I don’t have much of a history with the Atelier series, I came into it at Atelier Sophie and proceeded to Atelier Firis and now the final game in the current “Mysterious” trilogy, Atelier Lydie & Suelle. There has been a few changes in the gameplay mechanics as well as a major new feature which was introduced in Atelier Firis, the open world, being removed from the latest adventure from Gust. But, not everything is bad – they have removed the strict time limit within the game which had been re-introduced in Atelier Firis, whilst some quests still have some sort of time-dependency in order to complete them.
The question is, has Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings made the right choices in terms of the changes, or has it become stale and predictable?
Our protagonists this time around are the namesakes of the game, Lydie and Suelle (Sue), who are both twins and rookie alchemists. They live at home with their father, as their mother passed away(?) a while before the game begins; however, their father is a bit dopey and tends to lock himself away in the basement whilst spending all of the household’s money on crazy invention ideas and pointless items. At one point he even spends money on creating a tree that grows money! Surprisingly, the tree actually grows, but it only produces 3,000 (currency) a day – an amount which would be great if it didn’t cost 100,000 worth of melted down currency a day in order to feed it…
One day, whilst their father isn’t in, the twins decide to take a look in the basement and see just what their father has been doing down there, day after day. All they find down there is a mysterious painting on the wall. As they step closer to take a look, they are instantly drawn in (quite literally) by some unknown force. After encountering a few enemies (and a brief tutorial to the combat), the girls make it out and we see something over in the corner of the painting as they exit. Their father returns and sends them on an errand whilst he denies all evidence of them going into the painting.
The girls complete their errand and then, after a tour of a few places in town, they discover that there is a new ranking system coming into place for all ateliers to participate in. In order to become graded, they must create and synthesise various items, fend off beasts, explore paintings, and more. The girls aren’t the only ones being graded either, there are three ateliers in town with one belonging to their teacher, one is their childhood friend (and rival), and the final one is a well-known atelier from a previous game. Each atelier helps and gives them the motivation to carry on as they work through all eight ranks towards the coveted S-rank.
In terms of mechanics, you have your standard JRPG here which anyone who has played an Atelier game before will be very accustomed to. There are four main aspects to the gameplay; Quests, Synthesis, Exploration, and Combat. I expect most of you will know them inside out, but I’ll explain them all below for new-comers. On top of these, you are also given the goal to not only pass the atelier tests by completing the tasks given to you, but you must also raise the reputation of your atelier with the townsfolk by completing certain criteria within your journal.
These were fun to do and aren’t always things to do with the townsfolk directly – some will have to defeat certain enemies or buy/sell set amounts of things, whilst others may have you gathering items and completing a certain number of quests. It adds more things for you to work through if you’re unsure of what to do next.
The four main aspects:
These come in two styles – by talking to NPCs and obtaining them at the job board. The latter is the easiest to explain, you have access to the notice board early on and you can go there and accept up to five quests at a time – these range from killing X amount of Y enemies and collecting X amount of Y materials. These have time limits so you must be wary of them as once the time has gone, so does the request. Atelier Lydie & Suelle warns you as you move to various locations of how much time will pass, so if you are undergoing these then it’s best to get a few, complete them, then report them to the quest lady who stands at the notice board for your reward.
The quests you get off the NPCs are usually more thought-out and come with mini interactions between your character and the NPC followed by a new recipe for you to synthesise or a new type of item to seek out. For example, at one point the lady in the church drops a chalice and breaks it (although I’m not sure how as they are usually made of metal) and you are tasked with making a new one, so you receive the recipe to use. You won’t get the materials until you unlock the next painting to jump into, upon which you can create the item and give it back to them for yet another fun cutscene.
These types of quests don’t appear to have any time limit on them either, unlike the ones from the notice board.
Again, those familiar with Atelier games will know what this is all about, although there are a few small changes. Before you begin to synthesise one of the recipes you have found/thought up, you can add a catalyst – this allows you to add more final effects to the item you are creating. Secondly, you place the ingredients on the board as you try and match the colours presented and also overlap all of the symbols (if you used a catalyst). The difference here is, in previous games if you overlapped even one square of red with green (for example) then the whole of the red ingredient would vanish – in this one it doesn’t, the remaining parts will remain red. Finally, you can now use Enhancing Agents as well, these are ingredients that will turn all adjacent squares into a certain colour upon placing them down. These are great if you need more of one colour to get a certain bonus but all the ingredients are other colours.
If none of the above makes sense, I’m guessing you are new to the series? You obtain new recipes by talking to people, fighting creatures, picking up items and even just going to various locations. Your recipe book has hints on how to unlock each one, so if you get stuck just follow what it says to do. It’s then a case of using your cauldron to perform the above in a simple Tetris/fit all the blocks in a certain space setting. Each ingredient you use has various ‘traits’, a certain block colour, a block shape/size, and a quality level. As you experiment you can add traits like ‘one more use’ or ‘extra power’ to things like bombs or heath treats. It can basically be as in-depth or simple as you want it to be.
