Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Category: Japanese Role-Playing
Release Date: 21st of December, 2017 (JP) 27th of March, 2018 (NA) &
30th of March, 2018 (NA)
I’ve always enjoyed playing a game in the Atelier series, but it has never really blown me away representing more of a middle-ground in the JRPG genre. Developer Gust is known for making some amazingly polished JRPG’s with exciting anime visuals and great music, and fortunately, now Nintendo Switch owners can see for themselves what this talented development team can do. Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is the last entry in the Atelier series and also last game in the Mysterious trilogy. Luckily, you have not had to have played the other two entries in the series to understand Lydie & Suelle, as there are only small references and call-backs.
The story revolves around a pair of twin girls who live with their dad and want to fix up their atelier as it has seen better days. One day while tending to their atelier they heard a strange voice from their basement, even though their father forbade them from ever entering the basement. Curiosity gets the best of the girls and upon investigating a strange painting are pulled inside of it into another dimension. The tone is lighthearted and won’t be brought down with over-the-top dramatic shifts. That’s not to say there aren’t any surprises, but they’re typically more about the dialogue options for different endings.
Combat consists of a straightforward turn-based gameplay system with some situational spacing, similar to other titles in the Atelier series and you are able to use pairs for combination arts which are ultimate attacks. This can make for some deadly combos against enemies and now that you can use pairs in combat, there can be up to six party members at a time in battle. During a fight, there’s also an option to synthesis during battles which you could never do before in an Atelier game and makes the combat much more enjoyable.
The twist of this series has always been the synthesis system and it definitely shines in this game. You’ll be tasked with crafting items to turn in for quests, but more importantly, synthesizing items to take into battle. Synthesizing in Lydie & Suelle is intuitive and fun, and I never ran into too many issues when creating a specific type of item to progress the story. Unfortunately, the synthesizing never felt unique and became bogged down with too many other systems in play when all I wanted to do was create a certain item.
Synthesis has basically been handled the same as the previous two entries in the series, where players have to select materials and place components on a board to increase the item’s efficacy. Later on, players can also add some enhancing elements which can make the items even more powerful. To create items with alchemy, however, players require recipes which can be unlocked in a variety of ways. The most common one is to gather new materials, which will make Lydie and Suelle automatically discover a new recipe and write it down in their Crafting notebook. You can also get some hints from the notebook by seeing what ingredients you need for any undiscovered recipes.
Each material is represented by its own particular shape and color. How you choose to place these on a crafting grid dictates how the final product will enhance. For example, filling the grid with materials of the same color is one of the easiest and best ways to gain benefits. You can also use a catalyst material to change up the grid itself. This makes the grid itself very customizable as you can change up the size and available buffs from the specific catalyst used.
Many characters return in this third entry including Firis and Sophie, as well as many new characters. While many new and returning characters are present, I didn’t care for most of the NPC’s that inhabit the towns you visit. In previous titles, you could go around and talk to everyone, but in Lydie & Suelle you won’t be able to talk to many of the patrons of the city. It’s a shame because I’ve always taken interest in these conversations in the town.
The newcomers include Lucia Voltaire, the twins’ tsundere childhood friend and rival; Grace, a sister at the local church who appears much older than she looks, and Roger, the charismatic father to the twins who likes to push the responsibilities of the household on his daughters. There are also returning characters like Pamela Ibis, who is as cheerful and ornery as ever; Illmeria Von Leinweber, who is still short and now serves as the twins’ teacher, and Corneria, who is still in the item duplication business while trying to locate her father.
Lydie and Suelle’s relationship is a real shining point to the game as they are entertaining to watch with their dialogue and in the cut-scenes. Between quests when you go back home, you are able to save, switch costumes and select which girl you want to play as. In past games, you either started as one perspective or the other, but with Lydie & Suelle you can change perspectives which is a nice touch.
I was also especially thankful for how incredibly charming Lydie & Suelle is. The protagonists, Lydie and Suelle, aren’t driven by the need to defeat some all-powerful ancient evil, cruel kingdom or secret criminal organization. Rather, they’re just two ordinary girls with a love for alchemy and a dream to open the best atelier in the kingdom.
Graphically, Lydie & Suelle has gorgeous animations in combat and lighting effects for spells, but wasn’t anything significantly special outside of battle. Even with the lack of an open world, the painted environments were fun to explore and packed with monsters to fight and materials to collect. It was, however, disappointing how stripped back the world building aspects were to other games in the series. There is no more world map found in Atelier Sophie or even an open world found in Atelier Firis, and now you just travel by selecting a location in the city or by entering a painting. It would have been nice to see the twins interact and explore a more exciting world.
On their quest to become world-renowned alchemists, Lydie and Suelle will visit a variety of locations ranging from snowy mountains to forests, and that array only widens when they enter paintings and explore more exotic places like a mystic cave or pirates cove. None of these places will blow you away or make you marvel in their beauty, but they’re unique, designed very well and are nice to look at.
Gust really did a fantastic job with the soundtrack to Lydie & Suelle and added a layer of emotion not found in many other RPG’s during specific story segments. I wish the framerate was as excellent as the music, with the game slowing down all too often when too much was onscreen at once. This doesn’t appear to just be a Switch issue either, as framerate drops have been validated even on the PS4 leading me to believe that it may have been rushed during development.
Overall, Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings adds a few new great features to its gameplay, including synthesizing during battle and paired attacks. However, the lack of an open world and world building were disappointing. Fortunately, the ending was enjoyable and brought a fitting conclusion to the Mysterious Atelier series, even though there wasn’t much post-game content to take part in. Thankfully, Lydie and Suelle made for fantastic protagonists and they were surrounded by an endearing cast of characters. For those who are invested in the series this is a fitting conclusion, but for everyone else, this may not be enough of an advancement to warrant a play through.
The Verdict: 7/10
*Review Key Provided by Koei Tecmo