The long-running Atelier series of JRPGs continues to chug along, puffing smoke like an alchemist’s cauldron, and in today’s age of pretty much everything being localized it’s not surprising that we’re seeing the latest entry in the series here in the West. Gust has added another title to Atelier’s latest sub-series, the Mysterious games, with Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey. Rather than taking a lot of risks or going in unexpected directions, Firis continues to refine the series’ solid crafting-based gameplay.
Firis lives in the subterranean town of Etona, a secluded village sealed off from the rest of the world by a massive stone door. She’s an important member of her community thanks to her unique ability to sense ore, but she yearns to leave and explore the outside world as her sister does. Her stubborn parents forbid this, though, and it looks like Firis’ dreams are doomed to remain dreams…until one day, the alchemist Sophie and her companion Plachta (stars of the previous game) simply blow the door up and step into Firis’ life. As Sophie’s apprentice, Firis’ natural aptitude for alchemy leads her to finally step out of Etona and into the greater world, where she ends up on an adventure of her own.
As with the rest of the Atelier titles, Firis is a standard JRPG with a laser-focus on its massively in-depth crafting system. This is a game that’s all about using alchemy to solve your problems, whether we’re talking about combat or otherwise. The proper use of alchemy isn’t as simple as just following a recipe, though; you’ll have to gather ingredients of high quality with desirable properties to ensure that your products are as effective as you need them to be. You’ll also need to practice making particularly useful items in order to improve your skills.
Exploring the world and getting things done takes time and energy, though. You’ll have to balance the amount of time you spend gathering ingredients and performing alchemy with Firis’ LP, a limited sort of stamina that recovers when you create new items via alchemy. This leads to a see-saw between going out to get the items you need to do alchemical work, which consumes LP, and then actually doing the work to create products and restore LP. It’s a cute idea, though one might argue that items you can make are important enough to merit the use of alchemy and it didn’t really need further reinforcement.
There’s monsters to fight as well, though in typical Atelier fashion this is much less emphasized than in standard JRPGs. Combat takes place via a standard turn-based battle system, with the only real change being the ability to have party members guard Firis (who is, in another divergence from typical JRPGs, a main character who’s poorly suited to combat) or perform combo attacks. It’s workable but not exactly inspiring; you’ll probably be raring to get back to the workshop to make more items with whatever you win rather than becoming eager to get back to battle.
This is a gorgeous game, of course, featuring the tranquil, flowery art style that this series is known for. Cel-shading never fails to look great, though this isn’t the kind of graphical powerhouse you’ll use to show off your PS4 Pro to friends. Sound, music and voice acting are all great as well, which is good since, again, this isn’t the most action-packed title and you’ll spend more time crafting and watching cutscenes than fighting.
As usual, it’s expected that an Atelier Firis Plus will be released on Vita at some point in the future. Whether or not you’re willing to wait for that release (and the inevitable framerate dips that come with it) is up to you. Atelier fans are likely to enjoy Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey in the game’s current form, though, and newbies could get some mileage out of checking out the previous game Atelier Sophie then following it up with this one. If you enjoy more relaxed RPG experiences, something like Story of Seasons or Harvest Moon, you might want to try your hand at alchemy.