Introducing: Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists & The Mysterious Paintings DX
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists & The Mysterious Paintings DX, hereafter called “Lydie & Sue”, is an update to 2018’s title of (almost) the same name. This creates an often rarely repeated dilemma! With “DX” titles usually being reserved for ports from previous consoles, the “mystery” series has been released as a DX trilogy along with two other titles (“Sophie” and “Firis”). So does this title turn lead into gold? Or are we making a nugget of purest green? Keep reading our review of Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX to find out.
The Alchemists – In an Adventure with Monsters
Lydie & Sue are the sibling protagonists of our game. Taking on the role of running the atelier they have inherited from their deceased mother. Occasionally being distracted and burdened by their eccentric artist of a father the girls have set out to market themselves as the greatest alchemists in Merveille. This is by no means easy to accomplish however! You quickly realise that an increase in the number of local alchemists setting up shop means you’ve plenty of competition.
This influx in competition is part of Merveille’s new “Atelier Ranking System”. The girls quickly attempt to enroll and after a while eventually begin to climb the ranks. But this is only half of our story dear reader!
Deep within the confines of their father’s basement ides a mysterious painting. The girls quickly discover they have the ability to enter said paintings and explore the contents within. Think “Mary Poppins” but without the live action elements and, unfortunately, no sassy penguins! These paintings become a large part of the wider world the girls are exposed to as the Kingdom procures these artworks for further study. To quote a familiar painting portal jumping plumber, “Lets a go!”
Nothing Flat about this World
The world is essentially divided into three categories. The City of Merveille itself, which has plenty of areas to explore. The Castle acts as the hub for both the gallery that contains the Kingdom’s collections of magical artwork (why is it always castles that get the store these magical portals?!) It also acts as the Atelier registration and ranking area. This is where the girls can collect assignments and turn them in, in order to rank up. There are other areas including the Church, beach area and a number of “generic” market areas. Each area has NPCs and stores to interact with and gather materials.
Outside the city are isolated locations, which collectively make up the “overworld.” These are themed areas which offer opportunities to encounter monsters, collect resources and gather experience. This isn’t the only place, but there are often tasks for the ranking system within. There are also plenty of side quests back in the City that will help to gain Col and other vital resources to help the girls achieve their dreams.
Finally there are the paintings. Entering each one transports the girls to another world entirely. The theme of which changes with each painting, which itself can change slightly if certain events are triggered. I particularly enjoyed the Halloween theme, which gave off such strong vibes of a certain Disney film. I accidentally found myself humming “this is Halloween.” The DX version of the game even has an additional painting which has to be pieced together!
It’s Dangerous to go Alone, Take a Party!
The combat aspect of the game is unlike most RPGs in that it’s importance takes much of a back seat. The world you inhabit is very similar to that of The Witcher. Monsters are just a thing everyone lives/deals with. That said, there’s no “threat” or world to save. Battling is simply to gain experience, complete quests or advance the plot. There is also the opportunity to gain specific loot items which any budding alchemist would welcome!
Over the course of the game you acquire allies to add to your party who will aide in both combat and in a supporting role. Creating two “layers” on the battlefield. Combat is turn based, with an initiative tracker like bar denoting who’s turn is approaching and when. Players have the option of attacking, using a more powerful skill that drains MP or using a variety of offensive and defensive items. Characters have the option of diving in front of you to prevent damage and there is no restrictions on certain player’s deaths causing a game over as in other JRPGS (Persona/SMT im calling you out here!)
Each character has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, which can be expanded upon during the course of the game. With upgrades to both equipment and characters available to craft and purchase throughout the game. There is also the ability to combine the characters abilities in combat to deliver more personalised combos. Whilst i mentioned earlier that combat was taking a back seat, it certainly felt as integral as any other gameplay element.
Hubble Bubble, Fire Burn and Cauldron… Well, you get the Idea
The greater emphasis in-game is on the crafting element. Exploring the various locations will provide you with plenty of locations to gather materials. When certain conditions are met the girls even unlock more recipes with which to apply their wares to. The items available change not only with location but also with time of day, so repeat visits to locations are a must.
