With the recent release of Atelier Ryza on the PC, PS4, and Switch – the series has gained a lot of sudden global attention. That was mostly due to the new, appealing character designs – which were drawn by the artist Toridamono. Gust and Koei Tecmo (KT) were spot on with this new direction, since the series is becoming more successful than ever. Ryza reaching 150k+ sales within the first week in Japan was a huge feat for the companies, since it was high compared to the 27,734 copies that were sold for Lulua during launch (Gematsu).
What is Atelier exactly?
> I won’t delve that much into detail, since information can be instantly gained with a quick search, but in my own words; Atelier is a JRPG series that deals with a lot of alchemy (item creation via synthesis) and exploration to gain materials. In other words, it’s a huge hunt to make high quality items – and the adventure differs with each installation. However, do not be fooled, this gaming series is actually highly relaxing. The most noticeable reason as to why is the OST – which mostly consists of pianos, flutes, and other soft sounding instruments. In addition, the cast of characters is bright and cheery – with cute girls being the majority. As of late, male characters are usually the side characters, aside from Logix Fiscario (from Atelier Escha & Logy) who managed to be the first male protagonist since Mana Khemia. An important note: these games do not have an astounding plot to them, but that’s a part of the series’ charm! They all consist of everyday activities, growing friendships, and improvement of skills (with of course – action and exploration on the side). I cannot put much of these into proper words, but Atelier can be compared to Animal Crossing – in which you can play them for hours to wind down after a long, stressful day.
There are so many games! Where do I start?
> This is a common question I receive from my friends. If you google the full list of games in the series, you would most likely be intimidated by the huge amount. However, worry not – I shall explain it for you.
Within the Atelier series, there are different installments – most of them consisting of a trilogy. Each trilogy do not relate to each other, although Gust likes to add a few recurring characters (similar concept as Anna from the Fire Emblem franchise). With those type of characters, like Pamela and Hagel, they are usually written as if they are in an alternate universe. However, they may reference their experiences from the prior games – but it is unneeded to play them all. This format of unrelated installments in a series can be compared to the Tales of series, which I may cover in a future post.
There are many, many Atelier games, but I will be focusing on the releases after Mana Khemia 2 – which are the ones I am most familiar with. I reference them in my Twitter posts as the “modern Atelier games,” since they are all in 3D.
~ Arland ~
- Atelier Rorona ~The Alchemist of Arland~
- Atelier Totori ~The Adventurer of Arland~
- Atelier Meruru ~The Apprentice of Arland~
- Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~
The Atelier Arland universe consists of 3 games: Rorona, Totori, and Meruru. However, in addition, there is Atelier Lulua – which takes place several years after those three. The Arland games were the first ones in the Atelier series that have 3D graphics. All of the originals were first released on the PS3 which is not considered retro (yet), but it isn’t considered as new either. After some time, Gust decided to port the games to the PsVita, including all of the DLC which are called Rorona Plus, Totori Plus, and Meruru Plus. The “Plus” in the titles can be interpreted as additional content. All of those are basically the same as the originals, aside from Rorona Plus. Since Rorona was their first ever attempt with 3D, they felt it wasn’t as great as the other two, so they remade it with Totori and Meruru’s engine. I’ll post a picture of the difference below.
Not only did they port the games to the PsVita, but they recently did to the PS4, Switch, and PC as well. This time around, they dubbed it as “DX” instead of “Plus.” If you don’t have any of the Arland games yet, I definitely recommend DX because of the higher resolution. However, as a whole, would I recommend these Atelier games? My answer is: No, not really. (At least not as much as the other ones.)
Yes, I do adore these games – mostly due to nostalgic reasons. The characters are definitely super memorable and are greatly designed (thanks to Mel Kishida). I am, of course, in utter love with this universe since it was so bright and refreshing to play through. However, I am unsure if newcomers would share the same opinions as me since the gameplay isn’t as fleshed out as games are today. More importantly – there are the dreaded time limits. It gets more stressful with every hour you play. With Meruru, I don’t recall the limits being as bad – but let’s not talk about Rorona and Totori.
I personally have not started Lulua as of yet because I’ve been waiting for a decent sale, but I have heard fans saying that you could jump straight into it. Honestly, I disagree since there will be too much information you’ll miss by skipping the initial games.
In conclusion: You may start out with these, but please continue reading!
