Uniting Sophie, Firis, with twins Lydie and Suelle, Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack offers an abundance of alchemical fulfilment across a trio of titles. Bundling extras such as an option for accelerated battling and a photo mode, it’s a worthwhile compilation- as long as you don’t own many of the original releases.
Platform: Switch, also on PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: Gust Co.
Publisher: Koei Tecmo America
Release date: April 22nd, 2021
Price: $89.99 via digital download for the compilation, or $39.99 for each title ($80.97 via Steam)
Availability: eShop, PlayStation Store, and Steam
One of the popular trends in gaming in an unremitting level of challenge. While elevated difficulties enrich skills and often provide value as your slog through a campaign, there are times when I just want to relax and savor a bit of digital tranquility. Save for the some of the taut timetables across the Arland sub-series, Gust’s Atelier franchise has consisted offered one of the most gratifying retreats around. With the Mysterious Trilogy, the developer has removed most of the deadlines, jettisoning the sole source of frustration.
Much of the enjoyment of the Atelier franchise is imbedded in the fundamentals of each title. While the protagonists of the Mysterious Trilogy tackle the archetypal hero’s journey, it’s a refreshingly subdued trek. Each reveals a young woman mastering alchemy on a journey of self-discovery, habitually maturing from awkward novice to an assured prodigy.
While this is occasionally metaphorical, sometimes the journey is literal, such as Firis’ hope to transcend the confines of a sequestered mining town which is only permitted through the collection of recommendation letters and an exam. It’s the classic story of an ambitious young girl trapped in a small town, shattering the barriers of self-actualization. In Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings, the protagonists’ father plays the role of gatekeeper, forbidding the sibling from entering the basement lab.
The expedition isn’t always rooted in self-interest and often revolves around restoration of the world. From Sophie’s efforts to assist an amnesiac reference book to Lydie and Suelle’s efforts to help their grief-stricken father and catapult his atelier to greatness, there’s an aura of altruism that flows through the franchise. As much as I enjoy gunning down legion of malevolent goons, there’s something comforting about helping others in digital worlds. Let’s take a closer look at each entry:
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX
The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book revolves around themes of tradition and restoration. Echoing the harmonious pursuit depicted in Yuki Midorikawa’s Natsume’s Book of Friends, we first meet the game’s eponymous protagonist in the workshop inherited from her late grandmother. While motivated to keep her ancestor’s legacy alive, Sophie like any Atelier lead, lacks a bit of experience and confidence, as evidenced by the game’s customary sequence of a recipe backfiring.
In this instance hope emerges from the game’s titular tome, a talking, flying book named Plachta that’s could in one of the dusty corners of the workshop. And it’s here that Sophie’s impetus truly evokes Natsume’s duty, filling in the pages of the sentient book as an act of restoration. Although Plachta retains some basic alchemic knowledge, her blank pages symbolize a case of amnesia, that the newly united duo need to refill and restore her memories.
Sure, the plot might seem quint in summary, but it’s the feeling of gradual restoration that keeps the story from becoming hackneyed. After battling endless processions of malevolence and thwarting the apocalypse time and time again, there’s something intrinsically gratifying about making a damaged entity feel whole again. Another element that helps the narrative is the squabbling between Sophie and a Plachta, a relationship that recalls the comedic rapport between Takashi Natsume and Madura in Book of Friends. Just one word of warning, you might want to skip the second opening musical sequence, as there’s a slight spoiler amidst the opening credits.
What follows is one of the most unexpectedly satisfying gameplay loops around. Sophie’s cycle begins with item gathering and a bit of monster tussling, before taking the resources back to the Atelier to alchemize a product. In turn, this item is given to one of the local town’s populace or used by the adventuring party to dig deeper into the game’s rural recesses. But amidst this sequence, you’ll discover how the title distinguishes itself from preceding titles.
No longer do players have to purchase recipe books with your hard-earned Cole. Instead, acquisition is experience-based, with Sophie discovering new formulas through her interactions. While some of it is serendipitous, there’s also the riddles, with hints revealed on a menu screen. Mostly, they’re allude to defeating a certain type of monster, going to a specific location, or traveling during a specific time. Although the integration of day-night cycle might just seem like an excuse to offer a tranquil show or have Sophie remark about seeing lightning in the distance, the addition fits glowingly into Mysterious Book.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX
The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey’s plotline evokes comparison to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, with protagonist Firis Mistlud confined inside a tranquil mining town named Ertona, where the populace survives through the excavating of ore and other materials. While Firis’ older sister Liane is allowed to venture outside to hunt, Firis’ protective parents prohibit her from passing the giant doors that secure the main entrance. Of course, there’s little incentive to move beyond the cavernous confines. Not only is Firis adept at locating ore deposits, but many see view her as the more vulnerable sister. Between forays to observe the sky through the cave’s sole fissure and her insistence of hearing Liane’s stories of the world outside, it’s evident that Firis is destined for the world outside, and all the experiences that await.
But before she makes her grand exodus, Sophie Neuenmuller and Plachta show up, blowing down Ertona’s doors, ushering in the power of alchemy into the mining community. The populace is immediately beguiled by the thrill of crafted gear, but few are as enthralled as Firis, whose divining abilities are a perfect in-road to the alchemical arts. As such, the protagonist’s passage beyond the cave, toward adulthood, as well as the mastery of her vocational aptitudes is a gratifying metaphor that most players will be able to identify with. Largely, it encapsulates a yearning for discovery, growth, and ambition, making it difficult not to see ourselves in Firis- even when she makes impetuous statements to her parents.
