Originally released on PS3 and then again on PS Vita in 'Plus' form, the Atelier Dusk Trilogy arrives on Switch in this DX collection that packs in all DLC, upgrades and updates made for their Plus versions alongside a host of new features including the ability to fast-forward through exposition, speed your way around the game map and turn up the rate at which battles play out. Framerate issues that plagued the second entry in the series, Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, have been ironed out, and overall what you've got here is three very popular titles in the long-running franchise presented in high resolution and running as smoothly as they've ever done – in both portable and docked modes – on Nintendo's little machine.
The trilogy itself makes a host of changes to the standard gameplay loops of the franchise as it stood up until 2012. Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX kicks things off by relaxing the series' staple time limit system to the point it's not really worth worrying about; this is relaxed even further in the second entry and the third, Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea DX, removes it entirely in favour of letting players relax and spend as much time as they wish gathering ingredients and battling monsters out in the wild before returning to their ateliers to engage in the alchemy system that sits at the heart of these titles.
Away from technical changes, that also see gently improved alchemy and a more fully-fleshed out turn-based battle system at play, the Dusk Trilogy sees the Atelier games move away from the more fan-servicey approach to characterisation they'd previously been well known for, introducing much more satisfying narratives and giving their protagonists stronger personalities as a result. Fans of the older style of games can relax somewhat as there's still the opportunity to dress your lead character up in all manner of skimpy costumes through the provided dressing room in each game, but really this is a move that helped make these games so much more easy to recommend to younger JRPG fans, for whom the simple exploration and battles really are a perfect fit.
In terms of knowing where to jump on board if you're thinking of picking up just one of the three games separately as opposed to indulging in the full trilogy pack, although there's an overarching narrative and they share the same universe, you can feel free to choose whichever entry takes your fancy here as the main storylines are pretty much self-contained and easy to follow. Sure, you may miss out on clever winks and nods here and there, and seeing returning characters pop up is more of a thrill if you know who's who, but there's no need for any prior knowledge should you, for example, decide to plump for Atelier Shallie instead of Ayesha.
Taking the games individually, the Dusk trilogy kicks off with Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX which sees you caught up in the story of Ayesha Altugle, a young girl with a natural gift for alchemy whose sister Nio has been spirited away. After a strange vision at Nio's makeshift gravesite alongside a chance encounter with the mysterious Keithgriff Hazeldine – what a name! – she strikes out on the adventure of a lifetime, a race against the clock to fully understand her powers in order to find out exactly what's happened to her beloved sis.
You can read our full review of Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX here, but overall, this is a great all-round introduction to the Atelier games for a handful of reasons. Alongside that more relaxed time limit, this one lays out the fundamental rhythms and gameplay loops of a typical entry in the franchise in an easy to grasp fashion. Also, in terms of the storyline, it hits the ground running. Traditionally slow-starting games with quite a lot of technical explanations and tutorials to wade through at the get-go, this one manages to get the adventure underway pronto, its central mystery engaging almost immediately and, within a very short space of time, you and your wonderful cow pal Pana will have hit the adventure trail, learning what you need to in terms of alchemy and combat as you go.
The second game in the Dusk trilogy, Atelier Escha and Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky DX - which we've reviewed in full right here – continues to take part in the same universe as Atelier Ayesha with some returning characters popping up here and there but, for the most part, this is very much its own tale and one that, unfortunately, gets off to quite a stilted start. Early hours with this entry in the long-running series see you bogged down in unnecessarily prolonged political chat and rule-following as the game lays out the foundations of a story which, thankfully, does take flight quite nicely once you make your way through these dull, exposition-heavy early hours which are exacerbated by a decision to front-load most of the tutorial aspects of the game.
Thankfully, once it does open up and get moving with its plot proper, this game settles into a nice rhythm and takes some pointers from its predecessor to make itself welcoming to newcomers, as well as giving you the opportunity to play as either of its titular characters. It's another satisfying tale with two strong lead characters to choose from, a great cast of supporting characters and that deep and satisfying alchemy sat right at the centre of it all, pulling the weaker strands of its gameplay together into a satisfyingly unified whole.
The third and final part of the Dusk trilogy of Atelier games, Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk DX, which we've reviewed in full here, is another generous helping of light JRPG action with the series' trademark deep alchemy system at its core. Telling the story of two very different young alchemists, Shallotte and Shallistera, it sees you choose from one of these two young ladies as you set out to solve yet another ecological problem brought about by the Dusk. Shallotte, a resident of the town of Stellard, is headstrong and outspoken and longs to be free of her low paying job, confident that fame and fortune lay in wait in her not-too-distant future. Shallistera, on the other hand, is absolutely not the fame-seeking type and has made a long trek to the Stellard in order to find a solution to a water shortage which is threatening to destroy her home.
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is the strongest entry in the Dusk trilogy. It adds a nice new camera, spices up the alchemy, strengthens the turn-based combat system and gives you two heroines to play through as, each with a journey unique enough that it's more than worth your while playing through the whole thing twice. World exploration is just as tightly controlled as in previous Atelier games and won't perhaps suit those hoping for a real sense of adventure or the ability to get completely lost in the wilds of the world presented here but, for fans of the series or those wanting to jump in and check it out, this is another solid entry in the long-running franchise that performs perfectly on Switch and suits portable play perfectly.
The Atelier Dusk Trilogy DX edition rolls three very solid entries in the long-running franchise into a fantastic pack for fans of the series and for anyone who's interested in jumping into their addictive world of alchemy for the very first time. These DX versions pack a handful of quality of life updates that make blasting through these games a breeze if you're returning to them and just want to skip the narrative in favour of collecting, crafting and battling monsters and all three perform pretty much flawlessly – aside from some occasional stutter in Ayesha – in both docked and handheld modes. If you're a fan of the Atelier series you'll already know whether or not this trilogy release is for you, but, if you're thinking of jumping in for the first time rest assured this as solid a place as any to get acquainted with the Atelier franchise.