Note. In April 2021, Koei Tecmo released Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX and subsequently delisted the original version of the game on the Switch eShop that this review refers to. While the bulk of the information will still be relevant, it's worth keeping in mind that the review text below is referring specifically to the earlier, non-DX version of the game.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is the final entry of the Atelier ‘Mysterious’ trilogy, and actually happens to be the first main-series Atelier game to appear on a Nintendo console. We’ve seen various side games hit Nintendo’s handheld consoles, dating way back to the Game Boy Color, but it comes as a pleasant surprise to see this main entry on Nintendo’s new hybrid.
Playing the first two entries of the trilogy isn’t an essential warm-up for playing this title, but for those who have already experienced Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis, you may be interested to know that things have been changed up once again here. The open-world approach that was introduced in the second entry has vanished once more, seemingly only being allowed to have one shot in the limelight. Instead, this game returns to the classic formula of travelling between separate maps.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, though, let’s dive in to explore what the game is all about. Lydie and Suelle are twin sisters who co-run an amateur alchemist service. Their business is facing some pretty hard times, however – partly thanks to their father wasting all of their earnings – so the plot revolves around the sisters making cash to build their reputation in their craft. When their kingdom announces a new ranking system for aspiring ateliers, promising financial backing for the most successful applicants, the twins set out to achieve the highest available rank.
To do this, you must guide Lydie and Suelle through their alchemy practice, levelling up your skills to create the highest quality items you can. By examining your notebook – a feature that you’ll be using an awful lot during your playtime – you can find quests that will task you with finding particular residents, creating a specific set of items for customers, and even fighting monsters to protect people of the town. Completing these tasks will grant you extra cash and experience points, so taking on as many quests as possible is definitely the way to go.
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the crafting side of the game may take some getting used to; you are presented with several menus full of items, all containing various stats, and the game doesn’t provide the best explanation for how of these things can affect your creations. Naturally, you’ll start to get to grips with what works and what doesn’t with time, and you’ll come to realise that there’s a pretty impressive alchemy system in place, but you might find yourself feeling a little lost in the beginning.
To gather all of the resources you’ll need, you’ll once again need to consult your trusty notebook. From there, you can warp to new locations that you unlock over time, fast-travelling between your store’s town and a whole host of different areas full of items to collect. New to this game are the ‘mysterious paintings’ which allow you to travel to all sorts of whacky places that wouldn’t necessarily fit within the main game. To give some examples, these paintings will whisk you off to places such as a Halloween-themed land and even underwater, seemingly acting as a trade-off for this title’s lack of open-world.
The combat we briefly mentioned earlier is a rather relaxed affair, and as with most areas of the game, the early stages are a little underwhelming. Battles are turn-based, with the twins acting as independent characters for your side. You’ll be using a variety of skills along the way, and can also use your crafted items to slay monsters, too. As the game progresses, you’ll start to gather several more party members alongside the twins, allowing you to fight in a two-line formation. This setup allows fighters on the back row to recover for a moment while the front team attack.
There are six playable characters in total and, as it’s likely that you’ll find a winning strategy to stick to for the most part, the combat does start to feel a little repetitive after a while. That said, it is only part of the game as a whole, which essentially feels like a collection of different RPG-traits rolled into one; the combat and quests make up a fair portion of your activities, but the focus on alchemy and crafting does help to set the series apart from similar titles.
Presentation and performance-wise, Atelier Lydie & Suelle is pretty average. The games graphics are a bit of a mixed bag, with attractive anime-style cut-scenes pulling you in, only to reveal a relatively disappointing overall art style for the main game buried underneath. There is no English dub present here, either, meaning that you’ll be listening to the original Japanese vocal recordings with subtitles being present throughout, although the girls do have an interesting relationship and are often full of humour.
Although this is very much an Atelier game, with the core features that fans of the series will have come to expect, it rounds off a trilogy that seems to have been making things up as it goes along. The game features some interesting new elements, such as the titular paintings, but it’s a shame that the open-world elements from the previous title were never developed further as this could be viewed as a slightly backward, or cautiously sideways, step.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle is a rather standard entry to the Atelier series. Content with relying on a pretty standard setup, the game doesn’t innovate or move forwards, although fans of the series will no doubt be interested in the new story alone. It’s a pretty interesting take on the ridiculously wide genre of RPGs, with a much heavier focus being given to its deep crafting system, but that might not be enough to convince new players on its own.