Recently, Gust brand manager Junzo Hosoi and series creator Shinichi Yoshiike had the opportunity recently to reflect on the Atelier series’ 20th anniversary, talking about an Atelier game’s identity, series inspirations, and the recently announced Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland. [Thanks, 4Gamer!]
Here are the highlights:
On why Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists is so different from the past games:
4Gamer: This time, the simulation aspect of developing the town is much stronger. How have people reacted to this change?
Shinichi Yoshiike, creator: “Let’s see. We got a lot of comments saying that the atmosphere felt different, but the game was Atelier-esque.”
4Gamer: Apart from the genre, the game feels quite experimental, with simplified combat and auto-exploration. Considering that opinions are probably split on these changes, could you tell us why it was made this way?
Junzo Hosoi, Gust brand manager: “When we were gathering proposals for the 20th anniversary game, we got proposals in different genres such as RPGs or board games. Within those, we considered what sort of game structure would allow fan-favorite characters to appear together, while letting players create something personal at the same time, and what we came up with led to this town development gameplay.
All-star RPGs are quite hard to get right. Most of the protagonists are alchemists, so their in-game roles are all chaotic.” (laughs)
On the identity of an Atelier game:
Yoshiike: “The Atelier series started off much more rooted in the simulation aspect, but nowadays it’s become more of an RPG series.”
Hosoi: “Nelke, the 20th anniversary title, is not a spinoff, but rather a return to the simulation roots while carrying the wishes towards the future.”
4Gamer: It’s true that the recent titles are completely RPGs. So the fact that Nelke was found to be Atelier-esque is quite interesting.
Yoshiike: “The fun in the Atelier series comes from thinking up ideas and finding the results of your idea. However, in regards to what “Atelier-esque” means, even we don’t fully get it.”
Hosoi: “In regards to the world, we develop the games with the image of a warm and idyllic world in mind, but even then, there are games like the Dusk series which shows a world in decline. Yet, the Dusk series is Atelier-esque as well. So I think that it’s a combination of the characters and systems, and the tone of the game, that creates this impression.”
Reflecting on the inspirations for Atelier Marie:
Yoshiike: “I like creating and collecting things, and wanted to make a game that satisfied that part of myself. The inspiration for the Atelier series came from learning about alchemy in my university studies, which led to the original design document. After reading up on it, I found out that alchemists used a mix of metals and chemicals to synthesize things, and thought I could probably use this… Which led to the idea for the Synthesis system.”
4Gamer: So it’s based on real-life alchemy.
Yoshiike: “That’s right. The early Atelier games were set in fantastic worlds, but the items used to synthesize were quite close to what were used in real life.”
A shift in identity for the Atelier series:
Hosoi: “The biggest turning point [in the series’ identity] was probably Atelier Rorona. The visuals and gameplay leaned more in the RPG direction, and the world was even more fantasy-like. The new meaning of Atelier-esque probably began with this game.”
Yoshiike: “The Atelier series is released every year, and what the creator is into at the time, or what’s popular at the time, has quite a strong influence on the games.”
Hosoi: “For example, the Dusk series director took inspiration from games like Fallout: New Vegas, and anime like Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Attack on Titan and the worlds in decline seen within, and applied it to the Atelier series.”
4Gamer: So that’s why the Dusk series is wildly different, featuring humanity on the brink of extinction thanks to the downfall of alchemy.
Hosoi: “Also, the fact that the RPG element-heavy Arland series became popular was one of the reasons for that tone in the Dusk series. In order to emphasize the RPG feeling, we’d need a serious story… The process went on like that.”
Yoshiike: “The Mysterious series was the same, getting influenced by slice of life anime and light novels that were popular at the time […] Also, Atelier Firis becoming a pseudo-open world game was thanks to the influence of a boom of overseas games in that genre.”
“In that way, the Salburg series was probably influenced by my interest in children’s books and famous classics. The basis was Anne of Green Gables, and Anne and Diana’s friendship can be directly seen in Marie and Schia’s friendship.”
On the reason behind making Atelier Lulua:
4Gamer: Tell us more about Atelier Lulua. This is the first time an Atelier series has gotten a fourth game. With the Arland series complete with a trilogy, why did you decide to make a sequel?
Hosoi: “It’s true we said it was a trilogy, but we never said we wouldn’t make a fourth. (laughs) Putting aside my joke, the Arland characters have consistently been on top of popularity polls. With them receiving so much support, we didn’t want to just end it off with merchandise and nothing else. With Gust’s 25th Anniversary and the Arland series’ 10th Anniversary in 2019, I decided to set up this project.”
4Gamer: Oh, it’s been 10 years already. So the DX versions for PS4 and Switch were a stepping stone for this 10th Anniversary plan.
Hosoi: “My personal motivation was that I wanted to make something similar to what Star Wars was doing. When I watched The Force Awakens, it made me want to revisit the history of that world. At the same time, I also wanted to see what lied ahead beyond the trilogy in the Arland series.”
Atelier Lulua and “beyond the trilogy”:
4Gamer: Speaking of “beyond the trilogy”, the most mysterious aspect is the protagonist Lulua herself. She calls herself Rorona’s daughter, and if Rorona really is her mother, then who’s the father?
Hosoi: “You’ll have to find out while playing yourself. However, time in the Atelier series never stops, and playing through the games lets you experience how characters grow and mature. Even for this game, there are some aspects that wouldn’t need to be expanded upon had it ended in a trilogy, but that we can’t escape from in a fourth game. Showing off how characters have grown over the course of four games is our challenge this time.”
Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World releases in Japan on December 13, 2018 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Nintendo Switch. The game releases in North America and Europe in early 2019 for PS4, Switch, and PC.
Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland releases in Japan in 2019 for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It’ll release in the West in Spring 2019 for PS4, Switch, and PC.