Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and Mysterious Journey Review
Trapped inside her safe and quite town, located inside a mountain, a young girl named Firis dreams endlessly of exploring life on the outside. By a twist of fate, she gets a chance to do just that thanks to alchemy. But there's one condition, she must pass an alchemy exam one year later. It's a lot for a young girl to do, but when you have big dreams, you have a lot of focus on succeeding.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is the second title in the 'Mysterious' storyline, having released several months after Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book. Developed by Gust and published by Koei Tecmo, the story follows Firis, a young girl living in a small town situated within a mountain. It's a mining town, and thanks to her abilities to find crystal easily, they harvest the ores and minerals. Nothing around her changes from one day to the next; there are no seasons, no natural light, no wind, and no real danger. The town is separated from the outside world by one large and heavy door, and it gets frequently visited by Firis who yearns to see what lives on the other side. As fate would have it though, she learns about an alchemy exam that would give her allowance to leave temporarily. The conditions however are that she must pass an alchemy exam one year later if she wishes to forever be able to explore the outside world. If she fails then she must return home.
Three things make up the core gameplay: exploration, combat, and alchemy. Beyond this though, the game offers players a chance to explore a world full of life, color, and wonder. Essentially there's a lot put into making this experience worthwhile and luckily it flows smoothly. A lot smoother than Atelier Sophie. As mentioned before, Firis is tasked with going out beyond the confines of her home town to prepare herself for the exam that will take place one year later. The whole idea of being on a timer has returned but it's a lot less stressful. It keeps the game moving, and although you won't be able to complete absolutely everything you could want and explore, once you have successfully competed the exam, you'll be free to do what you want without a timer. Quests are numerous, and can even branch out into chain quests. There's a lot of fetch-like quests, but the quests that progress the main plot are typically easy to follow with more meaningful purposes.
Combat works in a turn-based RPG fashion with a set time in-between attacks. There is a meter on the right side of the screen during battles that will show you who's turn it will be when. Also, because the game features a fully functioning day and night cycle, different time's will give either benefits to you or the enemy. Party size will be up to 4 characters, but when running around you'll only ever see Firis. The more you attack an enemy, the more your chain attack meter fills. Once full, you'll unleash a "chain burst" action dealing a great amount of damage. It's important to battle with enemies as you travel instead of easily avoiding them because if your LP meter gets too low, you'll faint and restart at a camp. LP will also factor in to how successful you are at gather resources.
Now, the alchemy; the bread and butter behind the plot. Not much has changed in this mechanic of the game, but it does have a few tweaks. Collecting recipes is the core of progression, but synthesis level will determine the strength of items. You'll have to match the different components on a grid-like panel, which will yield higher effects based on how well you move them around. Lining components up on the outside lines will also give special benefits in the end results. A nice touch to the whole concept is that you can also get selected pieces for the workshop installed to the main synthesis room which will also enhance your character abilities and brewing skills.
Sound and Graphics
The in-game music is very charming which perfectly matches the characters, plot, and environments. Of course when the action picks up so does the rhythm of the music. The voices are the exact same, and are super well recorded. You can here them talk while running around or interacting with things but it never feels overly played or annoying. Above all the small details, the whole voice work is in English which instantly is a plus for most. Each attack the characters perform has a unique sound effect to them, and range from spell-like charming to powerful swiping of swords. Unique is not being used lightly here either; each attack sounds completely different than the rest.
Graphically there are some really great points, but also a few ones that are lacking. The details in the appearances of characters and environments are well done, but have a special style to them. If you're new to the series, or even Koei Tecmo games in general, you'll need to find out if it's you're style. It won't be for everyone, but I will say that it's easy to love and looks great. The towns and environments you'll come across are huge, especially when you compare it all to the previous title. There are a number of towns to visit and explore, and the fields in-between are numerous. You'll traverse snowy tundras, dry deserts, and colorful green lands (and some areas a little in-between).
For all returning fans, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is a must play. All games should set a goal for the sequels to bring improvements and innovations, and this title does just that. Of course, not in a way that will blow minds or put it up for "Game of the Year" awards, but it's impressive nonetheless. It makes the world feel really big without letting it also feel empty. There exploration is fun and the locations are gorgeous regardless of what section you're in. Combat while it may feel a tad bit simplified compared to the previous title, does an excellent job with all the mechanics involved. The story moves steadily throughout, with a few slow moments, but picks up again towards the end. The ambitions of Firis' quest to see the outside world is charming, sincere, and overall fun. So join her when you get a chance.
+ Excellent audio (voices, SFX, and music)
– Slow pacing in different moments
+ Intriguing story even if slow at moments
– Some may still not like the timed story situation