Post by nocturnal YL on Jun 3, 2018 16:33:52 GMT -5
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings
I'd like to talk about Atelier Lydie & Suelle. I'm 120% certain this is the wrong forum for such discussion, as it's a PlayStation-centric RPG that falls flatly into the Japanese-as-ever territory. Still, it doesn't hurt to write a piece about this game either.
This post is extremely long. Feel free to ignore it; the main thing here is that I love this game.
FULL SPOILERS AHEAD: I don't think anyone in this forum has played or will ever think about playing this game, so I'm not holding back on spoilers.
Some basic information about the game and the series.
- The developer, Gust, was founded in 1993, and became famous with Atelier Marie in 1997, the first game in the series. They became a subsidiary of KOEI TECMO in 2011 because the latter wanted to make Atelier-themed mobile games, and were absorbed by them in 2014. Gust remains the branding used for the games they develop. Nintnedo Switch fans probably remember them for Night of Azure 2. Having access to KOEI TECMO's technology allowed them to greatly shorten the loading time of their games.
- Atelier is a series of RPGs that puts emphasis on the items. You collect materials, make your own unique items, and use them in battles or use them as materials for synthesizing other items.
- The Atelier series is subdivided into story arcs that are not connected to each other, with each story spanning over 2 or 3 games.
- Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the 19th main series entry (the game's title is thus abbreviated as A19) and the last of the Mysterious trilogy, after Atelier Sophie (A17) and Atelier Firis (A18). As such, its story brings proper closure to the previous two games' subplot.
- Atelier Lydie & Suelle is available on PS4, PS Vita (Japan only), Switch and PC. It's the first Atelier game (spinoffs included) on a Nintendo home console. It's undubbed for overseas releases, unlike the previous games.
- Atelier is pronounced Att-li-eh, in line with the word's French pronunciation.
I have mentioned this before, but I bought this game as a token of thanks to KOEI TECMO GAMES, both for making Fire Emblem Warriors and for generally being so supportive of Nintendo's platforms (even the Wii U). Following this logic, I should have bought something from ω-Force or Team Ninja, but another Warriors is the last thing I want. This also happened before I borrowed my cousin's PS4. I'd have picked the Switch version anyway, just for the portability.
We're going to have some new Atelier announcement on 14 June.
Atelier in general is known for not telling a standard hero-saving-the-world kind of story. Rather, each game follows a small group of alchemists' quests to reach their personal goals, be it saving a specific friend, seeing the world, or honing skills in alchemy itself.
Lydie & Suelle is promoted as a slice-of-life RPG, following the lives of a pair of twin alchemists. The twins' goal is to raise the ranking of their shop to the national best as a promise to their late mother, and if you think they're going to eventually save the world, well, no. They did save their city once, so I guess that counts?
This game revolves around the painting worlds they can venture into and collect materials from. Said materials will help the twins make better items, which in turn helps their atelier rank up. Repeat the process until the end — the story isn't as boring as this makes it sound, but this premise is used all the way to the end.
Lydie: The older twin. Good at studying and theories, but nota good fighter. Appears to be more delicate, although she can come off as being rude and mischievous from time to time. Likes reading romance novels. The two sisters aren't forced (in terms of writing) to be similar or different, making them one of my favourite twin characters.
Suelle: The younger twin. Outwardly energetic and mischievous, gives an impression of having more brawn than brain. She is the one to come up with ideas to raise the atelier's renown, though. Not good at reading, and doesn't read kanji very well. Fears bugs and ghosts. Called just "Sue" by herself, most other characters, and even the system menu.
Mathias: A bodyguard assigned to the twins by the castle receptionist / princess, Mireille. Later revealed to be Mireille's brother, and even later, the next king. The twins, especially Sue, made fun of him for his womanizing ways and appearing to be not working, but they eventually understood him better. The only non-alchemist in the party.
Firis: The last game's protagonist, and Sophie's student. A happy, easygoing hunter / alchemist who has set up a tent in Merveille (Adalet's captial city and this game's base of operation) while travelling. She was tasked with investigating the paintings with the twins, and stayed ever since. Loves meat.
Alt: A mysterious boy who appeared out of nowhere. As it turns out, he is actually a 500-year-old alchemist who went mad in pursit of power. He gained a normal human's form after a series of events. Has a sharp, direct mannerism. Cautious about repeating his past mistakes.
Sophie: The protagonist from two games piror. She is basically the best alchemist there is, as far as this story is concerned. She was on a pursit of getting her friend and teacher Plachta a human body after she was sealed away 500 years ago, which did eventually happen. Though powerful as an alchemist, she is not good at taking care of herself.
