The Atelier series recently gained a lot more fans in the west with the success of Atelier Ryza and its sequel. But should the newly converted go back through the series? And if so, what games should they play first? The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack makes a good argument for itself, offering three of the best games in the series in one package, giving anyone a good route in.
This latest addition on the Nintendo Switch means that there are now twelve Atelier games on the console, giving players more than enough to choose from, with over half of the mainline entries in this 24-year-old series. This deluxe pack offers new costumes, new story sections, a digital artbook (that doubles up as a soundtrack too), as well as all the previous DLC, making it incredibly generous.
Story & Gameplay – Coming of Age
The games included in this pack are Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings. They are each about 50 hours long, depending on the player’s playstyle, meaning that no matter what, there is a hefty amount of content in this package.
They each offer some of the strongest stories in the series, focusing on strong characters and quiet moments. Atelier Sophie sees a struggling alchemist discover a flying book, full of memories that are revealed the more recipes Sophie writes in. Atelier Firis sees a girl living in a secluded mining town, cut off from the outside world, and her journey to pass the alchemy exams (with the guidance of Sophie and Plachta from the previous game). Atelier Lydie & Suelle sees twin sisters adventure into paintings to help their father’s struggling atelier.
There is a homeliness in all the stories, with simple interactions between characters and charming little side stories punctuated by moments of mystical wonder. There’s also the passing of time, a core mechanic in the game, which further helps the game feel like a cosy, personal experience. It’s also good to note that you shouldn’t expect to like this if you don’t like your average JRPG — it has still got lots of those trappings throughout.
They all work pretty similarly too. The player has tasks from local townspeople, often involving an item they need, and then needs to go and make it. Sometimes they won’t have the necessary ingredients or recipes, so have to go out and find them. Outside the hub however there are lots of monsters, so the player needs to fight them off with their party (often getting rewards in the process). Then, head back and make those items for those townsfolk, see a few more sections of the story progress, and keep pushing onwards.
The core mechanic introduced in Atelier Sophie is the alchemy system. Using various ingredients found out in the world, the player can make an item. These different ingredients have various shapes associated with them (akin to tetrominoes) that have to be arranged on a grid, with a better arrangement getting better bonuses attached to the item made. The same mechanic runs through Atelier Firis, except the player can now make items at any campfire, rather than only at the atelier.
In Atelier Lydie & Suelle a number of different elements are added, making a deeper crafting system, but it still isn’t overcomplex. It is a simple and satisfying mechanic that evolves with the three games, allowing the player ownership over what they use.
The story and the gameplay in these games are where they are at their best, with great, grounded stories, and simple, satisfying mechanics. The two are, vitally, well balanced. I rarely felt like I was spending ages out in the field with little to no reward (i.e. a new story element), but also appreciated the gentle pace of the overall story. For all their wild imagination, these games are quiet, and I like that a lot.
But that’s just me, and I can also say that while I like all of these things, they’re nothing extraordinary. If you’ve never played an Atelier game and want to start, I wouldn’t recommend starting here. I think both Atelier Ryza and its sequel are a much better onboarding point, showcasing the best aspects of the series alongside more engrossing visuals and in-depth gameplay. I enjoy these games, but I don’t think they’re that good.
Graphics & Audio – Good Art, Poorly Optimised
The same praise cannot be given for their performance on Switch. All the games have quite horrendous load times (especially egregious for any players who have just played Monster Hunter: Rise), making all of the experience feel disjointed. These games aren’t open-world either, rather taking you from section to section, meaning there is lots of loading to be done.
I also ran into framerate trouble in Atelier Sophie whenever I was out in the field and it was rainy at night. This wasn’t just a slight dip either, but a big, brain-shattering stutter throughout. These games are all older (and less visually impressive) than many, many other Switch games, yet run worse, and that is disappointing. I would never claim to know how game development actually works, but I am certain that these games could have been optimized a lot better.
And these games aren’t exactly stunners. For all the great art and character designs, the games themselves (especially in handheld mode) don’t look that appealing. The characters are the only bit that seems to have been given any attention. Again, I don’t really care about that sort of thing, but it is definitely noticeable, especially if you aren’t used to these games.
Luckily, the audio is lovely. The Japanese and English voice tracks are both great, while the music is classic and often gorgeous. Jaunty strings or fittingly quaint old-timey tunes run throughout, giving each game a distinct character. If you’re the type of person convinced to buy a game by its music, just listen to any of these three games‘ battle themes. They are all excellent.
It’s also important to note the additional digital artbooks that come with the games. These are lovely, easy-to-use artwork from all the games, showcasing some excellent illustrations. For any fans of the series, they will be a really welcome addition. These digital artbooks also house a playlist of music from the games, so they basically double up as the bulkiest MP3 player of all time.
Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch and a code was provided by Koei Tecmo.