Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX Review: The Mysterious Trilogy's Belle Epoque
Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings DX is an odd game to review in 2021. Not because it does anything particularly weird, aside from some of its costuming choices. It’s because Lydie & Suelle is only three years old and already available on all the platforms the DX version is on.
The original is mostly polished enough, and its presentation is a substantial step forward from Atelier Firis. If you’ve already experienced it, there’s not really a reason to play it again outside of just wanting to. If you haven’t, though, you definitely should. Atelier Lydie & Suelle might not get everything right, but it’s easily the best of the Mysterious trilogy.
Lydie & Suelle brings back the twin protagonist feature from the last two Dusk games, and it’s literal this time. The alchemists are twin sisters living in the kingdom of Adalet and struggling to get by.
Their mother died sometime before the game begins, so Lydie and Suelle are stuck with a ramshackle atelier and a deadbeat father who’d rather spend the family’s money on art supplies than provide for his daughters. Hunger is never far away, so the two do their best to teach themselves alchemy and try to survive on what earnings they can come by, which is harder than it sounds when theirs is the least popular atelier in the capital.
Cue the kingdom’s new effort to boost tourism by promoting its many ateliers. Increasing the atelier’s rank means earning more money and gaining access to new clients, so naturally, the sisters sign up without delay.
Atelier is never too concerned about story, and a plot revolving around an underdog building the best atelier is nothing the series hasn’t done before. The sisters’ plight means it’s almost impossible not to like them and want them to succeed, though, and it creates more of an emotional connection than I expected.
It never gets too profound, because it’s Atelier. However, seeing them deal with grief and how that unfolds in the game’s endings makes it feel more personal in a way only Ryza 2 has managed to match. It’s not a stretch to say Lydie & Suelle are some of the series’ best protagonists.
The NPCs and other party members never reach the same heights. However, like with Ryza, having heroines with more nuanced personalities than just! Being happy! A lot! allows for different kinds of interactions. The local nun tries to be a surrogate mother when she can, for example, but she’s too busy, while the tsundere rival atelier owner’s privilege accentuates how hard the twins have it.
You feel their successes and optimism more keenly, but fortunately, that’s not the only thing Lydie & Suelle gets right. The fantastic synthesis system Sophie introduced gets yet another upgrade, making it the best the entire series has seen so far.
The bonus lines are gone in place of specific tiles offering elemental and trait boosts. As always, the grid gets more complicated as you work on more powerful recipes, and it ends up being a thoroughly absorbing process the further you get in the game.
Whether because the original version of Firis suffers from framerate issues or something else, Gust decided not to go open world again for Lydie & Suelle. That’s still a disappointment since that structure makes Firis so good, yet Lydie & Suelle makes up for it with much better-realized locations. The wild areas around the capital are lush, colorful, and full of life, unlike in Sophie and, to a lesser extent, Firis.
The level design goes further than that, though. For the first time, you get to visit places that aren’t just inspired by the natural world.
The twins get pulled into certain paintings at key points. It’s an excuse to get a bit more creative and wild with stage design with one of the paintings looking like it came out of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Obviously, Atelier games will never rival the best AAA graphics engines, but this was a significant step forward for the series and still looks good several years later.
Still, it’s evident Gust wasn’t really sure what to do next with its series. Lydie & Suelle removes time limits again, gets rid of the point system that determines how much you would gather, and decides you can learn recipes in ways other than just gaining Idea Points.
It would benefit from more structure, though removing the time limit doesn’t hurt the experience. It’s just odd seeing how drastically the game changes compared to the previous two and how little cohesion there is between them.
That’s not always a bad thing. Lydie & Suelle wakes the Mysterious trilogy’s combat up from its torpid state, though you’ll recognize it if you played Atelier Lulua. Inactive party members form a backup line behind the active ones in battle and offer support skills and attacks at key moments. Better yet, the twins can use alchemy in combat, crafting item upgrades and more depending on what the situation calls for.
As is always the case with Atelier, the base story won’t push your limits, though you’ll need to craft good equipment and make use of battle alchemy for optional and late-game fights.
- Surprisingly personal story and better-developed protagonists
- Top-notch crafting system
- Lovely environments for an Atelier game
- Much stronger combat than its predecessors
- Other characters still a bit flat
- Can feel unstructured without a time limit or anything pushing you forward
- Hard to justify if you've played the original already
The biggest question is whether Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX is worth it. If you haven’t played it before, definitely. It’s a strong modern Atelier game that might not reach the heights the Ryza games do, but it is still a unique and enjoyable Atelier experience.
If you have played it before, especially on the Switch, you’re probably better off buying Sophie and Firis separately when they go on sale since the DX version doesn’t add anything vital or new.
[Note: Koei Tecmo America provided the copy of Atelier Lydie & Suelle DX used for this review]