- Developer: Gust
- Publisher: KOEI TECMO
- Release Date: 22/04/2021
- Price: £32.99 / $39.99
- Review code provided by KOEI TECMO
Introducing: Atelier Sophie Switch Review
When I set out to review Atelier Sophie, I only knew that this wasn’t her first rodeo in the gaming realm. In fact, I realized I knew very little about this entry in the Atelier series. Even though I played Atelier Lydie & Suelle when it came out on the Switch in 2018, I didn’t realize they were in part of the same trilogy. Fast forward to 2021 when all three in the Mysterious Trilogy will be available on the Nintendo Switch. Atelier Sophie originally launched on the PlayStation 4 and Vita June 2016, outside of the Japanese release. This isn’t the first Atelier series ported to the Switch, but in this review of Atelier Sophie we see how well it holds up nearly five years later.
Starts by Opening a Book
One thing that has always impressed me about the Atelier games is how they construct endearing narratives with rich worlds and deep characters. For a series as long lasting as Atelier, I find I enjoy each story presented in the multitude of games released. There’s something innocent and cheerful which makes the stories bubbly and bright. There’s always a moral to the story and a lot of character growth. Atelier Sophie doesn’t divert from this trend.
Sophie has inherited an Atelier from her Grandmother, who was a successful alchemist. Having learned a little from her Grandma, Sophie has basic alchemy skills which you will help her strengthen throughout the game. While working in her familiar Atelier, she finds a living book. Surprised by this speaking volume, Sophie learns the book was once an alchemist named Plachta. Little is written in the book. It turns out, Plachta is missing more than full pages. The mysterious book is also missing its memories. Sophie and Plachta make a great team as they set out to restore Plachta’s memories. In return, Plachta helps Sophie hone her skills as an alchemist.
A Student of Alchemy
Atelier Sophie follows a pretty standard gameplay loop for an Atelier game. Having reviewed the Ryza games recently, it’s clear how the games have evolved over time. Going back to Sophie certainly showed its age and I’m guessing is the reason it’s priced lower than the Atelier Ryza games on the Switch. Combat is turn-based and is a bit simplified. That doesn’t mean the battles were easy. I died more in combat during my Atelier Sophie review than any of past Atelier games put together. Utilizing items and skills is critical to successful fights, even against non-boss type enemies.
Everything in Atelier Sophie came down to having a good balance. The game fosters this well. You have to balance time exploring and scavenging for materials. Your time in the Atelier crafting items as well as being out on the town socializing with the many characters. And of course, balancing combat and quests. At any point I became stuck, it was because I let one of these tasks slide to the backburner. The gameplay was enjoyable and sucked me in. I enjoyed the puzzle elements of crafting and the having to sleuth new recipes. Every Atelier game I’ve played has a unique approach so it isn’t a “you’ve played one, you’ve played them all,” scenario.
Exploring the World
Though Atelier Sophie isn’t as crisp as the recently released Atelier titles, it’s still a beautiful game. There’s limited customization for Sophie and a lot of costume options for Plachta. It was fun experimenting and unlocking new looks. The addition of Photo Mode made good use of the vibrant landscapes and gorgeous characters. It’s a pretty flexible system with options that will keep you busy trying to get that perfect shot. I did notice that NPCs around town were rather sparse and popped into the screen quite delayed. The city of Kirchen Bell felt pretty empty. Which was too bad because an active day/night cycle with weather effects added a living ambience to the game.
Tune Your Ears
Despite the vacant feeling of the world, it was filled with charming music and solid voice acting. The dialogue is in Japanese but accompanied by English subtitles. Some of the songs were heartfelt while the majority played well in the background as you go about your daily tasks. There are several quality of life improvements which keep the game fresh as well. The only other issue I encountered was frequent frame rate drops while exploring the various locales. This caught me off guard because oftentimes it was on small maps with very few enemies or elements.
End of a Chapter
Atelier Sophie shows its age but only in passing. Despite a few technical slowdowns and minor issues, it’s a great game to have on the Nintendo Switch and a good entry point for anyone curious about the Atelier series. The price point is well adjusted and the addition of DLC and more episodes gives great value to this RPG. Atelier Sophie paves the way for the Mysterious Trilogy and gets it started on the right path. It’s a fun filled vibrant adventure with great characters and solid gameplay.
- Challenging Combat
- Excellent Story and Characters
- Addictive Alchemy Puzzles
- Beautiful Sounds
- Frame Drops in Small Areas
- Delayed Loading