The folks at Gust have been creating memorable JRPGs for decades and their latest is a lovely adventure that brings an era to a close in a wonderful way. So, let's join Lydie and Suelle on their journey and see what they're up to.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is the final entry in the "Mysterious" trilogy of Atelier games. After the super-positive Sophie and the ever-determined Firis, Lydie and Suelle are here to tell their story. Merely being aspiring alchemists who wish to make their atelier the best in the entire Kingdom of Adalet, they soon discover a strange occurrence as they enter one of their father's paintings and explore the imaginative world contained within. It's this revelation that inspires them to try even harder and explore even more paintings. Along their journey, they'll meet tons of new and familiar faces such as the charming swordsman Mathias, the accomplished Firis, the peculiar Alt, and a more grown-up Sophie as well as Ilmeria, Liane, Mireille, Plachta, Roger, Lucia, and many more. It could just be the biggest cast in any Atelier game and reintroducing so many characters is such a great way to tie up the trilogy.
Lydie and Suelle live in the moderately-sized city of Merveille. Although twins, Lydie is the older of the two. She is highly intelligent and treats everything with care. Meanwhile, Suelle is kind of a tomboy (even though she wears a pretty yellow dress) who takes life a lot less seriously. The contrast of the two characters is fantastic and I loved every scene where they interact. That being said, one thing that I didn't enjoy as much as the previous two Mysterious games is that neither Lydie nor Suelle have unique and clearly defined motivations. Sophie thrived on making others happy while Firis was destined to prove herself and went to great lengths in order to do so. However, Lydie and Suelle simply want to make their atelier the best which is rather stereotypical and uninspired.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle looks fantastic with vibrant and beautiful visuals in both the environments and character models. I loved exploring each distinct area whether it was a real location (such as a forest or rocky desert) or a painting which includes themes such as Halloween, ice, and fire. The stage designs themselves have a lot of cool features and uneven terrain which is something that many Atelier games lack. By the way, you reach these areas via menus so the open-world setup of Atelier Firis is in the past. Anyway, the music is full of catchy gentle melodies and the sound effects are great and add a layer of satisfaction to every onscreen event. However, I was quite disappointed that there is no English voice acting. I'm fine with hearing the Japanese voice actors as they generally do a good job of bringing life to the characters but I don't understand what the heck they're saying in the middle of battle, etc.
When it comes to gameplay, Atelier Lydie & Suelle doesn't deviate much from established formulas but there are a handful of nifty new mechanics that integrate very well. For starters, progression is primarily handled via an Ambitions Journal. Completing tasks contained within it increases your rank and makes your atelier have a better reputation. These tasks are fairly simple and usually involve slaying certain monsters, finding specific items, talking to citizens, and crafting items. Speaking of which, the synthesis system is similar to the previous two games although there's a lot more freedom as you can incorporate catalysts and enhancing agents and place materials however you wish. The battle system is rather open-ended, too, as you can have two rows of three characters where the back row assists the front row by unleashing collaboration attacks. It's cool stuff and it all comes together to make one addictive adventure.
As I've already mentioned, there are a ton of different areas to explore. As you run around, you can collect materials, fish, fill water containers, catch bugs in nets, and fight enemies. It's super-fun just wandering around the diverse assortment of locations while acquiring a wealth of supplies and levelling up then heading back to the city to complete some side-quests and make the citizens just a bit happier in the process. There's so much to see and do that you can have fun for hours even without making any story progress.
All of that being said, I found Atelier Lydie & Suelle to possibly be the most casual adventure in the entire series. There is no time limit of any kind and the challenge is mostly non-existent. I only perished a couple of times due to not being properly prepared for bosses but all that happened was that I got sent back to the atelier with only a few collected materials missing. I breezed through area after area without much difficulty for the rest of the campaign. As long as you craft decent equipment at the blacksmith and maintain an acceptable level, you'll be set. If you don't want to do that then you'll find the battle items to be surprisingly powerful so no worries either way.
As someone who's played every game in the trilogy, I must say that Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings ties it all together in a masterful way. I'm excited to see what Gust has in store for their next trilogy of delightful adventures.
- + Ties up the trilogy beautifully by reintroducing a cast of familiar characters
- + A handful of clever new mechanics
- + Loads of diverse areas to explore
- - Unlike Sophie and Firis, Lydie and Suelle don't have any inspirational motives
- - Lack of challenge with no time limit
- - No English voice acting