It’s that special time of year again when Gust releases a new Atelier game, and this time it’s a direct sequel to the 2015 fan favourite entry Atelier Sophie, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemists of the Mysterious Dream.
Well, to celebrate the upcoming release, what better way than to take a look at some of the best Atelier titles out there, and, maybe add a few to your backlog to visit after checking out Atelier Sophie 2. A few small disclaimers before we begin – firstly, this list consists of my personal favourite entries in the long-running series, so may miss out on other games you may love; secondly, this list will only have a single entries from a given series (e.g. one entry from the Mysterious, Dusk or Arland series respectively); and finally, this list will only include those games that are available in English, so, sorry in advance to fans of the Gramnad games!
Well then, with all that out of the way, let’s warm up the cauldron get right into it!
- Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout
Let’s start with arguably the most popular of my recommendations, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout. This game grabbed the attention of the gaming sphere with fans both new and old flocking to its titular protagonist thanks to her… assets. Now, regardless of your opinions of Ryza and her thighs, its undeniable that this game helped catapult the Atelier series to new heights, hitting record sales numbers for the series. However, despite appearances, don’t let this decieve you and dismiss Atelier Ryza as a throw-away game with little to offer from a gameplay perspective.
Atelier Ryza is a departure from the Atelier games of old, offering an active time battle system that will keep you on your toes, while also offering an undeniably engaging experience that’s hard to put down. Furthermore, while Atelier Ryza brings back the trademark alchemy system the series is known for, it maintains many of the features players have come to expect while also adding its own unique spin on the beloved mechanic, resulting in a system that, in my opinion, is one of the best in the series to date, and will take a lot to beat.
The reason that Atelier Ryza is so low on my list is because it’s such a departure in some ways from the Atelier games of the past, meaning that it can be a divisive entry, and may not best represent what the older entries in the series have to offer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about this game, from its story, to its characters and gameplay, and it’s definitely one that you should check out if you haven’t already.
If you’re interested in reading my full breakdown and review of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout, then please check out my full review HERE.
Atelier Ryza is available on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and Steam.
- Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis
So some might argue that the Mana Khemia games are spin-off titles from Atelier, as they lack the classic naming convention, but I would have to disagree wholeheartedly as both entries in this series offer a stand-out Atelier experience through and through.
The oldest entry on my list, originally releasing on the PS2, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis holds a special place in my heart as it was the first Atelier game I ever played. While the core gameplay loop of synthesising items and hunting for materials still exists here, Mana Khemia offers a more traditional JRPG gameplay experience, with the classic time management having been completely removed in favour of a more traditional adventure format that some players may prefer over a more classic Atelier game.
Players will be able to explore, battle and synthesise to their heart’s content (for the most part), while being swept along a sweet story set in a school for alchemists. Combat is a traditional turn-based affair with the turn order displayed on screen to allow players the chance to play strategically, while the Atelier mainstay of alchemy is a much more simplified element this time around – if you prefer more action and less alchemy in your Atelier games, then this game may be the perfect introduction to the series. There’s a lot to enjoy with this game, but with it being the oldest entry on my list, without a remaster, this remains the hardest game to access right now. However, if you’re able to grab yourself a copy, then Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis has a plethora of treats to enjoy.
Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis is available on Playstation 2, PSP and as a digital download for the PS Vita.
- Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey
Given the fact that Atelier Sophie 2 is soon to release, this list couldn’t leave out an entry from the “Mysterious” trilogy. Despite the overwhelming love for the original Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Book, for me, there’s only one choice for this list as the very best the Mysterious trilogy has to offer can be found in Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey.
Atelier Firis is both a departure from the conventions of the Atelier series, while also bringing back the somewhat divisive time limit that Atelier games are notorious for. The game is split into two distinct sections, the first of which will see players travelling vast open maps in search of letters of recommendation to become a registered alchemist. This means that there is no single fixed hub in Atelier Firis, instead, a portable atelier can be established at campfires to allow Firis and company to recharge and synthesise items and weapons to help on their journey, making the adventure feel much more organic and the world feel all the more important to the journey as a whole.
As previously mentioned, the game heralds the return of time limits, with a set number of days available for Firis to become a certified alchemist. While this may appear daunting at first glance, its a VERY generous time limit, and most players will struggle to use all their time, and in turn presents a great entrypoint for players to experience the time limits of the Atelier series, without the anxiety that comes with some of the earlier entries in the series. However, Atelier Firis does not end with becoming a certified alchemist, as the wold becomes fully explorable with the time limit being removed once you pass the test, and this is where the game really comes into its own, making for a great balanced experience for fans new and old.