Lucia: The twins' rival and, as we later find out, cousin. She's a typical tsundere character, complete with the red outfit and twintails. Despite appearance, she really cares about the twins, who didn't realise this until they pulled a prank on her and read her logbook. Playable as a DLC character.
Ilmeria: The twins' teacher, and something of a tsundere (yeah, well, there are two others in this game, as NPCs). Likes cute stuff, but refuses to admit so. Also hates to be reminded she's short. Good friends with Firis, although they practise different styles of alchemy. Playable through DLC.
I absolutely love this game. …Again. There seems to be something about RPGs that few people have played that attracted me. I wonder why is that the case?
It's not my favourite game ever, and I think I still like Tokyo Mirage Sessions ♯FE better, generally speaking. But Atelier Lydie & Suelle also had most of what I'd ever have wanted to see in an RPG: An easy way to keep track of subplots, being able to review the story so far (in a limited way), adjustable difficulties that either makes tough bosses manageable or makes grinding easier, and most importantly, the story. The game is also fairly balanced (if you don't count the extra quests added in the 1.04 patch), requiring only little grinding if you simply want to make it to the end. It's generally very friendly to players new to Atelier, although it does expect you to know how to play RPGs in general.
One thing I do like is how it gives experience points. Everyone gets full experience (except when you're fighting Firis), even for characters who aren't participating or are down when the battle ends. Experience-raising items raise the experience points of the whole party, not just the user. I have always been hoping to see an RPG with a shared experience counter, and this is the closest thing I can find. Oh, you also don't lose progress if your party is wiped out. The worst thing that can happen is that you get sent back home and lose some of the collected items. Very user-friendly (well, me-friendly?) indeed.
But the best part has to be the story. It's really just me, but I generally like positive-sounding stories. Well, I also like sad stories, but I think they can be easily botched. Just look at Fire Emblem Awakening and Fates. I also like to see character-based events (as I did with ♯FE), as these really give out a feeling of the characters helping and getting to know each other over time. And this game is so full of them. Oh, and (spoilers) I really love how the story ended up with a negative (human) death count. Again, it's just me, but this is one of my favourite RPG stories, even more than ♯FE.
There are a few things that general RPG players may not like about Atelier. Because of the game's emphasis on synthesizing items, dungeons are short and they really exist to just host the story events, monsters and materials. You also only get a single town, because you make items at home. I personally don't mind this, and hey, I've seen worse. These simple towns and dungeons are at least 100 times better than those in Puyo Puyo Chronicle.
There are other areas that are criticized about, including the graphics (PS3- or Vita+ grade on Switch, PS3+ grade on PS4, and it's really awful on Vita), the price (base game costs about 7800 yen, DLC cost 9000 yen, the total price can be spent on three cheap games), and if you're playing in English, the localisation (spelling inconsistency between Sophie/Firis and Lydie & Suelle, and there's no dubbed voice despite the previous games did). None of them bother me too much (I spent more on the full version of FE Echoes, so this is nothing).
I'll talk about various stuff. It won't be a full play impression, which is something you can find everywhere online (here's one, here's another, here's a short impression in English, Switch version guide). It's also very chaotic.
Again, full spoilers ahead.
The first thing that caught my attention was this:
Yep. That's Sue. With guns. That's not what I expect from a game like this, although I later found out (in-game) that Ilmeria used to use a gun too.
I don't have many images from the early game, partly because I was too immersed in the game itself.
One thing I noticed early on is that the characters here are either Japanese people who have adopted German names, or German people who have throughly adopted Japanese culture. They write in Japanese, talk about language features unique to Japanese (honourifics, first-person pronouns, furigana), make puns in Japanese, start drinking when they turn 20, and adopt an S rank above A that's characteristic of Japanese games. The only things that aren't Japanese are the character names (which are mostly German with some French) and place names (which are French). Of course, this is the case with a lot of medieval fantasy works, but this game is one of the biggest examples I know of.
Mathias is treated poorly at first. Well, maybe that's an understatement. He gets no respect whatsoever. His early attempts to hit on women also missed a lot: a failed attempt on an unnamed NPC; an attempt to ask the church's sister out, who turned out to be in her 50s and just happened to look young; and he also attempted with Sophie, which drew the ire from her friends.
This is Plachta, Sophie's teacher. This is probably the only time I can see a 520-year-old, sage-like character run into interpersonal issues and turn to a pair of 14-year-olds for help. This is actually the general tone of this game (and perhaps the Atelier series). Those who have surpassed mortal limitations still have daily lives, after all.
