Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings Review
Developed by Gust Co. Ltd. Published by Koei Tecmo Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation 4 and Steam)
For over two decades, the Atelier series has provided an enchanting take on the Japanese role-playing genre. With the series’ unique blend of alchemy, elegant aesthetics, and diverse characters, each Atelier game has featured lighthearted entertaining journeys. As the nineteenth Atelier game, Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings embodies the growth of the series’ visuals and alchemy-focused mechanics. Despite being the final entry in the Mysterious trilogy, it can easily be appreciated by players jumping into the Atelier series for the first time. The game also marks the series’ entrance onto the Nintendo Switch, which enables any budding alchemist to enjoy the game on the go. Despite sticking closely to the series’ conventions, Atelier Lydie & Suelle provides a charming whimsical twist on the series’ alchemy-driven adventures.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle takes place in Merveille, the capital of the newfound flourishing kingdom of Adalet. The twin sisters Lydie and Suelle Malen run a small atelier alongside their seemingly lackadaisical father, but their shop’s popularity is vastly overshadowed by their competitors. Seeking to fulfill a promise to their mother to build the greatest atelier in the whole kingdom, Lydie and Suelle decide to build their alchemical skills. Their journey is thrown off course when they unexpectedly enter a Mysterious Painting, which contains a magical realm beyond imagination. Blown away by the ingredients and experiences within, they advance their skills and progress onto even more fantastic realms in their quest to build their reputation. Their journey involves encountering new companions as well as returning characters from Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis.
The game fundamentally features similar progression methods as its predecessors, but it provides a slightly different spin on these established conventions. Players fulfill designated tasks in order to reach the next Alchemy rank, which progresses the story. The general flow involves venturing out into the field to collect ingredients, crafting items, and then assisting villagers. Where the game diverges from its predecessors is the scope of the games’ locales. Merveille is a sprawling town that allows players to explore and find ingredients amid the game’s varied props such as flower beds. Furthermore, Atelier Lydie & Suelle’s gathering areas sprawl much further than those of prior Atelier subseries such as the Arland or Dusk games. The titular Mysterious Paintings also gives players freedom of exploration, and they can often seem surreal in a series already full of fascinating locales.
The hallmark of the series is alchemy, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle certainly highlights the importance of synthesizing items. Much like every other Atelier game, Lydie and Suelle help villagers by synthesizing items such as medicinal items, refined metal, and even throwable weapons. They do using a wide range of ingredients such as stones, herbs, monster parts, and otherworldly components. Alchemy also highly influences the game’s battle system. Although the game’s battle system is fundamentally similar to most JRPGs, merely using attacks and MP-draining skills is not necessarily the most efficient way to make progress. Instead, taking the effort to craft attack items can largely turn the tide of battle. Where the game differs from prior Atelier subseries entries is how players acquire new recipes. Rather than primarily obtaining new recipes from books and character interactions, players acquire recipes by performing general tasks such as gathering items, fighting monsters, and practicing alchemy. The game has a recipe book that always gives players an idea of how to acquire new recipes. While the game therefore constantly rewards players for performing actions, the process of acquiring recipes can sometimes feel a little arbitrary.
This game’s particular alchemy system is also slightly daunting, but it provides plenty of opportunities for experimentation. Much like the rest of the Mysterious trilogy, item synthesis involves placing nodes on a grid. Each ingredient has colorful nodes that are freely rotatable, and node arrangement ultimately affects the synthesized item’s properties. As the game introduces mechanics such as catalysts that change grids, it can take a little bit of practice to fully grasp how alchemy works. In general, however, players can still enjoy the game without having to deeply dive into every facet of the system.
One fascinating element is how Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the first Atelier game on the Switch. While the Switch version’s 3D models are a bit blurrier than those of its PlayStation 4 counterpart, the game largely portrays the same amount of detail. Furthermore, the shadows are a bit lower resolution, the character lighting can sometimes feel a little flat, and the framerate can dip especially when numerous effects are on-screen. However, the game very much provides the same experience as the PlayStation 4 version, and the portability perfectly suits the game.
With its stylized visuals, relaxing music, and frequent voiceover, the game continues the series’ trend of building varied worlds full of lively characters. Much like the rest of the Mysterious trilogy, the game’s day-night cycle and weather conditions impact areas’ appearance. The capital of Merveille is a vibrant verdant land full of colorful buildings, and each gathering area feels untamed and ripe for exploration and gathering. These areas are full of gathering nodes everywhere, which can lead to a feeling of freeform discovery. Every single Gust production is also full of fantastic compositions, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle’s music is compellingly crafted and consistently laid back. This game’s Japanese voiceover is also universally appropriate, and the exuberant acting for the sisters’ dad Roger and their rival Lucia can be entertaining. As with every Atelier game, players will frequently encounter dialogue between each action, and the dialogue is just as amusing. This game emphasizes a familiar duality between the taciturn Lydie and the outspoken Suelle, which certainly results in some off-the-wall saccharine sequences.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is a worthy if familiar take on the Atelier series’ alchemy-driven role-playing. While Atelier series veterans might feel like they are following well-trodden ground, the game’s expansive whimsical locales and happy-go-lucky scenario are nonetheless worth experiencing. For any Atelier newcomers, the game provides a wonderful slice of the series’ light-hearted dialogue and sense of discovery. Nonetheless, it will provide dozens of amusing hours of alchemy-infused role-playing and entertaining dialogue.