Some people may not enjoy Firis with its time limit and large maps, but if you’re willing to give this entry a try then, it’s an easy game to fall in love with, with excellent alchemy, characters and story. What’s more, there’s no better time to try this game now that the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy Deluxe Pack is so readily available!
Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey is available on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam and PS Vita.
- Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland
The Arland games are some of the most beloved and arguably unforgiving games within the series, offering a candy-coated aesthetic while also enforcing a relatively strict time limit in each game that players should be mindful of before venturing into these games. Enter Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland, a game released in 2019, a whole 8 years after the last entry in the original trilogy, with a fresh coat of paint and the experience of 6 additional entries under its belt.
Atelier Lulua strips away the time limit of older games in favour of a more relaxed experience overall and employs many of the features seen in the Mysterious trilogy, while still feeling right at home with the other Arland games and their relaxing vibes. The game and its story allows players to digest Atelier Lulua at their own pace, all while working through the various challenges presented by the mysterious book that Lulua is attempting to complete while on her journey.
Not only is the overall exploration in Atelier Lulua a treat, this game has a fantastic battle system that’s a pleasure to experience, with a turn-based battle system that feels snappy and reactionary – and always a good time.
There’s a lot to unpack with Atelier Lulua, as it’s a game that’s a love letter for fans of the original Arland trilogy, while also offering a fantastic entry for players looking to get into the series, without the potential pitfalls of earlier titles. However, it’s undeniably one of my personal favourites in the series thanks to its phenomenal cast of characters, excellent combat and addictive gameplay loop, and one I can happily recommend to anyone thinking of giving it a go.
If you’re interested in reading a complete breakdown of Atelier Lulua, then please check out my full review HERE.
Atelier Lulua: the Scion of Arland is available on Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch and Steam.
- Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea
For my number-one pick, there could be no other game than Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea. The Dusk series is my personal favourite, and without the previous limitation of “one per series” on this list, the three Dusk games would have dominated my top 3!
Atelier Shallie is the final entry in the excellent Dusk trilogy – arguably one of the darker and more meloncholy trilogies to have come from Gust’s beloved series. The world of Atelier Shallie is dying, water is drying up and the end times are close at hand. You follow a pair of protagonists, both named Shallie, as they each pursue their own interests – one seeking to save her village from impending destruction, and another who wants to learn to fly! While both Shallies ultimately join up with one another for the majority of your adventure, it’s definitely worth playing through both stories to get the full experience from Atelier Shallie.
Gameplay sees players choosing one Shallie, and setting out on an adventure to uncover the truth of the world – battling enemies, gathering materials and growing stronger as you go. The world is melancholy and muted, but the game is far from a mopey affair – there’s moments of genuine sadness, but the overall feel of the game is one of hope, which helps offset the sense of impending doom thanks to its colourful cast of new and returning characters – there’s even a few laughs thrown in along the way to really drive home that this is an Atelier game first and foremost, and that you’re sure to leave with a smile on your face.
The time limit of previous games is once again gone here, and allows players the opportunity to dive head first into the game without worrying that their experiemntation will result in a bad ending. This may not be for everyone, but it can help people with an aversion to time management systems ease into the series, while still maintaining many other hallmarks of the series as a whole.
The alchemy system in Atelier Shallie is a pretty standard affair, while also holding hidden potential for greatness for those wishing to dive in. Also a key feature of Atelier Shallie, thanks to the inventory system, mean that you won’t need to hold onto an item for the perfect moment or a hard boss, as once equipped, the item will refresh infinitely after you return to your atelier, a refreshing choice that allows you to use your best items often, and I’m glad that later games chose to implement this mechanic in one way or another.
Without diving into spoiler territory, know that the Dusk games are much beloved for a reason, and Atelier Shallie offers an excellent experience on all fronts. With the game now available on multiple platforms in the new and shiny DX collection, there’s no excuse to not have played Atelier Shallie, and the other stand out entries in the Dusk series!
Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea is available on Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch and Steam.
With all that being said, thanks again for joining us on this week’s trip down the Otaku Rabbit Hole, and we hope you’ve enjoyed your time here. If you did, that’s amazing, and please consider sharing. If you didn’t, then please get in touch and let us know why. Did your favourite Atelier games make this list? If not, then please let us know your list of favourite Atelier games too! We would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you all once again and, until next time, keep it weeby everyone!
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