~ Dusk ~
- Atelier Ayesha ~The Alchemist of Dusk~
- Atelier Escha & Logy ~Alchemists of the Dusk Sky~
- Atelier Shallie ~Alchemists of the Dusk Sea~
Perhaps I am biased, but this trilogy is my absolute favorite. The games that are included are; Ayesha, Escha & Logy, and Shallie. They were initially released on the PS3 like Arland, and they have Plus versions as well. Any complaint I had in the series were pleasantly fixed when these came out. Obviously they aren’t perfect – but they are pretty damn near it. Ayesha is the first, and the plot could be simply stated (spoiler-free) as: a young girl who is searching for her sister. Ayesha is so adorable – and I have Hidari to thank this time around. I generally had more fun exploring the areas on this map than the previous titles. Fortunately, there wasn’t much of a time limit, which allowed me to play at my own leisure. A con for Atelier Ayesha would be the fact that you can only have 3 party members in battle, which may prove challenging at times.
Next game on the list, as stated, is Atelier Escha & Logy. This was the first modern atelier game that allowed players to choose between TWO protagonists, whose names are quite obvious based on the title. Not only are there two to choose from, but one of them is male, which was quite rare for this series. Logix Fiscario is a great protagonist along with Escha Malier – the dynamic between the two was extremely precious. Whoever you choose to play as doesn’t affect the game that much aside from the ending, since they are mostly together. I loved Ayesha, but I LOVED this game furthermore. In fact, it is my favorite Atelier game thus far. The cast, for one, is more vivid and well developed. Secondly, you can now have 6 party members with you in battle – 3 in the front and 3 in the back. There are support skills/ attacks from the back row that unleash often, which makes grinding rather addicting. Overall, the game received such positive reception that it even had its own anime adaption. You may start the anime before playing the game, since the anime isn’t 100% faithful to it’s origin.
Lastly, there is Atelier Shallie. Despite the title only having one name, there are actually two protagonists – just like Escha & Logy. The girls are named Shallistera and Shallotte, but they both go by the nickname “Shallie.” Unlike the prior game in the Dusk trilogy, they are not together as often, so they each have their own story. Shallistera wants to save her home, while Shallotte works hard to make a living. I haven’t played much with Shallistera; but Shallotte’s energizing personality never made my playthrough boring. Shallistera is not bad by all means – but she was quite dull in comparison. I found the areas in Atelier Shallie very refreshing since they more colorful and vibrant – opposed to the darker color schemes the past Dusk entries had. The battle system is fairly similar to its predecessor, aside from the added “Burst Mode” and “Variable Strike.” I would say that I like this game the most out of the trilogy, but Escha & Logy will always be the most special to me.
Ultimately, this series was such a huge upgrade from Arland. Despite the story-line being a tad bit darker, it was still filled with many humorous and adorable moments. My verdict for this trilogy is: Yes, these games are perfect to start with – they are all so great! It is actually releasing on the PS4, Switch, and PC in January! Please look forward to it’s (re)release as much as I am – they are worth your money.
~ Mysterious ~
- Atelier Sophie ~The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book~
- Atelier Firis ~The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey~
- Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings~
Now onto the latest completed trilogy – the Mysterious trilogy, which includes Atelier Sophie, Atelier Firis, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle. The franchise made their debut on the PS4 with these titles. Gust and KT beginning to create games on par with PS4’s performance had (sadly) made them tremendously lazy with the PsVita ports (aside from Atelier Sophie’s). With all due respect, they should not have existed in the first place – they are that terrible. Of course it is understandable that the vita can’t support anything above 30 fps, but you can still clearly tell that they slacked off on these compared to the vita ports of Arland and Dusk. An example of each version shall be provided down below.
Going back on topic, the first game is Atelier Sophie – which reverted back into having solo protagonist. A lot of new things were introduced to the series though, such as the different times of day and a weather system. Additionally, instead of buying recipe books to learn new items for synthesizing – you unlock them by exploring and completing specific conditions. Atelier Sophie was a solid new-gen installment for the series, but it gets even better.
I would like to note that this is not on the Switch. Neither Gust or KT revealed any plans to port it (yet) for some odd reason.
Secondly, there is Atelier Firis, which is available on the same systems as usual… except for the switch, again. Things took another turn with this installment – since it was the first open world Atelier game! Based on the full title, which includes “mysterious journey,” it can be understood that the party undergoes more adventures than the previous alchemists. Firis, along with her sister, Liane, resides in a portable workshop – in an outer form of a small tent. Therefore, they are able to stop and rest within a dungeon/ open area. I am in utter in love with this Mysterious cast; Liane’s devotion for Firis is something that I could heavily relate to, and could never fail to laugh at. On the other hand, Ilmeria and Firis’ friendship is so precious and great. Their friendly rivalry is one of my most favorite ones in the entire franchise.
