For the third time, Koei Tecmo has re-released one of their Atelier Trilogies as a deluxe pack, this time going with the 'Mysterious' Trilogy, comprised of Atelier Sophie, Atelier Firis, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle. Although the Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is being released on PS4 and PC as well as Switch, all of the titles from the pack were already out on those platforms, making the re-releases mostly redundant except for some exclusive content. As such, we played the Switch version of the Trilogy.
Before delving into each separate title, there are a few broad statements that can be made about the Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack as a whole.
Firstly, unless you're a huge fan of the series, there's not much point in rebuying the games in this pack, as they are mostly unchanged except for a small amount of exclusive content which will be mentioned in each game's section. They also include most of each game's DLC.
Secondly, the graphics and performance. Each of these three games sport the Atelier series' signature colourful art style with relatively low-resolution textures, at least for the Switch version. Character models are genuinely beautiful and incredibly expressive, with each character being entirely unique, but the worlds they live in can be a little rough when looked at too closely.
Finally, the core gameplay. Atelier games are sort of like the comfort food of the JRPG genre, and as such the core gameplay remains very similar between each title, even more so for games within the same trilogy. For each of the three games in the Trilogy Deluxe Pack, a turn-based battle system is used (with some slight differences between games) in which you primarily fight with items you make via alchemy, the series' selling point. Each of the three titles have a very similar alchemy system, in which you combine materials to create items in a complex fashion, passing on traits and increasing quality levels to attempt to create the best consumables and equipment possible. The Mysterious Trilogy includes a puzzle-like element, in which the materials you put into a recipe are placed on a grid and can be fit together to result in certain bonuses. In comparison to the Linkage Synthesis found in the more recent Atelier Ryza games, this lacks a lot of depth, but for players who want to get started with the Atelier series it is more accessible, and still an incredibly satisfying mechanic. With that being said, let's have a look at each of the three games!
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX
In Atelier Sophie, you follow Sophie Neuenmuller on her adventure to become a better alchemist. The driving force behind Sophie's development as an alchemist is Plachta, a talking book with amnesia which Sophie helps recover the memories of. She's joined by her friends Monika and Oskar, and the story eventually gets larger than her hometown as Plachta's past is revealed.
As Atelier Sophie is the first in the Mysterious Trilogy, it is the roughest around the edges. Despite being the oldest of the three titles, it suffers frame rate issues very often on Switch, even in docked mode. The turn-based combat is also the most basic of the three, and progression is quite linear, as all you really have to do is synthesise things and go to different areas, learning more about Plachta as you go along. Still, as in every Atelier game, the cast is incredibly charming, and the gameplay loop is addictive.
The content new to the DX version consists of extra scenes developing Sophie further, three new cauldrons for synthesis, and a new costume, as well as most of the DLC from the game's original release.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey
Atelier Firis is the story of Firis Mistlud, a young miner who wishes to leave her hometown Ertona. It is set four years after Atelier Sophie. She begins to learn alchemy when Sophie Neuenmuller (yes, Sophie from Atelier Sophie) arrives in town, and they eventually leave together, with Firis being given the task to make it to the city of Reisenberg and become a certified alchemist before a year passes. This is an actual time limit; similar to the earlier games in the series (Sophie and Lydie & Suelle do not have time limits) you can't travel and synthesise items forever. It is a very generous time limit, however, allowing you basically full freedom to do as you wish.
Firis has to get letters of recommendation from three certified alchemists before taking the exam. The order you get these letters is up to the player, in comparison to the rather linear Atelier Sophie.
It's this freedom that makes Atelier Firis stand out in comparison to Atelier Sophie: the areas you fight enemies and gather resources are much larger, giving a greater sense of adventure, and game performance is better despite this.
The playable cast is very large and includes characters from the previous game, all of which have colourful and vibrant designs, although they are not exceptionally well-developed. The combat is a little different, featuring 'chain bursts' for powerful effects. Mass synthesis is also used to create items which change the game world itself.
The content new to the DX version consists of four new vehicles and additional quests, along with most of the original game's DLC including more characters and costumes.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings
Atelier Lydie & Suelle is set another four years after Atelier Firis, and features the two sisters Lydie Malen and Suelle Malen, who travel around magical paintings to gather materials and eventually run the best atelier in the kingdom. As the rank of their atelier increases, they gain access to more magical paintings to explore, and rare materials found in the paintings improve the alchemy skills of Lydie and Suelle.
Graphically, Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the best of the three, and also features the most refined gameplay, with a turn-based system featuring six party members at a time and in-battle item synthesis. Progression is a little more linear, more like Atelier Sophie than Atelier Firis. Oh, and speaking of those two, they appear as party members here as well. It's worth noting that Atelier Lydie & Suelle only came out in 2017 and was already on the Switch, unlike the other two titles from this collection.
The content new to the DX version is quite interesting: an additional painting world, featuring Nelke from the spinoff Atelier title Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World. It also comes with most of the DLC from the original game.
Overall, the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is the perfect way to start with the Atelier series, featuring incredibly colourful worlds and charming casts, alongside easily accessible gameplay. The three games do have their own niches as previously explored, and are all worth playing, but I'd recommend playing them in order, as they are set in the same world several years apart.
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