Even though there’s already a fair share of Atelier games on the Nintendo Switch, it’s always good to see yet another trilogy entering the fray. This time, it’s the Mysterious Trilogy; three old games reborn on a modern console. Similar to previous Atelier trilogies, the discounted bundled package remains on the pricey side; however, each game can be purchased individually.
Atelier Sophie tells the story of a young alchemist named Sophie and a mysterious talking book called Plachta. It’ll take you on a journey to recover Plachta’s forgotten memories and unveil an even bigger, lost secret. But when things finally get heated up is when it also calms down. The true objective quickly slips away from the palm of your hand as soon as you uncover it. It’s only having to grind for better materials and equipment pumps additional time between these two points to make it worthwhile.
The majority of the story is about Sophie’s growth as an alchemist. It’s a slow start and the gameplay has a tendency to stretch it out, but you’ll still find the heartwarming feel of an Atelier game in Atelier Sophie. There will be moments of wanting to drop the game because of its tedious progression—only until you’ve completed the hidden chores would you dream about advancing in its story.
Although there’s a clock system in the game, Atelier Sophie can be played at your own pace. There are hints that suggest that you must hurry up with specific story-related events in the game; however, at no time will it be enforced. The quests you accept, on the other hand, are sometimes associated with a time limit. Only then would you have to complete them before the timer runs out.
The basis of Atelier Sophie DX isn’t difficult to grasp. It’s a game in which you follow through with the story and explore new areas. You’ll have to gather materials and use those same materials to perfect your alchemy skills. There will be a lot of synthesizing along the way, which shouldn’t be new if you’ve played an Atelier game before. Unfortunately, the game will have you turning to Google as a resource to progress further.
Exploration and World Map
There are a lot of areas to explore in Atelier Sophie DX. Although small, some of these areas have additional connected parts to expand where you can explore and gather. These areas are clearly identified on the world map. It’s just a shame how you’ll have to learn most of it on your own. With the lack of a legend, traversing the world is a challenge on its own. You’ll often have to revisit areas to find materials and enemies thrown into a rotation depending on the time of day and the weather. It’s a hassle, but that’s not the worst of it.
The good news is, you can see the materials and the enemies of each area on the map with a click of a button. The bad, well, it just gets a bit annoying having to do so when you’re searching for something specific. This is because you actually have to press the button when you’ve unlocked many areas. But there is a silver lining; digging a bit deeper will present the info you require in a better-presented manner.
Gathering materials in Atelier Sophie hasn’t been as relaxing as other Atelier games. Sure, you see Sophie physically picking up materials in the overworld, but it’s a game where your eyes can be too fixated on the mini-map. The area is usually small with several enemies ready to rush you. Spots you can pick up materials are marked on the map. With the main objective being collecting in these maps, the green marker that represents materials becomes the most attractive spots to look at.
It’s not the end when you’re done with an area. You’ll frequently have to revisit areas to gather more materials and fight the tougher monsters. The time of day plays an important role as to what materials you can gather or monsters you can encounter. Revisiting the same area will become a necessity, especially if you want to get higher quality materials. It becomes a chore over time; however, having a record of where materials can be located in each area has been a blessing with regard to time.
One of the things that drag Atelier Sophie down is its progression. It’s a game that forcibly encourages doing; you’ll have to explore new areas, discover new materials, and fight new monsters. It sounds like what you’d expect from any similar RPG, but the execution takes a turn for the worse. Speaking of worst, the waiting you’ll have to endure nabs the crown; there are times when you wouldn’t know what to do in the game and must wait to trigger a series of events to continue. Not only that, but you’ll also have to go digging through menus to find hints of what next to do. The game won’t always hold your hand or show you the ropes. So patience is necessary with this one.
Atelier Sophie DX’s combat system doesn’t stray far from other Atelier games in the series. It’s a seemingly simple turn-based combat system with some advanced mechanics to further enhance fights. You’ll be able to enjoy watching the characters demonstrate their skills and use their attack items on the battlefield. The only problem with this is the limited skills each character possesses. More skills would have made the fight scenes feel less repetitive, but battles usually haven’t been tiresome for this review’s playthrough. This is thanks to a large number of recruitable characters and the advanced mechanics that trigger support skills. Skills can be upgraded later in the game, but it isn’t sufficient to turn the tide of things.
