I’m a big fan of Atelier games. Have been since I found the games rather late in the series, as my first one was Atelier Rorona. By now, there are 22 main games and 7 sub titles, following the first game Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg.
Now, I haven’t played the ones before Atelier Rorona, but many people have asked me which of them is my favourite Atelier game. That is a very difficult question, it feels to me like I’m having to choose my favourite child! What I can do is give you some thoughts on the various titles I’ve played, leading up to choosing which ones I liked best.
As I said, my first game was Atelier Rorona, and finding that there were so many titles already waiting for me felt like Christmas came early! Ever since, I’ve played most of the games that developer Gust made and Koei Tecmo released. Usually, the Atelier games come in threes, each set in the same universe. Like Atelier Rorona was part of the Arland Trilogy with Atelier Totori and Atelier Mereru. What’s fun is that you encounter a lot of familiar faces in such a series, making it feel like you are following a couple of friends in life. Not too long ago, Gust even added a fourth game in the Arland series, all about Rorona’s daughter, Lulua.
Every Games Differs From the Last
With every game, Gust tries to make gameplay a bit different. Different synthesizing systems, different battle modes. The older games had a timed gameplay, where you, for example, had three in-game years to complete your goal. It made the gameplay very different, as everything, of course, took time. Especially synthesizing. Worrying that if you made this or that item you would lose too much time.
Or when you travelled the world map: no time for long detours, think of your time limit! It made the management part of the game a bit more interesting, but it could be annoying too. For example, I had a lot of trouble with Atelier Ayesha, as after two years of in-game gameplay I realised I would never be able to finish the game in the time given. And had to start from scratch. This changed with Atelier Sophie, which wasn’t timed but one big adventure.
Atelier Firis was the first that had an open world concept. No home base to return to every time, but a portable Atelier tent to set up wherever she pleased. I liked that, made it feel more like an adventure for me.
What the older games also had was turn based battle of the sort where you could actually think about the move you would use next. I liked that too, it’s my kind of battle! And though it may sound strange, I enjoyed making the best possible bombs and healing potions to take with me in battle, even knowing that I could only use them for a limited time.
With the Atelier Ryza games a lot of significant changes have been made. The battles are still turn based but coupled with action. No time to think on your moves, as the enemy won’t wait for that. Your bombs and such are now Core items, they are infinite if you generate enough Core Charge to use them, but I kinda miss making the best I could myself over and over again.
Positive Heroines in Common
They all have one thing in common too: the Atelier games are also synonymous for good stories and finding out what makes the protagonist tick. Most characters are teenagers on the threshold of adulthood, finding their way in the big world. Some are sweet and sensible, like Ayesha. Easily one of my favorite heroines.
Others are much more outspoken and confident, like Sophie. Most have one thing in common, they are exceptionally trusting and with it being the game series it is, their trust brings a positivity to the story!
Although Reisalin Stout, the protagonist in Atelier Ryza, is the main character, her group of friends is much more fleshed out. The heroines in other games are always surrounded by characters that battle alongside with them and aid them on their quests. But in the Ryza games, the friends have a life story of their own to unravel which makes them more life-like.
Two Lead Roles
There have been three games where you could choose between two protagonists. This was fun in Atelier Escha & Logy, playing as a guy (as Logy) was a new experience. I liked the banter between the two, and their difference in synthesis.
In Atelier Shallie , Gust managed to let you witness the same storyline from a very different perspective. You could choose to play as Shallistera, the daughter of a chief of a small village. Shallistera was a shy and quiet girl, but very determined to do the right thing. You can also play as Shalotte. She lacked knowledge and experience, so she could only accept minor requests to earn money. But she was determined, and dreamt about succeeding and amassing a great amount of money.
Picking My Least Favourite Atelier Game Is Easy
There was a game that featured two protagonists that I didn’t like at all. It even went so far as aborting the game prematurely. Atelier Lydie & Suelle is the third game in the Mysterious series, set eight years after Atelier Sophie and the Mysterious Book and four years after Atelier Firis and the Mysterious Journey. I had loved seeing Sophie grow from a good and kind girl to a competent and kind woman and I rooted for Ayesha as she went out to find her little sister.
