Alchemy is Family – Atelier Lydie and Suelle Hands-On Preview

I’m not familiar with the Atelier series, a 19-game history spread across the last two decades notwithstanding. Not only is Atelier Lydie and Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings the 19th main entry in the series, it’s also the third game in the Mysterious sub storyline that exists within the wider series. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant when I had  the opportunity to dive right into the start of the game at a recent event hosted by Koei Tecmo.

The first thing that is immediately noticeable is the stunning detail throughout. Even though Atelier Lydie and Suelle is a decidedly Japanese game with heavy roots in manga and anime art styles, there’s a commendable production value that’s gone in to making the game look great and right at home on the PlayStation 4. It’s also chock full of voice acting, and though it’s all in Japanese with English subtitles, it’s once again indicative of an impressive effort by the time to make Atelier Lydie and Suelle a polished and full experience.

Sisters Lydie and Suelle begin in a forest area gathering materials for their atelier, which is an alchemy shop in town. It’s a pretty slow start, getting taught various aspects of the controls, gathering materials, and the basics of alchemy. Getting back to town, I met the girls’ lazy father who ran the atelier but had an abysmal work ethic. He instantly handed things off to the girls and scampered. Here I was taught how to make certain items, and was then sent around the town to deliver items to a couple of townsfolk who had ordered from us. It’s not glamorous work but someone’s got to do it.

Atelier Lydie and Suelle preview

Apparently the characters find some time during the game to enjoy a break from their work with a swim.

On the way back to the atelier, Lydie and Suelle check the town board to see if there are any jobs available, only to realize that the competing atelier is stealing all of their business. This scene is clearly setting up a rivalry for later on (and my guess would be a twist of fate that has the “rival” alchemist join your team), but I didn’t get to see the payoff this early in the game. After getting back to the atelier, Lydie and Suelle decide to check out the forbidden basement where their father is always painting, and upon touching one, they are transported inside.

Here, 25 minutes in (give or take, depending on if you quickly skip through the text, or let it all be spoken out), I finally had the chance to fight my first battle. It was, as most JRPG first battles go, pretty simple and consisted of simply selecting “attack” repeatedly, but the turn-based system made me long for the JRPG days of old. After the battle, the sisters discover that they can use items from inside the painting world for alchemy, once again obviously setting the stage for the girls to come back into these paintings to get high quality ingredients and grow their shop.

Opening segments of sprawling Japanese RPGs are hardly the best representation of the game, but Atelier Lydie and Suelle managed to intrigue me, catching my attention with the relatively mundane daily life that sisters Lydie and Suelle go throughand the twist of a jumping into the world of a painting. I can only imagine that the game gets better from there, exploring the mysterious paintings locked away in the basement of the atelier and what implications they’ll have on the greater story. Atelier Lydie and Suelle is already available in Japan, but the localized version will be headed to North American audiences on March 27.

Atelier Lydie and Suelle preview impressions obtained at an event held by Koei Tecmo. Travel and accommodations were provided.