The game has a difficulty for everyone: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Despair. It’s one of the Atelier games that’s a bit more troublesome to players who seek out a simple difficulty, as even the Easy mode can be challenging when up against some bosses. This may as well be a bug that could have already been fixed, but if it hasn’t, you’ll just have to up your game a bit. All in all, combat in Atelier Sophie DX most likely wouldn’t disappoint those who love turn-based combat. However, you won’t be spoiled with consumable items like you were in Atelier Ryza; instead, you’ll have to grind to either collect sufficient funds or ingredients to continue your supply.
The key component of Atelier games is synthesis. The synthesis system in Atelier Sophie DX is an interesting one. There’s a bit of a learning curve to it and the search tools aren’t perfect, but it stands out amongst the rest with the different types of cauldrons available and their respective traits. Sticking to what you’re accustomed to will be your downfall if you decide against upgrading every opportunity you get.
Collecting the best types of materials and placing them in the right places matters the most when it comes to synthesis in this game. The different shapes of materials and the grid-based layouts make it so that you put a little thought into the mixture to make the best result. Some recipes don’t hold back with their challenge, but the game has tools available to quickly fix mistakes that could have locked you into an unfortunate situation. It’s only a matter of learning your way around the system to prevent any possible mishaps.
The number of recipes you can learn is plentiful. The only thing that drives a wedge between the fun you could have had with some of them is the hidden hints that lock them away; it’s something you’ll have to find on your own. Sometimes the hints are clear, but there are some that might have you itching your head while trying to figure it out. It’s not as enjoyable as you’d find solving a puzzle, for example. It forces you to make trial and error guesses until you get it right.
Having to synthesize the same items repeatedly can get annoying—and it certainly has reached that point when playing through the game for this review. Unlike Atelier Ryza, there’s a limit to how many times you can use items in this game. But fear not, as item duplication is part of it. While it isn’t broken to allow the duplication of any item, it’s good for what it is and has an additional option, later on, to make it even more convenient. What it lacks is a way to unregister an item to remove it from the list of duplication options. Your inferior items will keep reminding you of how much stronger you’ve grown every time you wish to duplicate your items.
What’s New In Atelier Sophie DX?
The DX version of the game doesn’t add an exceptional amount of content. Besides the items included with each of the DX games, you’ll get an additional story mode where Sophie follows in her grandmother’s footsteps, a brand new costume to go along with it, and three new alchemy cauldrons. It isn’t much and it might be preferred for new players to experience this story for the first time.
As a remake of the 2015 game, you won’t find modern graphics in this one. Yet, the character models are pleasing to look at with their polished styles. The low quality shows for itself in the overworld, but there have been patches to help fix some of these issues to fit a higher standard. Atelier Sophie DX isn’t a game that’ll take your breath away with its graphics, but it still possesses the same charm as other Atelier games.
Performance-wise, Atelier Sophie DX runs smoothly for the majority of the game. Loading screens aren’t irritably long. However, only until you’ve gotten far would you notice a longer waiting time to engage foes in battle. There’s barely any lag itself during combat, so expect fluid action scenes during the heat of a battle.
Soundtrack and Voice Acting
The quality of music known in Atelier games has been maintained in Atelier Sophie DX. There’s a lot of heartwarming songs to indulge in. It’s only that the battle music might prove to be an issue after repeated fights in the long run. However, the boss battle music has always reigned supreme.
Anyone who wants top-notch voice acting would be satisfied with what Atelier Sophie DX has to offer. Whether it be English or Japanese, you’ll have the power to switch between these two options. The English voice acting isn’t bad, either. It’s actually been the primary option used to play through this game despite having a personal preference for Japanese voices.
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX can either be purchased individually for $39.99 US or through a bundled package for $89.99 US. The bundle includes all three of the games in the trilogy:
- Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX
- Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey DX
- Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX
Additionally, a neat little bonus is a Digital Art Book with the purchase of Atelier Sophie DX. It’s a gallery of character designs and the overworld split into three chapters. It’s a lot of artwork stuffed into a digital book that you can explore at any time. Tools are present to easily navigate and switch between a list of the game’s soothing music.
Atelier Sophie DX may be the first game in the Mysterious Trilogy, but it certainly isn’t the best entry to the series. It has the charm of any other Atelier game, but it can be quite frustrating to see through till the end. Despite this, its unique alchemy system is absolutely brilliant and the combat isn’t bad. It’s just that you’d be better off forgetting about spoilers and starting another Atelier game before Sophie DX.
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book DX gets a 6/10.