Then came the twins, the reserved but caring Lydie Malen, and the eccentric, carefree Suelle Malen. Their mother had died some years ago, and it seemed their father hadn’t gotten over losing her. Absentminded and letting his daughters roam free, the twins childhood couldn’t have been easy. But still, I didn’t like the way they made fun of him and gossiped behind their friends backs. A couple of brats!
Shaking Things Up With Atelier Ryza
Over the year changes were made that led up to the last two games, and they really break the mould of the Atelier games in more ways then one. Both games, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout and Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy are about the same girl, Ryza, and her friends. Aside from synthesis and battles these games add more things for Ryza to do into the mix. Decorating the Atelier where Ryza works, having a mount to ride, catching insects and fish and having a sprawling city to explore. I love both games, with the second one being even better then the first due to the added mysteries in the dungeons.
But if I can add one point of critique: there seems to be an awful lot of fan service in the games. I mean, it used to be about exoticly dressed teenagers, some more outrageous then others. But now, the first shot we get of Ryza is from her midrif up to her neck! And don’t get me started on those skimpy shorts! Who can do battle dressed like that?
Which One Is the Best?
When choosing the best, I think it comes down to the various components in a game. I mean, I loved the character of Ayesha, the open world in Atelier Firis was cool. The addition of Plachta (a book in the form of a woman!) was interesting. I liked the synthesis in Atelier Sophie and in Atelier Firis, but I loved the intricate way of synthesizing in Atelier Ryza too.
The battles in the games before Ryza suited me more, but the way to unlock new recipes in Atelier Ryza is lovely. There, you see? Impossible to make a real choice…
Still, if I would be pressed to choose my favourite Atelier game I think it would be Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. The game is the most complete of them all, taking a huge step in adding more sim elements. The storyline is ace, the added mysteries in the dungeons bring added interest and the world is so big!
As a wise Frenchman once said, to choose is to renounce. Why should we choose indeed when, as you neatly and rightly pointed out in that great post, all Atelier games bring something different and unique to the series’ mix? ☺️
As for me, I love Sophie for its grindy gameplay, Lydie&Suelle for its vibrant and colourful world, and Ayesha for its mesmerizing atmosphere; and I’m sure I’ll find something unique to love in Ryza, Escha&Logy, Shallie, Lulua and Firis when I finally play them.
Couldn’t agree more, Isleif! To choose is to renounce, guess I don’t know that Frenchman yet, lol.
I started with Lulua.. and I kind of bounced. I didn’t appreciate the slice of life game that it was.
For whatever reason.. I decided to play Ryza. I think the colour pallet and tomboyish attitude of Ryza was enough for me to give the series another shot. I finished Ryza and fell in love. I now understood what slice of life was.
I went back and played Ayesha. I liked the world and the characters a lot. I appreciated the turn based battles. I think I’m half way through the game and sort of stopped playing. I stopped because I couldn’t make sense of the synthesis. The synthesis was something I loved in Ryza. However when I play Ayesha, I just feel like I’m haphazardly throwing ingredients in the pot and not really understanding what I’m going to get.
Anyways, I really do hope to get back to it. I still want to find out what happened to Ayesha’s sister.
Who knows…. maybe one of the Ladies Gamers has some time to write a guide to Ayesha’s synthesis system? *wink* *wink*
Every game changes something in the synthesis and battles, sometimes more things then in others. I must say that the Ryza games to me are a sort of culmination of the series, it’s so good! Slice of life indeed!
I hear ya….I’ve been playing with the idea of dedicating an article to each of the games with a short guide on synthesis, so you may just find one for Ayesha soon. I’ll do my best!
Just say it.. Its ryza 2, best one is ryza 2.
Jokes aside, it is still ryza 2
Haha! It’s so difficult to say it, they all feel like my babies. Okay, very silently in here….Ryza 2 is the best, BUT I’m not really a fan of the battle system! Looking forward to Ryza 3, you too?