Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Here we are again, with the third and final instalment in the “Mysterious” Atelier trilogy: Atelier Lydie and Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX. With a pair of new alchemist main characters, the twins Lydie and Suelle, as well as a large cast of returning characters, and some you may recognize from elsewhere, we get to delve into the last of the Mysterious DX pack.
Atelier Lydie and Suelle is about the titular main characters, Lydie and Suelle, trying to bring life to their failing atelier, and wallets. Raised by their father after their mother passed away, they’ve been struggling to make ends meet. Between their not-so-competent alchemist/artist father failing jobs, pushing them off on the twins, or spending all their money on art supplies, and their cousin Lucia who runs a more reputable alchemy atelier, things aren’t looking so great. But thanks to the recently announced “atelier ranking system” sponsored by the local royal family, more alchemists are drawn to the city, giving the twins not only a teacher, but also a little financial backing as well.
Atelier Lydie and Suelle takes parts from Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis and combines them while adding a few unique twists. Both combat and alchemy have been changed from the previous two games in the series, so expect to have to get a little used to things again this time around. The alchemy system has become more refined, and the combat has, well, changed I suppose. In addition, the time limit from Firis has disappeared, meaning you can take your time with things. First up, let’s take a look at how game progression works in Lydie and Suelle. Before you can upgrade your atelier ranking, you need to make sure that the townspeople recognize your atelier. To do this, you’re given a number of tasks.
These can be pretty much anything, including buying things from shops, beating certain enemies, or collecting certain materials. Once you’ve completed enough, it doesn’t need to be all of them, you will earn three “stars”, which means that you can now take the test to upgrade your atelier ranking. These tests generally involve making an item, or items, and handing in enough of them to pass. Sometimes this may also include defeating monsters. Once you have successfully increased your atelier rank, you gain access to a new mysterious painting that you can explore. Rinse and repeat until you’re the best alchemists in the land!
Since the alchemy portion plays such a huge role in the series, let’s make it the next item on the list. Alchemy in Lydie and Suelle is pretty similar to Firis, but with a few very noticeable changes. For those who are coming in to Lydie and Suelle without playing the other mysterious titles, alchemy functions by selecting items to throw in a cauldron. These items have different quality levels, as well as traits and different “tile layouts”. After selecting your materials, you place them on a grid and try and fill up colour coded gauges to get certain effects to be produced on the item you’re making. Unlike in the previous two games, this time overlapping tiles doesn’t completely remove the one you’re overlapping, it simply “paints on top of it”, making it a lot easier to not lose large chunks of bonus because you can’t fit a small tile on the massive one you needed to place first.
Additionally, items can have multiple tiles associated to them, and you get to place all of them. There are two alchemy techniques you can use to help earn these bonuses on the gauges, one that you can use at the beginning of the alchemy procedure to change the grid you’re placing on, which may have bonus points for certain types of gauges, as well as mid-alchemy assistants that can be used to change tile colours. As you perform more synthesis using alchemy, you will earn alchemy exp, allowing you to increase your alchemy level. As you increase alchemy level, you will increase the number of traits that can be transferred from base materials to final products, as well as the base maximum gauge level for the alchemy bonuses.
Now that you’ve made some items, and hopefully some bombs to take into battle, you can equip those under your harvest equip, as well as any useful equipment for gathering, and head out of your atelier. Exploring the town will have you meet the locals, some you may recognize from Atelier Firis and Sophie, and you can interact with them for special events, visit shops to buy materials and equipment, as well as take requests from the notice board in front of the castle. Once you’ve paid your neighbours a visit, it’s time to set out into the wild! Or at least outside the city walls, or into a mysterious painting.
The areas outside the city walls and inside the painting are pretty similar for the most part. Out here in the wilderness, or inside the painted landscapes you will explore, the sprawling areas are filled with both monsters and materials alike. You can free roam around areas, that may be multiple zones connected through transitions, and pick up as many items as you can carry in your basket. Good news for those coming off Firis, the container has been expanded. While out gathering, you will see glowing spots you can gather from, rocks and crystals and trees you can kick, as well as insect, fishing, and water gathering locations. While the last three require special tools you can make, I am proud to announce the fact that every rock is whackable. For those fresh out of Firis, what I mean is that you have no AP, so you can sit there and kick (as Suelle) or smack (as Lydie) the rocks or crystals until they break, no questions asked. Of course you can use tools to help, but it isn’t basically required anymore.
So what about the combat then? Well, as per usual in the Atelier style, combat is turn-based where order is determined by speed, and you have an “order gauge” showing when which character or enemy is making their move. Unlike in both Firis and Sophie, we are down to three party members in a formation. Well, sort of. You have three front line units and three supporters. The supporters can use follow up actions depending on the front line character they are partnered behind, and you can swap between the front or backline on your turn. If a character gets knocked out, the supporter will also come in to replace them.