Crafting depends greatly on a number of things. Your current skill level, which increases the more you craft, the ingredients you posses and whether you know the recipe with which to craft said item from. All of this information is easily available once you step up to the cauldron. You are forced to add a specific number of ingredients but their quality can vary greatly. There is also the ability to add additional features to your items based on your choice of items. Placing the coloured tiles on specific spaces will increase the relevant gauges on the right hand side. There are also ways to select your starting grid and manipulate or enhance the effects to create the most ideal item or potion.
The crafting system offers what is a fun and addictive puzzle element where strategy and “tile placement” is the name of the game. Fans of tile based puzzles such as the first Bioshock mini-game or tile based board games like Carcassone will certainly have themselves at an advantage here. The crafting mechanic is also a pivotal component of both the Atelier ranking system and the side quests, so you will be spending a fair amount of time here!
The Art isn’t Trapped within the painting here!
The art style of the game is very typical of JRPGS. With a gorgeous introduction cinematic that wouldn’t be misplaced in a Crunchyroll exclusive anime series. The game has art assets that are reminiscent of those found in similar titles and certainly reminded me of Fire Emblem titles especially. Obviously Atelier has it’s own style, but for those who haven’t played a title yet, the comparison is a good starting point. There is a great mixture of colours and animations that help to both progress the story and add to an already immersive environment.
The art assets are supported with calming and beautiful music that feel right at home here. You could happily play this in the background while typing up a review, which is more easily achieved with the digital soundtrack bundled in with the DX purchase. At no point did the music feel like a detractor to the game as the flowing melodies and calm tempos complimented the various scenarios well. Character dialogue is in Japanese with translated subtitles, which can be off putting to players at times.
Technically the game plays well in docked and handheld mode, with no issues with framerate or graphical bugs seen. There were a few times that positioning the camera was irritating. But having recently played Super Mario 3D All Stars I’ve since found myself much more forgiving of poor camera angles. Not entirely sure why? There were no issues found when using the Joy-Con or the Pro Controller. The game takes up about 9GB of space, so those with smaller storage will want to consider this.
A Relaxing RPG
I honestly loved playing Lydie & Sue! I found it a refreshing change from the RPGs I am used to. Not having played many Atelier games I can safely say I will be picking up others within the “mystery” franchise. In a world where we regularly save our various universes from threats both large and small, I really found the slice of life take to be a fantastic way to almost relax from attempting to grind out yet another party member to prep for a boss battle elsewhere.
The story isn’t the deepest, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in any way either. You feel for the characters you interact with, and those who don’t have the deepest character arc still help to strengthen your sympathy for Lydie and Sue. Your connection to the two girls is what drives you through the world, you want them to be the best just as much as they do!
Even Masterpieces can have flaws
My main complaints are again ones that often sit with RPGS. There is a lot to learn very quickly on in Lydie & Sue. This, I feel causes two problems. The first is that it develops a steep learning curve for new players to the game, which can often be off putting. The tutorials are more than adequate for the job, and they show that the developers have thought of newer players when adding them. But when combined with my second issue, you can understand that newer players can often be put off.
My second complaint then. There is SO MUCH going on! With the different rules behind crafting, gathering and creating better quality ingredients, interacting with NPCs, gathering quests which are time sensitive. It can be quite daunting to have a lot of these things thrust on the player so early. As a reviewer, I often find that getting my head around mechanics is often the most time consuming part of a review. But where Lydie & Sue is concerned, I really did feel that this could have been handled with an even more gradual approach than was adopted, perhaps letting the player focus on completing a specific mechanic a few times before introducing the next.
- Captivating “Slice of Life” take on the RPG
- Beautiful art assets with bright animations
- Crafting mechanic is challenging while feeling familiar
- Long drawn out learning curve
- lots of elements can be confusing early on