough follows what is, by now, the well-established Atelier formula for New Game Plus runs. Character levels and stats reset to their initial values, but you keep everything you had equipped at the end of your previous run, plus the amount of money you had on hand at the time. This means at this point that it is traditional to sell everything you’re not wearing at the end of a run through a modern Atelier game, because having a bulging wallet at the start of a new game is extremely useful for purchasing new recipes and ingredients in the early game.
The equipment makes the biggest difference, though. While characters do increase their stats marginally with each level up, it is the equipment that has the biggest effect on a character’s overall effectiveness, with the endgame gear you can craft without too much difficulty at the end of a first playthrough offering significant boosts to stats, even at level 1. Consequently, you can rip through combat encounters for the majority of the game fairly easily, even without making use of alchemy items.
There’s a perhaps unintentional side effect of this, though; remember the Assignments? There are quite a few over the course of the game that task you with using specific items, unleashing special attacks or using skills — and if you’re just flattening foes before they even have a chance to get a turn of their own in battle, it’s easy to accidentally miss these. It’s not the end of the world, in that none of the endings are dependent on completing a certain number of assignments, but ranking up through those assignments can unlock some useful upgrades through the “Research” mechanics in the game.
There’s also an interesting additional wrinkle in the mix with Atelier Escha & Logy compared to other modern Atelier games. You may recall that rather than carrying consumable items in the Basket as in, say, the Arland games, both Escha and Logy instead equip “Adventure Items” into their own inventories that expand over the course of the game. This consumable equipment is one of the things that doesn’t carry over into a New Game Plus run — at least not immediately.
Instead, partway through the game you’ll get a Research topic that allows you to recover all the items you had equipped at the end of your last run. This means that if in your first run you’d managed to craft good-quality versions of Escha and Logy’s ultimate attack items — Knowledge Book and Taurent Blitz respectively — as well as powerful healing items like the Elixir, you can get hold of these much earlier than you would under normal circumstances, providing the opportunity to take down some powerful bosses well before you’d normally be expected to.
All this means that, assuming you prepared appropriately in your first playthrough, you’ll breeze through that second playthrough, allowing you to focus on things like meeting the specific requirements to unlock various character events, gathering ingredients and levelling up your characters as much as possible. And given that the game’s fourth and final year gives you way more time than you need to actually beat the main story of the game, most players will likely be extremely well prepared by the time they start their second run.
To provide something of a sense of variety to your second run through the game, both Escha and Logy have different music for when they are in the atelier working on things, and when they are in battle out in the field. In the Plus and DX releases of the game, you can further customise the experience and make your second playthrough feel even more distinct by swapping out the music for the atelier, battles, boss fights and wandering around the town, as well as dressing Escha, Logy and several other playable characters in a variety of costumes you unlocked over the course of your first playthrough.
You can actually customise the music right from the outset in both the Plus and DX releases, but it somehow feels a little “wrong” to mess with this side of things before you’ve seen things through once. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, if you fancy your entire second playthrough to be a “swimsuit run” accompanied by music from Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, you can make that happen.
From a narrative perspective, the differences between playthroughs are more subtle, but still apparent. Escha and Logy came together from very different backgrounds, and as such have a tendency to observe situations that are unfolding with markedly different reactions. Depending on who you’re playing as, you’ll get to “hear” your playable protagonist’s thoughts when various events occur; it’s only by playing as both that you’ll get a full picture of what’s going on.
This is played with in more detail by the various character-specific events that unfold with the game’s party members and other incidental characters around the town. Probably the best example of this comes with the local auditor-turned-fencer Micie, who towards the end of the game appears to be somewhat lovestruck.
When playing as Escha, Micie never reveals who he is in love with, leaving Escha to figure out some ways to advise him without being able to offer any really specific information that is tailored to the object of his affections. Play as Logy, meanwhile, and Micie admits who it is that he’s had his eye on, placing Logy in a slightly awkward position of knowing something that no-one else does and not really having a clue how he is supposed to help his friend out.
Only by playing both characters’ scenarios do you see the full situation unfold — though it is, of course, possible to infer a few things or at least make some educated guesses from seeing just one.
Both Escha and Logy have their own personal reasons for following through the overall main narrative’s quest to its conclusion, too. Escha’s priority is in helping everyone — including the mysterious Flameu, who appears to have lost hope in humanity.
Logy, meanwhile, feels he has found something of a kindred spirit in Flameu; like him, she became disillusioned with the people around her and believed she’d be better off working alone with no-one to support her. By the time he meets Flameu, though, Logy has come to understand the value of having people around you who love and support you — and now recognises that Flameu’s lack of this is what has driven her to desperation.
One interesting aspect of Atelier Escha & Logy is that the definition of “love and support” can vary according to precisely how you’ve played the game. At various important junctures in the narrative, both Escha and Logy have their own unique scenes where they’re interacting with the other protagonist, and each of these allows you the opportunity to conclude them in a manner that leads towards either friendship or romance.
In this way, if you feel the narrative “works” better with Escha and Logy eschewing romance in favour of a close working relationship of mutual trust, you can play it that way; conversely, if you see how adorable the pair of them are together and have been willing them to get together pretty much from the very outset of the game, you can make that happen, too. Your choices in this regard can change the context of the events towards the finale quite a bit, without changing much of the actual content.
This goes for the main “payoff” of doing two playthroughs, too: the opportunity to see the game’s “True” ending, in which despite being separated as they are in the other possible endings, Escha and Logy are eventually reunited to work together once more. Depending on if you steered them in the direction of a strong professional relationship or a romantic entanglement with one another over the course of the game, their reaction to getting back together again can have quite a different feel to it, despite unfolding in the exact same way.
It’s also worth noting that both Escha and Logy have a unique ending that only they can access. In Escha’s case, you need to see all the events of the core female characters from the original PS3 release; in Logy’s case, you need to do the same for the boys. Having met this condition, you then have the opportunity to see a special “girls'” or “boys'” ending.
Some of the character-specific endings also vary somewhat according to your playable protagonist, too, making it worthwhile to see them from both perspectives. And the nice thing is that like the later Arland games, you can meet the conditions for multiple endings on a single save file, then just pick which ending you would like to see when the game’s final day rolls around.
This means that you’ll only ever need two full playthroughs to see everything Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky has to offer — and that the dark days of having to deliberately gimp your playthrough to get certain endings in the original release of Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland are thankfully naught but a distant memory!
All in all, while two playthroughs of Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky are not quite as distinct from one another as Mana Khemia 2’s exemplary demonstration of how to do New Game Plus right, it’s still a worthwhile journey to take.
The strong characterisation and narrative of the game means that you’ll be well and truly invested in the story of Colseit’s resident alchemists by the time you complete your first playthrough — and the payoff provided by the True ending definitely makes it all worthwhile, particularly if you’ve been rooting for Escha and Logy for all the time you’ve been playing.
Gust would go on to do the “dual protagonist” thing again with Atelier Escha & Logy’s direct follow-up, Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea. And so we’ll come to that very soon!
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