Koei Tecmo has re-released yet another Atelier Trilogy, this time giving the Mysterious series the ‘Deluxe’ treatment. Unlike the Arland and Dusk trilogy, this threesome is already on PlayStation 4, so it does seem a little strange that they’re being released again on the same console. However, this is now the most complete versions of the games as they include most of the DLC as well as a small amount of brand new content.
This Mysterious Trilogy consists of Atelier Sophie: Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey, and Atelier Lydie and Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings. If you’re not already familiar with the Atelier series then be aware that these are much more laid-back games than your typical Japanese RPGs. Instead of being on an epic quest to save the world, your time will be spent making friends, learning alchemy, gathering ingredients, and fighting any monsters that happen to stray across your path.
In Atelier Sophie the main protagonist finds a strange book in her grandmother’s workshop which starts to talk after she writes a recipe in to it. This book, called Plachta, has lost her memories and needs your help to restore them. While the story pacing is a little slow at times, there is a fantastic cast of characters who do a great job of holding your interest throughout. Every time you return to town it’s fun to just run around and chat to everyone and see if there are any new character developments.
The story in Atelier Firis is a big improvement as it has a much stronger narrative with far better pacing. Firis is a young woman who has grown up in a small mining town located underground, she’s desperate to go and explore the world outside. After discovering that she has a natural talent for alchemy she manages to persuade her parents to let her go. Of course, as with most things in life, there's a bit of a catch. She’ll need to get three letters of recommendation from renowned alchemists and also pass the alchemy license exam. If she can’t achieve this within one year then she’ll have to return home forever.
As you may have guessed, this does mean that the time limit system is back. Time moves forward whenever you perform alchemy, gather ingredients, and even when running around outside. It can definitely feel a bit stressful at first. Rest assured, however, that you should have plenty of time to pass the exam even if you do get a little side tracked while exploring. After acing the exam, the time limit is lifted and you’re free to travel around the world at whatever pace you want. This was actually the first time in the Atelier series that there was a sprawling open world structure to explore. The world still feels really dynamic, and you’ll end up wanting to explore every inch of it, so it’s great that the time limit does eventually get lifted.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the third game in the trilogy. Strangely, this one doesn’t have an open world to explore. The areas that you traverse are much larger than in Atelier Sophie, but it doesn’t have quite the same wow factor as Atelier Firis. On the other hand, it does get rid of the time limit system so you are at least able to explore and do as many side activities as you want without feeling constantly pressured.
This third game has the most interesting story in the trilogy, with twin sisters, Lydie and Suelle, trying to turn their alchemy workshop into the best in the kingdom. It’s a simple enough premise but the rivalry between the twins and their childhood friend, as well as all of the visiting alchemists, makes it a really entertaining tale. You’ll also be able to travel inside some mysterious alchemic paintings which is a great excuse to have lots of weird and wonderful environments to explore.
This Atelier trilogy also introduces a new process for alchemy; every ingredient has a different shape which you’ll need to place onto a grid. The order and way you place these ingredients can drastically change the quality and traits of the finished item. This alchemy system is used throughout the trilogy but each game has its own unique spin on it, adding things like catalysts and bonus panels in the later games. What this means is that, although you’ll be familiar with how alchemy works after the first game, it still feels challenging to try to master it in each instalment.
While Atelier Sophie was released on the PS4 and PS Vita only six years ago it does look a bit dated. The backgrounds look a little drab and character models are a rather plain. Atelier Firis is definitely a big step forward when compared to its predecessor, but Atelier Lydie & Suelle is easily the best of them all. It looks much more detailed and far prettier, with lots of varied environments to explore.
All three games have a turn based combat system, which is slightly different in each title. They’re all fairly simplistic but they do start to become more interesting as you gain access to new characters and abilities. Again, Atelier Lydie & Suelle does it best. Here you’ll have the ability to switch between characters in the front and back row as well as the ability to perform synthesis during battle. These additions make it a much more varied and engaging combat system.
It's also worth reiterating that most of the DLC that has previously been released is included in the Deluxe versions of the games. So, it includes things like additional costumes, music packs, and playable characters that were previously locked behind paid DLC. There are also some brand new extras thrown in. Atelier Sophie has some new cauldrons and a new outfit, Atelier Firis has new boss battles and four new vehicles, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle has a new mysterious painting to explore featuring Nelke from Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World. There is also an absolutely gorgeous digital art book for each game, as well as an in-built photo mode.
If you already own the original games as well as their DLC, then the new content in Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is unlikely to be enough to make you want to splash out again, as none of it drastically changes the original experience. However, if this is your first time playing them, then this Atelier trilogy is fairly easy to recommend. It’s quite a varied collection, and it’s great to see the developer really experiment with the series' core gameplay mechanics. All three games will send you on a very different adventure, but each of them has a great group of characters for you to fall in love with.