At a recent preview event, I was able to sample the beginning of Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings and was a little surprised to see the direction taken with the upcoming final game in the Mysterious trilogy. Given the previous two installments in this trilogy expanded on the Atelier formula by doing away with time restraints in Atelier Sophie and then bringing it back very loosely in Firis but with a focus on open world exploration, Lydie initially feels much more like a traditional Atelier experience.
Twins Lydie and Suelle are aspiring alchemists who work alongside their artist/alchemist father Roger. After fulfilling some requests for the local townsfolk, Lydie and Suelle end up exploring their father’s basement and find themselves entering the world of one of the paintings down there, finding rare and high quality materials in the process. Inspired by their findings, they decide to take their alchemy more seriously and improve the reputation of their Atelier, eventually becoming students of returning character Illmeria. Progression in Lydie goes back to the style of the original two trilogies by asking you to create specific items with different qualities and traits. Lydie and Suelle need to progress through the atelier ranking system and each task will have a set mission for them to complete. The contextual actions return with the recipe ideas (learning new ideas through actions) and gathering (shake a free to gather fruit, smash rocks to gather ore) which are both aspects I liked from the previous two games, they’re little things but they do make your actions feel more meaningful.
The biggest main addition here is the painting worlds. These are broken up into smaller connected areas similar to how things worked in Sophie rather than roaming one large area from Firis. There’s no large explorable world map in this where you’ll see Lydie and Suelle running across it on their way to new areas either, instead it’s all menu based and split into two halves between the town of Merveille where you can explore the town itself as well as the paintings and then the surrounding areas outside of town, including the neighbouring town Kirchen Bell. I am glad to see that the map menu does tell you when where’s a cutscene/event to be triggered in an area again as it could be a pain to continually enter and re-enter areas in an effort to trigger events. The release of Atelier Lydie & Suelle marks the 20th anniversary of the Atelier series and with this in mind, the return to the traditional flow makes some sense.
I’ll also add that my session with the game was entirely played on the Switch in handheld mode and I was pleasantly surprised with how it performed on the platform. While it’s obviously not a match for the PS4 versions I could see around me, visual quality is certainly a step above what it was on the Vita and while there was a few moments of juddering in large or populated areas, it’s no worse than how the past Plus versions of previous games on the Vita performed. Since there’s no English Vita version of Lydie & Suelle if you’re after a portable Atelier experience, then the Switch version will certainly suit your needs.
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings will be available in North America on the 27th March and in Europe on the 30th March for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC.