Games in the Atelier series tend to be coming-of-age stories. This may be generalizing a bit, but a young woman is searching for a place for herself and a role in which she can excel. She comes across the study of alchemy and an opportunity to use it to better herself and her world. Challenges will force her to prove her worth, with various endings being triggered depending on how well she did and who she met along the way. Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey keeps in line with this thinking, while also presenting us with a heroine who genuinely feels like a teenager coming into her own and realizing important truths about herself and the world.
It’s striking just how young Firis feels in Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey. We’re presented with a young girl that has an extraordinary gift and talent, but thinks nothing of it and how it’s helping keep her hometown, Ertona. This place and its people are depending on her ability to find ore, but that isn’t what’s important to her. Instead, she’s consumed by the desire to step outside of this enclosed town in a cave and face the outside world. Especially since her elder sister, Liane, is able to come and go as she pleases due to her own role. Not appreciating or recognizing your own worth or abilities is something we all struggle with, but can especially come through when one is young.
When Sophie and Plachta burst into Firis’ world – literally, by the way – we see the character express another trait often associated with naive youths. Firis is instantly infatuated with the idea of alchemy. She hasn’t seen the downsides or dangers that could come from it. Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is one of the few installments that doesn’t begin with an alchemist blowing up a portion of her atelier after a fusion gone wrong. She just sees it is shiny, bright, and new. Rather than properly investigate, she immediately jumps on the bandwagon. While this is a necessity, since we wouldn’t have much of a game if the heroine was a reluctant one, it also ties into the impulsiveness teenagers display. (And occasionally adults too!) We see something exciting. We want to be part of that excitement. It doesn’t matter what downsides there may be. In that moment, we know what we want and want it now.
Firis’ reaction to her parents and the desperation of the people around her who need her also comes across as incredibly juvenile. Prior to Sophie and Plachta’s arrival, Firis is desperate to get outside. She seems to grasp that she isn’t strong or capable enough yet and is definitely being sheltered a bit by her well-intentioned parents, but it seems as though this dreamer is too consumed by her desire to consider any negative outcomes. Moments after meeting Sophie and deciding she wants to be an alchemist, she’s at her parents’ door telling them she wants to study alchemy, has found a teacher, and is ready to travel the world.
Her parents haven’t even had a chance to meet and get to know Sophie yet, this possible woman who would be responsible for educating and protecting their daughter, and had never seen their daughter profess any interest in this profession until this very moment. When they express concerns, Firis has an outburst. She proclaims that she hates them and staunchly refuses to even set foot in what was formerly her home until she leaves Ertona, staying instead with, you guessed it, people she didn’t even know until a few days before. She doesn’t even seek out her sister, Liane, again until Liane comes to see her. The second this little temper tantrum happened, I actually found myself talking to my television and saying, “Oh sweetie honey baby, no.” This is such a teenager moment, which is appropriate since that is exactly what Firis is.
All this makes the rest of Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey feel more satisfying. Firis’ journey around the world is an awakening of sorts. It gives her the opportunity to appreciate what’s going on around her. Spoilers aside, the quests she needs to take, people she meets, and things she accomplishes force her to understand the sorts of things that can happen in the world. She’s given a set of guidelines she must follow to become an alchemist and doesn’t have the luxury of saying she hates something and running away. And, of course, there is the possibility of people failing Firis’ quest entirely. Especially on the highest difficulty level. We see how isolated Firis may have been and watch how dealing with reality makes her a more capable person.
Granted, we won’t get to see the true evolution of Firis until the next entry in the Atelier series’ Mysterious saga. By that point, she’ll probably be advanced enough to be the teacher to another alchemist ready to come into their own. But for now, we can play Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey and appreciate how well it portrays the teenage experience and shows the growth and development of a young woman when she heads out into the real world.
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is available for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC.