Paintings may very well be the most beloved form of art in the world- they are sometimes also the most mysterious. Not only is the meaning usually open for interpretation, but also the number of different potential personal reactions- each bearing their own validity- from each spectator is infinitesimal. However visually striking a painting may be, we are limited in our instantaneous reactions to a purely visual realm, as most paintings do not inherently invoke any other of the 5 core senses. Which leaves us the question: what if they did? Who has not given at least a passing thought of being in the world a painter has presented in their artwork- to smell the air of the scenery; to feel the textures of the images in both foreground and background; to exist within the world within a canvas? Such experiences are the basis of Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings, which is the nineteenth mainline game in the Atelier series and the final one in the “Mysterious” Trilogy. The game’s release serves to celebrate the twentieth anniversary in the series while also serving as the series’ first release on the Nintendo Switch.
It was about this time last year when I discovered the gem Nights Of Azure. Since then, I have given a chance to every game its developer, Gust, has released to mixed results. As evidenced by my love for its predecessor, I adored Nights Of Azure 2: Bride Of The New Moon and will be playing through New Game + and the DLC when I get the chance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I was completely bored by the magician girl slice–of–life Blue Reflection. Incidentally, that was the only one of the games released after the Nintendo Switch’s launch that was not released on the console. Would playing it on a portable system improve the experience? I am not sure; we may never know. So where does Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings stand with it being closer to Blue Reflection with its turn–based combat and being firmly planted in the ever growing slice-of-life genre? Would my first experience of the series be a positive one?
In short, this type of game is perfect on the Nintendo Switch. Modern day players may not always have time to sit down and dedicate the needed time for this type of game in front of a TV; however, it is the perfect type of game to play in short bursts whenever you have time on the go. Not only does it not have an English dub, meaning the player can have the volume muted or very low if they are in a public place, the game is not too story driven either. Most of the time the player is in the open world collecting items and fighting monsters. With that said, when you have a less story driven game, the small details in the story matter that much more. This makes the fact that one of the main characters being described as a tomboy all the while dressed in feminine outfits infuriating and clearly fanservice. That aside, the story is enjoyable and has a few pleasing twists and turns to make for a solid overall experience.
With that said, there are some issues with the game. When the player first launches the game, they will be presented with an intro video. It is a nice anime opening-theme-esque video, except for the fact that it starts playing every time the game is launched. The game also does not tell you on the screen that the plus button is the only button able to skip this video. Then there is the issue while in game that the loading screen sometimes does not cover the entire screen. In my experience it is usually the left side that leaves a tiny bit of the last screen shown until the loading screen is over. Lastly, it is sometimes difficult to spot the pickable material areas while walking through the open world. While these are mild issues and could be fixed in a patch, the game was released three months ago in Japan and has only gotten one patch that included no mention of fixes in the patch notes.
When it comes to games by Gust, it is not wise to expect top of the line graphics. However, it is disappointing that both of their Nintendo Switch games have featured flat, almost non-dynamic graphics. The issue seems to stem from the fact that Nights Of Azure 2: Bride Of The New Moon and Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings both seem to have been ported from their respective Vita versions as opposed to the PS4 versions. Hopefully Gust has shuttered their Vita development and will better port their future games to the Nintendo Switch. Ideally, this would also mean the incorporation of touch controls into their games, even if it was just something simple as only on menus. Gust’s games are presented and laid out in a way where they work best on portable consoles where short gaming bursts are more likely, and hopefully the runaway success of the Nintendo Switch sees them allocate more resources to portable ports.
In the end, there is a lot to like from Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings and a few minor issues. Outside of the game looking like an upgraded Vita port on the Nintendo Switch, the story and the gameplay propels it as it should. Along with no technical issues that could be found, it is a proper addition to a legacy series. With most of the games being standalone for the most part, former characters making appearances may not mean much to newcomers, but this does not hurt the experience. Better yet, its ease of accessibility is such that a newcomer, like me, can easily jump into the game. With this being the first mainline game (and first overall series game since 2009) to be released on a Nintendo console, there is a possibility that this series will see a lot of newcomers to the game series and having the games be standalone really helps in the overall impression. Not to mention, we have all wanted to explore the worlds of paintings and now we have the chance. (Ryan Williford)
[All games played in handheld mode.]