Back and Better than Ever
The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy marked a unique time for the Atelier series as a whole. The trio of games came during a time when it felt like the series was hitting a bit of a wall, so to speak (Ryza was still a few years away), and, in an attempt to keep pushing forward, GUST began to experiment a little bit—something which resulted in all three of the games feel very different from one another.
There were, admittedly, plenty of mixed feelings going around among long-time fans of the series and uncertainty regarding where the Atelier series would be heading in the near future. Fortunately, that uncertainty is all but gone now thanks to the overwhelming success of series savior Ryza Stout, but it’s still nice to take a look at where the series has been up until now. Not surprisingly, it’s that very same sentiment that led me to reviewing the Atelier Mysterious Deluxe Pack, and now that I’ve been given ample time with the games once again, I’m happy to say that they’re most definitely worth re-visiting.
Growing Up and Setting Off
As you’ve probably figured out based on the name alone, the Atelier Mysterious Deluxe Pack isn’t technically a game itself. Rather, it’s a collection of games, featuring Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX. Normally, this would be the part of the review where I went into detail about the story of whatever game I’m reviewing. And I’d love to that for this game, too. Unfortunately, we’re taking a look at three different games at once, so that’s not really a possibility. So let’s just take a look at the overall theme of this trilogy instead.
As with every Atelier saga out there, the Mysterious Trilogy features several overarching themes that can very easily be found if you look at all three titles together. The most obvious theme is, of course, “mystery,” but I’ve come to realize that the mysteries faced by the protagonists of these games aren’t exactly what you’d expect them to be. Yes, there are plenty of magic-centered mysteries, but, if I’d argue that, more than anything, this series focuses on the mystery of what it means to grow up.
While Sophie, Firis, and Lydie & Sue all want to become great alchemists, their reasons for doing so all center around the themes of family and the transition into adulthood. Sophie wants to live up to the standards set by her late grandmother, Firis wants to explore the world just like her big sister, and Lydie & Sue have the task of protecting their family unceremoniously thrust upon them after the passing of their mother. What holds the multiple narratives of the Mysterious Trilogy together isn’t alchemy; it’s the desire—and in some cases the need—to grow both physically and mentally; a theme which all three games skillfully encompass each in their own unique way.
Generally speaking, there aren’t many deviations between games when looking at a single Atelier saga. The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy, however, seems to have forgotten about that rule. Marking itself as a series oddity, Atelier Sophie DX, Atelier Firis DX, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX each have a very different approach to how they play out. Atelier Sophie is very much a “back to basics” title, featuring gameplay that heavily mimics older titles. There are plenty of areas to explore, but none of them are particularly big (save the post-game dungeon). Instead, you’re meant to visit most of them in short bursts, collecting ingredients and defeating baddies as you see fit, and then heading back to your Atelier.
Atelier Firis, the second game in the trilogy, throws everything that Atelier Sophie set up out of the window. Rather than sticking to its roots, Atelier Firis gives players an honest-to-goodness adventure. While the game does allow for quicker travel eventually, the first half of the game feels much more like a traditional JRPG than almost any other Atelier game out there (save a few of the PS2 games). Personally, Atelier Firis is one of my favorite games for this very reason. While I understand keeping tradition alive, actually being able to go on an adventure within an Atelier game felt like a breath of fresh air—and it’s an approach that I wish that GUST would take more often.
Last but not least, there’s Atelier Lydie & Suelle—a game that could best be described as a “happy medium” between the first two Mysterious titles. While the core of the game is once again centered around the protagonists’ town and Atelier, the approach to exploration flips the script on what Atelier Sophie gave players by offering quality over quantity. Not only do players have access to many “typical” fleshed-out gathering locations this time around, but Lydie & Suelle‘s focus on journeying into other worlds means access to highly thematic areas—like a haunted forest and a volcano—which really helps this game feel unique despite its compromising overall approach.
There’s one thing that I haven’t really talked about, though—the two letters tacked on the end of each of these games. Just what exactly makes the Mysterious DX games so “deluxe?” Well, the answer to that question actually depends on which game you’re looking at. Atelier Sophie DX comes bundled with an all-new side-story which, very fittingly, centers around her desire to live up to her grandma’s legacy, as well as a few new (and quite useful!) alchemy cauldrons to use. Atelier Firis DX includes most of the DLC that you could buy for the original, plus a few all-new recipes for tools that can help you out while you explore and a few new monsters to fight if you’re feeling brave enough. Finally, Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX also comes with plenty of previously released DLC, plus a bonus episode which ties it to the follow-up spinoff title Nelke & The Legendary Alchemists ~Ateliers of the New World~. If you ask me, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to re-releases like this. Not only do we get plenty of DLC, but we even get brand-new content. Oh, and the digital art books that come with each game are pretty nice, too It’s totally a win-win!
Stirring the Pot
Alchemy is at the center of every single Atelier game out there. This is a fact that anyone even remotely familiar with the series undoubtedly knows. What some of you may not be familiar with, however, is the fact that many Atelier sagas (especially the newer ones) differentiate themselves from one another based on alchemy mechanics. And hoo boy is the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy‘s approach to alchemy a doozy. While alchemy could always be considered to be a little bit of a puzzle, regardless of which Atelier game you’re playing, Sophie, Firis, and Lydie & Suelle take this to the next level by quite literally making it into a puzzle.
I’ve played plenty of Atelier games in my time, but the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy’s approach to alchemy is, by far, the most complex. It takes some real time and effort to actually master the craft of alchemy in these games (although it does get easier the further you go into the series), and I’ll admit that I didn’t much care for it during my first romp through this saga. Coming back to it, however, was almost like saying hello to an old friend. Now that I actually knew what I was doing, I actually had a lot of fun alchemizing items. It’s an acquired taste, and it’s for the best that they ditched this method after this trilogy, but it was still strangely enjoyable getting to mess around with it again.
A Mysteriously Satisfying Recipe
The Atelier Mysterious Trilogy is a piece of Atelier history marked by plenty of ups and downs, but that’s probably what made diving into the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack all the sweeter. I genuinely enjoyed all of the content that it had to offer—both new and old—and I’m sure that most other fans will, too. Plus, it’s pretty hard to beat the fact that you’re getting bonus content within each of the games at a reduced price!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC; Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games Co., Ltd.; Developer: GUST Co. Ltd., Koei Tecmo Games Co., Ltd.; Players: 1; Released: April 22, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $89.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.