This is exactly what it says, the exploration aspect of Atelier Lydie & Suelle is to go out and explore your environments for new recipe idea, ingredients and fights. When you start the game you will only have access to a few real-world places such as the Forest and the Spring-green Odahlia, but later on, you will gain access to more locations, some with multiple locations within each point, plus the mysterious paintings. The thing I like is that on the map screen you can press the touch-pad and it will tell you which ingredients and creatures you have encountered there, so at a glance you can see where you can get something you are looking for. This is very helpful later on when you run out of something and can’t remember where you got it!
The paintings are gorgeous, with their enhanced cel-shaded effect with thick outlines as if you are actually in a painting, bright and bold colours and even more fantastical beasts than you see in the real world – I really had a great time working my way through them, even though they are all based on common elements such as fire and ice. Okay, so some people aren’t happy because the open-world aspect of Atelier Firis is gone, they have gone back to smaller locations on a map as we saw in Atelier Sophie, but I personally don’t mind it as I’m a bit open-worlded out at the moment. Dynasty Warriors 9 and Toukiden 2 both went open world as well and they are great games but I don’t think the open world added much to them if I’m being honest.
I know Firis was great once you had the ability to free-roam the whole map, but I guess it’s personal preference if that affects your thoughts on the game or not.
Finally, we get to the combat, something you will be doing about 1/3 of your time whilst playing the game. Again, the combat is very similar to previous games with you having three main team members on the front-line attacking and this time you have three people not fighting but offering support to each individual front-line member. So, if you have characters X, Y, and Z on the front and put characters A and B with X and Z then during the battle there are certain combos X can do with A and Z can do with B. It’s a decent idea as it means everyone gets to participate even though only three people are actually fighting. The combat is also a turn-based mechanic, at the side of the screen you see a bar with faces on it – as a character hits the top, it’s their turn – you pick an action and it happens immediately. Then the next one shoots up and it’s their turn, be it friend or foe. I like turn-based mechanics as it lets you think about what’s going on and plan your next attacks without any time limits.
In terms of levelling up – this is achieved by gaining experience in battles and you can also increase your stats by equipping new weapons and armour you can buy, create or modify in the town. You also unlock new skills/spells as you level up which will really help you out as you move forward – will you rely on Sue with her double pistols or maybe the brute strength of Mathias’ sword? Lydie isn’t very good at fighting though as she is better at spells and support.
The above basically covers the game in its entirety. You will be progressing through the ranks from G to S for your atelier with the help of friends old and new as you uncover new recipes, fend off interesting and imaginative creatures, helping out the town with all their requests, and uncovering the secret to something I won’t mention here.
Graphically, Atelier Lydie & Suelle is screaming “JRPG” at you no matter where you look! The art style, the menus, the music, and even the characters – they are all your customary anime-style designs as well as your standard Gust designs as you can clearly guess it was developed by Gust even if you didn’t know what game it was! From the cute like Puni creatures (a jelly/blob type creature) to the short-skirt girls, it’s your typical Japanese game – which is great if that’s your thing (which in my case it is). The bright colours and interesting aesthetic also adds to the charm and makes the game a joy to play.
One thing to be aware of, as usual, the audio is all in Japanese with English subtitles – not an issue for me but I know some people don’t like that.
There have been a few steps backwards in terms of the open world, but I personally feel the game has made up for this with the best story out of the three games (Sophie, Firis and Lydie & Suelle) and the tweaks here and there to the other mechanics. Fans of the series will enjoy the game and it’s also very accessible for newcomers as, even though you meet characters from the other games in the series, the game is fully self-contained. One thing which was a bit disappointing is that the Vita version, which is out in Japan, never made it to the West – so if you want a hand-held experience then you will have to either do it via remote play or the Nintendo Switch.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is a great new addition to the Atelier franchise – it takes on board the issues the previous games had and corrects them with small tweaks here and there. It’s a shame the open world has been removed, but I personally don’t feel that has reduced the charm and delight the game delivers – especially if you liked Atelier Sophie, as Lydie and Suelle works very similarly. This is a great game for both newcomers and fans of the franchise with its ease of use and user-friendly mechanics, if you’re a fan of JRPGs then you have no excuse not to try this game out.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings£49.99
- - Very cute and vibrant art style and colours
- - The banter between characters is funny and charming
- - The alchemy side has been made more advanced and in-depth
- - Combat feels solid and the support roles work great
- - The story was probably the best out of the three games and the most interesting and fun to play
- - The open world has been removed and returned back to location spots
- - Some of the quests (optional ones) are very similar and can get a bit monotonous
- - No Vita version in the west
- - You don't get a trophy for encountering the Barrel!