With the Dusk/Twilight trilogy complete, Gust finally make their first entry to the Playstation 4. Atelier Sophie: Alchimist of the Mysterious Book (ソフィーのアトリー〜不思議な本の錬金術士〜) is Gust’s first entry to the new system with ports on the Vita and Playstation 3. While introducing new mechanics, Gust also brought back some old as well. How well is Gust’s first entry to the Playstation 4? Let’s find out.
The story focuses on a young alchemist named Sophie who lives at her grandmother house, which she left for her. She finds an odd book named Plachta that begins to talk. After discovering it, she sets out on a mission to restore Plachta’s memories and find the “Knowledge Cauldron” (知識の大釜). There are rumors that this cauldron will allow anyone to use alchemy without knowing it. This eventually led to creating a new “doll-like” body so Plachta can regain all her memories that she sealed away from 500 years ago.
Like previous Atelier games, you do tasks, collect ingredients, create items and explore places. Atelier Sophie takes elements from other games. This includes exploring the whole over world, automatically replenishing equipped items, unlocking new abilities, and a lack of a time limit. In addition, this game also brought back features that were absent in Atelier Shallie. This includes bringing back the number of days, ability to rest and wholesale items. This is not surprising since Pamela and Logy is in the game as well.
On the other hand, Atelier Sophie introduces new features. First is the overhauled item synthesis system to makes it easier to use. Instead of selecting ingredients, using specific skills and changing the order the item goes in, you arrange the items on a grid. Depending on the item, it will either take more squares or less. In other words, it looks like Tetris, but you can overlap the ingredients on the grid to increase the orb shape around it. This is useful when you are trying to get the desired effects for an item.
In addition, you can pick which cauldron to make the item in, each having different effects and bonuses. You can improve these cauldrons through synthesis. In total, there is four different cauldrons you can obtain throughout your journey. You also gain new recipes for items from doing things. This includes, but not limited to collecting ingredients, battling monsters or creating an item with a specific trait. You can find out what you need to do by looking at the undiscovered recipe.
Compared to previous games, all your party members can now use items as long they are equipped. However, you can’t simply equip any item on a character. For instance, a “thunder crystal” (ドナークリスタル) can only be used by Cornelia, Plachta and Sophie. There are also a few items that you discover towards the end of the game that Sophie can only use. The item details will show who can equip the item. In addition, each item has a cost, which limits how many items a character can equip.
Compared to previous Atelier games, Sophie takes a different approach with its battle system. Instead of each member and enemy taking turns, you decide the strategy all at once. This is something that irked me in the first battle. Thankfully, the turn time line gives you an idea what the enemy is doing. In addition, breaks now allow one to deal more damage, not simply cause one to flinch. With that, you can use this to your advantage to come up with a good strategy to attack or defend.
Lastly, there is the doll making system. This allows the player to not only change Plachta’s appearance, but also change the stats. Each item changes the parameters (cute, brave, wise and fool), which affects Plachta’s appearance. Although somewhat gimmicky, it allows the player to make her character more powerful aside from making new equipment.
In short, Atelier Sophie is an enjoyable game. It’s apparent with the synthesis and battle systems that Gust is trying something new. Some examples are the weather and rumors, which affect what items or monsters appear in certain places. While there are a few things I didn’t like such as battle system, I enjoyed the story and characters. With Atelier Firis already out in Japan, it’s quite obvious what direction Gust is taking the series to.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: Enjoyable story and characters, interesting synthesis mechanics, and return of mechanics from previous games.
Weaknesses: The battle system takes time getting used to.
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