Conclusively, we have Atelier Lydie & Suelle. Duo protagonists are now back – as lovely twins! Studious Lydie and tomboy Suelle can be played interchangeably; you don’t have to choose one of them in the beginning of the game. With a quick visit to their desk, you are able to switch between the girls as often as you’d like. They do have changes with their dialogue at times, but it is nothing too major.
Gust may not have added an open world gameplay to Lydie & Suelle, but the return of an Atelier rank is back. In the games, the twins are working together to become successful alchemists in their kingdom (by raising their ranks) while simultaneously exploring the worlds inside paintings. Within the paintings are unique areas (e.g. a spooky forest) where you can retrieve higher quality materials. This game as a whole was on par with the Dusk installment; I felt the same amount of joy when playing through it. The storytelling in this is something I will praise as well, since the twins are solving the mystery as to why the paintings came to be. There may also be a missing person they wind up discovering…
I may bear some good news to switch owners – Lydie & Suelle managed to have a release on the switch! Although, similarly to the vita ports, it’s unfortunately lazy-looking. The switch was proven to handle decent graphics (e.g. Astral Chain) but this wasn’t as visually appealing. It doesn’t help that there are minimal frames per second, and long loading times. However, it was fortunate enough to have a switch port nonetheless.
Without having playing Atelier Ryza (spoiler alert: it’s up next), I can proudly say that this was my second favorite trilogy! Atelier Sophie started off kind of mediocre, but the rest of the installments were phenomenal. In conclusion; just like the Dusk games, they are a must play! Overall, these 3 games do not have a strict time limit – so I can ensure that they are still very pleasant to play though. As far as I know, these games aren’t as expensive at the moment. Please get them if you can!
~ Secret(?) ~
- Atelier Ryza ~Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout~
- To be determined.
You, the reader, definitely must have heard about Atelier Ryza. It released this September 26 in Japan, October 29 in America, and November 1 in Europe. This game has been mentioned almost everywhere – due to the “thighza.” Nonetheless, this game is just as wholesome and relaxing as the prior installments – thankfully. Not only was the general direction a tad bit different; the graphics improved DRASTICALLY, the exploration areas are much larger, and the beloved turn-based battle system turned into an action one. With the graphics, Gust and Koei improved upon their lighting and animations. If you watch a bit of the gameplay – you can immediately tell how stunning it looks. The graphics are actually one of the main points the entire franchise is known for. I would also like to praise Gust and KT for making the switch port on par with the PS4 and PC’s, considering how awful their Lydie & Suelle port was.
As for the exploration; it isn’t exactly an open world game like Atelier Firis per say, but you are still able to travel anywhere on foot without utilizing the fast travel option. Also, some of the areas are blocked until you accomplish certain things in the story. Next, there is the drastic change in the battle system that received mixed reviews from the older fans of the series. As a newcomer, it is easier to get used to the action/ real-time battle system (similar to the older Final Fantasy games) rather than someone who has been supporting the series for a long time. I have not played the game myself, but I have heard from other sources that the battle system isn’t as intimidating as it seems. I fully believe, regardless of what type of gameplay it is, everyone should definitely still give the game a try. Considering all of the things Atelier Ryza had to offer – the next installment would definitely blow our minds just as greatly. I am definitely looking forward to the new atelier in the works!
I think the freshness of this game is a very welcome point to start with, however you should still try out the other games upon finishing this! Ultimately, newcomers will find this game the most appealing compared to the prior releases.
The final Atelier game I would like to mention before ending this post is Atelier Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~. This can be found on the PS4, PC, and Switch. It is a *spin-off* of the mainline atelier games – which is a town building simulator that includes all of the main characters. If you haven’t played any other Atelier game, you may still get this. In my personal opinion, I would hold off on doing so because you wouldn’t understand the references or appreciate the mainline characters fully. On another note, I would like to say that this spin-off was actually very weak. The mechanics within the game could’ve been handled way better. There is no proper exploration of areas, and the “battles” in this game aren’t much. Even with my complaints, Nelke was a great character, alongside Lotus. It is so charming to see all of the Atelier characters with updated artwork and sprites in this game! Definitely buy this game when it is on sale – otherwise it is not worth the full price.
~ TLDR ~
In order; I recommend the games to newcomers starting from:
- Dusk (Ayesha, Escha & Logy, Shallie)
- Atelier Ryza
- Mysterious (Sophie, Firis, Lydie & Suelle)
- Arland (Rorona, Totori, Meruru, Lulua)
- Atelier Nelke (spin-off)
Now that’s a wrap!
Thank you so much for reading my first blog post! I am very open to critique to improve upon my writing since I would only discuss games in casual conversations prior to this. I hope I was able to convey how much this series mean to me; and provide proper aid for those who always wanted to start these precious games. See you next time!