Game Title: Atelier Lydie & Suelle ~ The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings
Developer: Gust, Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital Download
Battery Life: 2.5 – 3.5 hours
Download: 9.8 GB
The Atelier series is something that had a rocky start with me, but has since become one of my favorite niche RPG franchises around. I played Totori and Meruru on the Vita, which I really didn’t like that much. But, once I got past the Arland series, I enjoyed the games until I played Atelier Sophie, which quickly turned that ‘enjoyed’ to ‘loved’.
The fact that the Atelier series has made the transition from the Switch to the Vita has me even more excited. Not only is Atelier reaching a new handheld, but the third part of my favorite subseries for Atelier is on the Switch.
Without further delay, here is my review of Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings for the Nintendo Switch!
Atelier Lydie takes place in the small town of Merveille, where twin sisters live with their father, running an Atelier, both for food to eat and to pursue their life-long dream of running the greatest Atelier in the kingdom.
Being inexperienced and self-educated, the twins’ luck turns around when they find themselves magically transported inside a painting, bringing back rare materials, experience, and the hopes that their dream can and will be achieved.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Atelier is a very lighthearted, ‘slice of life’ series, offering a far less serious story than many other RPGs, focusing more on the troubles and goals of the individuals rather than a world-ending crisis. Atelier Sophie kind of mixed these two together near its end, but Lydie mixes it much better, offering a plethora of events that switch between day-to-day life and how the twins’ lives affects bigger events that happen throughout the story.
One thing I will say is that Lydie feels like a proper conclusion to the trilogy. Not only do characters from Sophie and Firis appear in this game, but the way the story unfolds has a big “this is where the first two games were headed this whole time” feeling to it.
Like most games in the series, Atelier Lydie is an RPG with turn-based combat and an emphasis on managing tasks and combining items through an Item Synthesis system. There’s a bit more to it than that, but that pretty much describes most Atelier games.
First of all, there are a couple major differences the series has done with this game. First, Atelier Lydie returned to the roots of having a single town as a hub for events with you only leaving to go to dungeons. This is not an open-world RPG like Firis was. Second, there is no Time Limitation system. Time passes as you do things, but no story quest has a time limitation attached to it.
The way progress works is a little different, too. Every chapter has you working your way up an “Alchemy Ranking System”, where you perform random tasks to gain reputation until you are well-known enough to take the next Promotional Test for the next rank. Clear the Test and you unlock new dungeons and advance to the next chapter and keep going until you’re at the top.
This is where things get a little interesting. The biggest ‘gimmick’ of this game is that you unlock new “Painting Worlds” after each Alchemy Rank you achieve, which not only leads to rare materials and monsters, but more story events that lead you into the next chapter. So, to be simple, each chapter goes: Raise Reputation, Take Promotional Test, Investigate New Painting World, Clear Chapter.
This actually ties well into Atelier’s normal trend of unlocking lots of character events in each chapter. Since you’ll be doing micro-tasks for reputation, the story will essentially never end but in a few select parts of the story. Unless you grind out every new event the moment a new chapter starts, you’ll virtually never stop unlocking story events as you play the game, making it really have that “daily life” feel with you working on alchemy while having constant events with the other characters.
There have been other changes as well. Combat’s been tweaked with follow-up attacks from rear party members as well as special “Combat Alchemy” that Lydie and Sue can perform to create Super-Powerful Items instead of just using normal items in combat. The Alchemy system has been tweaked as well, making it easier to gauge Quality before synthesizing by gauging it solely on the quality of the materials and not how you arrange them on the Synthesis Grid.
Now, Synthesis has always been the main focal point of the series, but many previous games didn’t necessarily require you to always rely on it. You had to synthesize for quest items, but you never really needed them for combat if you were properly equipped and leveled. In Lydie, that isn’t the case. From a few hours into the game, enemies in dungeons are equipped with high resistances, requiring you to not only carry items with you like elemental bombs but a variety as lots of these enemies can barely be scratched without being able to take advantage of an elemental weakness.
This makes combat a lot more strategic and less on just grinding for levels until you can make the best equipment and get the best skills. The game basically makes you appreciate and utilize the alchemy system for usable items a lot more than most of the previous games.
Now, let’s talk about content. For handheld gamers, this will be the first Atelier to be priced higher, because this is a Nintendo Switch game and not a PS Vita game. Luckily, it’s also packed with a ton of content. Across its Story Mode, I spent almost 50 hours before I managed to reach the end of the game and started to unlock the Endings while doing most, but not all character events. (Mostly for the characters I liked more, like Sophie, Firis, and Alt).
With New Game Plus available for those wanting to do the extra difficulty setting or replaying the story, there’s a lot to do in this game, easily justifying the higher price tag.
There isn’t a lot to say about the controls, aside from the fact that there are no touch controls. In handheld mode, you’ll only be using the buttons on the Joy-Cons while playing Atelier Lydie.
The actual control scheme isn’t too different from what Vita players are accustomed to, outside of the extra shoulder buttons and A (where Circle is on PlayStation) and B (Where X is on PS) being switched.
Moving around is done with the Left Analog Stick and moving the camera is done with the Right Analog Stick. The D-Pad / Arrow Buttons don’t do anything outside of menus. THe ZL and ZR triggers are used for zooming in and out with the camera (which is what the D-Pad did in the Vita Atelier games). L isn’t really used, and R can be used to trigger walking/running for movement.
Finally, the face buttons / action buttons. A is used to confirm menu options and interact with NPCs while B is used for jumping/cancelling options. Y is used for attacking in dungeons and X is used for pulling up the menu.
Graphically, it’s hard to really say what I think about this game. The graphics are definitely a step above the last Vita Atelier games, but at the same time, they have issues. There are little to no jagged edges and the detail quality is exceptional, but there’s a noticeable blur on anything that’s not right in front of the camera. (Think how DOOM looked on Switch when it first launched).
Then, performance, which also has its share of problems. Frame-Rate has always been a problem for the Atelier series on handhelds, and it’s quickly becoming a problem on consoles, too. According to reports from PS4 owners, Atelier Lydie can barely hold 30 fps on the PS4 Pro.
On the Switch, it depends on where you are. Some dungeons and areas maintain a nice, smooth frame-rate, only stuttering when entering battle. However, some areas, most of which are Painting Worlds, bring the frame-rate down into the low 20s, maintaining an experience very similar to some of the Vita Atelier games. Playable, especially considering this is a turn-based RPG but very noticeable at first.
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of Battery Life, but I feel like the results I got were a bit lower than I was hoping for. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 30 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 39 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 13 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 25 minutes
So, Atelier gets around Breath of the Wild levels of Battery usage. Not a whole lot, getting you between 2.5 and 3.5 hours per charge. Thankfully, most areas are very bright in color, making low-brightness play easier to manage.
In conclusion, Atelier Lydie & Suelle marks the series' first Western appearance on a Nintendo handheld since the Nintendo DS. It certainly isn't a perfect transition, with lingering frame-rate and blur issues in its presentation, but it is filled with dozens of hours of content and very nicely concludes the Mystery series with old faces and great story balancing between comedy and epic fights.