And this is a deity. She may be extremely powerful, but personality-wise she's just a normal girl. Lydie and Sue noticed this as well.
Firis's tent (looks like a tent outside, and a wide room created with alchemy inside) hosts character events for Firis, Sophie and Plachta, and can take a long time to clear. Towards the end of a true ending run, you'll see nothing is going on except this little tent. It can get rather boring if you truly have nothing else to do.
The event here is a meeting between masters and teachers. Ilmeria feels like she may not be a good teacher, especially for Sue. The sisters would later send her a gift of appreciation, made using their own recipe. (The blue-haired girl is Plachta in puppet form before she got a human body.)
Also, a few scenes not captured but I really liked:
There's this one point when the twins did have an argument and refused to talk to each other, but they eventually saw flaws in their own reasons to dislike each other and made up after teaming up in a battle. Generic, but I like it.
There's also the scene of Plachta finally getting a human form. Creating space? Reversing time? Making a whole human body with alchemy? Nothing is impossible for the legendary Sophie!
Oh, right. Another observation. Some of the later character events have them talk about the events in the previous games. This is unfortunately something that players new to the series (like me) wouldn't understand without an online search.
Some system stuff:
One thing I don't like about the game is the unskippable combination skills. It's not as bad as the Sessions in ♯FE (which happens after almost every attack), but it does get boring after a while.
This is the screen for making an item. It's hard to explain with a short text, but basically, you fill the guages at the bottom right so that they reach a certain level to give a certain effect to the item. You can either use no catalyst and get a 4×4 board, or use an item as the catalyst to get a wider board or add effects to it. Once you figure out how to mass-produce the Philosopher's Stone (sounds hard? To this game's alchemists, it's only an intermediate-level item), you can use 7×7 boards with multiple +5 bonuses at a low cost.
I really like the item description screens. You're presented with a mini-drama of the characters talking about the items.
Town map. This makes locating the major NPCs easy. It also shows where the next goal is at (!?) and whether there are new character events (!), although the latter is also used for the optional, infinite end-game battles. This makes it hard to tell if Firis's tent actually has a character event or if Firis is available to practice-fight the party again.
I really like Sue, both as a character in the story, and as a high-speed fighter who gets a lot of turns to fight (this is a timeline-based RPG, so speedy characters can get more than one turn for every enemy turn). As a result, I also gave the best equipment to her. Lydie and the others don't have stats nearly as high.
Post-game soundtrack commentary. It's interesting to see what the composers and voice actors think about the game, within the game itself.
This game has two BGM packs as free DLCs (one for the Atelier series, the other for a few Gust games), which take up a lot of space. There are also paid BGM packs, but I don't think I'll ever want that. Same for the outfit DLC.
And finally, true ending stuff, and a conclusion to why do I like this game's story.
Although all endings count, the true ending is basically how I want to see an RPG end.
- Firis would talk to the twins about travelling from time to time. Sophie also talked about her hometown.
- Ilmeria's events had her explain to the twins that she and Firis separated because while she wanted to run an atelier, Firis's dream was travelling and she didn't feel like she should stop Firis just because they had a promise to co-run their shop.
- During Firis's events, she made a teleporter for Ilmeria, so that they could meet while she travels without her. This solves the problem of them not being in contact while Firis is travelling.
- Firis later sent the twins a flying portable atelier that they could use if they ever decide to travel.
- After finishing all other character events, which involve mending Alt's heart, restoring Plachta's body and help her decide whether to stay with Sophie, Sophie started to discuss about the idea of permanently securing the twins' mother's existence (her soul resided in a painting after she passed).
- The twins were successful, and they also made a decision to travel far to further their goal to use alchemy to make people happy.
- In the end we get a bunch of master alchemists who is capable of just about anything, and they get to travel far with the option to teleport people from their hometown.
The whole thing is just so stupidly optimistic. I love it. I love it because it's not like any other RPG story I've seen. It doesn't end with a downer footnote, either due to the story or due to the writer's oversight.
Actually, if you think about it, there are question left behind. Those who have visited painting worlds are said to have their souls go to the paintings after they die, and this applies to most but not all of the characters. What would actually happen? Will the paintings eventually be overpopulated with dead alchemists? Interesting question, but I'm willing to let it pass. I usually only care up to the point of the story's end.
Anyway, here it goes. A rather chaotic post, I know. And I'm fairly certain that non-players may not understand everything I've written, but I don't feel like refining my writing. Feel free to ask for clarification.
And finally, it goes without saying that I do recommend this game. I don't think it has an audience in this forum, but I still do recommend it.