Echoing the fleeting years of youth, Mysterious Journey brings back the temporal restraints, with Firis having a calendar year to apply for her alchemical exam. Largely the return of a scheduled stage is an astute compromise, generating an iota of urgency to the proceedings, but with enough leniency to not stress out players. Pleasingly, Mysterious Journey’s early game still allows plenty of time for exploration and experimentation. Once the initial deadline is met, the title permits the easy-going, untimed autonomy of tasks, which feels like a fulfilling payoff.
Beyond the incorporation of day and night cycles that affect the appearance of different antagonists and collectable materials, Atelier Firis also incorporates a weather cycle into the proceedings. With this system, adverse weather conditions like rain, fog, and snow can become an impediment, varying the potencies of both enemies and items. Interestingly, you’ll want to make sure Firis is wearing environmentally-appropriate clothing. Costumes have tangible effects, with the short skirt length of your ‘Pura Flora” long only looking implausibly cute, but also instigating a discount with shopkeepers. And when in the snow, a winter coat and adorable hat ensure that Firis won’t lose excess energy in the icy setting.
Functioning like Harvest Moon’s stamina and fatigue systems, a variable called LP limits the amount of actions that can be performed when out in the field. When the stat is running low, you’ll begin to see negative effects, like a diminished number of resources at collection points. But deplete your pool and poor Firis will faint, penalizing players with a deduction of time. Fortunately, recharging is straightforward, with rejuvenation possible back at your atelier, at a campsite, or even through the synthesis of certain items.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX
Unlike the driving melodies that establish the urgency in most role-playing games, Atelier Lydie & Suelle, like its predecessors, begins with oddly folksy refrains. Signaling the rustic charm of your quaint alchemical workshop and the flora-filled patches that you’ll comb for ingredients, there’s a sense of tranquility that hangs over the proceedings. And while you’ll eventually hear stirring battle hymns and even a catchy jam with a vocoder hook, a sense of rustic serenity lingers over the proceedings, especially since this entry largely shirks the series’ sporadic time-management requirements. While seldom uninteresting or tedious, Mysterious Paintings urges gamers to unwind. It’s the restorative trip to the countryside that brings perspective the hurried city dweller.
As common for the Atelier series, we first meet the game’s leads eking out a modest existence through their rudimentary alchemical skillset. Twins Lydie and Suelle Malen might have experienced hardships- not only did their mother pass, but their live-in father is forgetful, childlike, and irresponsible with money. But like most Atelier protagonists, they don’t dwell on misfortune, but rather view alchemy as a way to surmount adversity. Sure, the ‘lift yourself up by your own bootstraps’ ideology might seem naive, but Lydie and Suelle demonstrate that undeterred diligence is the surest path to success- and it’s hard not to be inspired by these frilly-dress clad idealists.
Pleasingly, Mysterious Paintings doesn’t mimic the slight variations to the same story path technique used by Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky. No, here the slightly ditzy, exercise-avoidant Lydie tirelessly accompanies Suelle, her jovial, tomboyish sister around. While controlling a pair of characters might seem like a simple change, it brings around a number of significant changes to the Atelier franchise.
Since the two are an inseparable duo, it makes sense that they’d share their innermost thoughts with one another. In previous games with a single protagonist, it wouldn’t make sense for a character to share their honne (true feelings) with NPC acquaintances. But with Mysterious Paintings, the sisters share personal feeling, fears, and the intermittent bout of discouragement that tatemae commands shouldn’t be shared casually. Naturally, their indivisible bond also means that players will be privy to the occasional argument, endowing the proceedings with both a feeling of intimacy but also regularly, comic relief. On the downside, the focus on Lydie and Suelle means that other characters don’t get as much development. This is hardly a deal breaker, as Mysterious Paintings brings out a number of familiar faces, but it is perceptible when the title is contrasted against previous entries.
Worthy of a Double Dip?
Sophie and Firis’ adventures are making an appearance on Switch for the first time, making Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack a recommended purchase, even for those who already own Atelier Lydie & Suelle. As the definitive editions, purchasers can expect the base game as well as most (but not all) of the previously released DLC. There’s some fleshing out of narrative that feels like a thank you for fans, with Firis receiving additional bosses and an episode in Lydie & Suelle with cameos from Atelier Nelke characters. Save for the rare framerate sputter, performance has been improved. It’s mostly noticeable in Lydie & Suelle where the original Switch release struggled to match the stability of other iterations.
On PlayStation 4 and PC, a repurchase isn’t going to offer the same dividends. Sure, you’ll enjoy the adjustments to tempo, with protagonists able to run and speed through battles. The digital art books are also compelling, offering stills that demonstrate just how gorgeous Yuugen and NOCO’s work has been. Additionally, you can listen to selections from the game’s soundtrack will admiring the artwork. But yet again, these releases don’t provide any additional discount to purchasers of the original game. It would be pleasing to see the publisher recognize faithful fans wanting to upgrade to the definitive version.
Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack was played
on Switch with review code provided by the publisher.