Other than that, you have a pretty standard Atelier style combat, with: normal attacks, skills, items, defense, change, and flee commands. Items can only be used by certain characters, so make sure you know who can use what before you suddenly are no longer able to throw bombs. Like the other DX titles, you can speed combat up to 2x speed, which is really nice for the longer adventurer level grind. Like in Firis, other characters can protect the twins if they’re on the front lines by guarding them, and also enemies have thankfully become a little more balanced. No longer are item spamming strategies basically required like in Firis, although having a number of things to throw certainly helps a lot. After battle you get your money, exp, and hopefully some items, or maybe a chest if you’re lucky.
The brand new aspect, and a very interesting draw for Lydie and Suelle, is the function for Battle Mix and Repainting the battlefield. Essentially, after set points in the story you unlock these abilities, and they allow you to synthesize mid battle and tune the battlefield t a mysterious painting effect respectively. Battle mix will take some anima that you earn in paintings, and you can combine it with other items to create new one-off type items mid battle. These can be pretty strong, and are fairly useful as they are incredibly easy to make, at least for the lower tier items. In regards to the repainting, it should be noted that each painting you visit has a passive effect in the background. For instance, a volcano area may cause rocks to fall whenever a fire move is used. Repainting allows you to change the “background” to suit your needs.
Good news everyone, Corneria is back again, and this time she’s offering both her services once more! That’s right, not only will she refill item uses for a small fee, she will also duplicate certain items for you again! One of the major things that annoyed me from Atelier Firis was having to remake distilled water everytime I needed more. In addition to Corneria’s full service coming back, the recipe ideas have returned to the Sophie style, thankfully. All the recipes you can learn will be noted in a book you can find in the main menu, and performing certain actions or gathering set materials will unlock the recipe. After making an item, the unlock conditions for adjacent items will become clear. No more wandering around picking things up with no idea how to actually unlock those thunder bombs anymore. Weapons and armour have a bit of a mix between Firis and Sophie. You make them with the assistance of the local blacksmith, Hagel, a friendly returning face that I haven’t seen in far too long. You give him the materials, select the traits you want, and congrats, your gear quality is the material average. Other than the standard crafting, you can also equip two different sub-cores to your weapons that will provide different effects based on the sub cores used.
As you may expect from a title focusing on paintings, the art style and scenery really does feel quite improved from Firis’ journey. There are many unique and well-painted environments to explore, and with the mysterious paintings, this means you can travel through flower gardens, volcanoes, or frozen mansions and it doesn’t feel out of place. There are a bunch of cut-in CGs that are really nice to look at, and probably most important of all: the character animations feel and look a lot smoother, and seem to have much more variation than the previous titles. Also, I’m very pleased to announce that the music, as I’ve come to love and expect from the Atelier series, is once again really great. If it’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s listening to an awful soundtrack for five hours while trying to grind out rare materials or levels. Thankfully that isn’t an issue here. Also as a bit of an aside, I’m pretty sure that the area themes are slightly different depending on whether you have Lydie or Suelle as the on-screen character.
If there’s anything to really complain about, it’s that I don’t know how to feel about all the items included at the start of the DX version. Yes, it’s nice having a high quality Dunkelheit with some really good traits, but the amount of times I was tempted to use the gifted items in the early game was a little much. Although based on the boss in chapter 6, there may be a reason for that, good lord that was tough. As a sort of last comment, I’d like to talk a bit about Lydie and Suelle, the characters. While Lydie is a very traditional alchemist (low defence and damage, primarily support and item user), Suelle is very much the opposite. She is a good front line fighter, active, and her battle skills are really handy. She can also chuck a lot of different item types as well. She’s also the only main character in the Atelier series to use guns instead of a staff as her weapon. Together I found that it was really easy to draw traits or aspects from one of the twins to complement the other, or to introduce ideas or concepts that may not fit with just one of their character traits.
As my last notes here, I’d like to talk about the mysterious trilogy as a whole. I really enjoyed this trilogy from start to finish. Even as I was getting alchemical burnout from going for the platinum trophy for all three games, it still had enough draw to keep me around without getting exasperated. And considering the end game grind is pretty similar across all three? I’d consider that pretty impressive. The voice acting across the trilogy is a bit all over the board though, as Sophie was great, Firis was disappointing, and Lydie and Suelle had no English option. The characters were all pretty unique and interesting in their own right however, and it was really nice to see so much cohesion between the characters across the trilogy. In terms of what the DX version has to offer? Well, all the DLC if you hadn’t picked that up with the initial releases, and a few bonuses and costumes. The real big part though? The run button and increased battle speed. As much as I love the Atelier series as a whole, sometimes the battles can drag on and attack animations can start grating on you the third or fourth time you’re attempting a boss. With up to 2x battle speed though? Not an issue. While some of my favourite music from the series has to be from Mana Khemia, the Mysterious trilogy is right up there in second place. Hands down some of the best full OST lists I’ve heard.