The Atelier games have long been a favorite here. An interesting twist on the more traditional JRPG genre, the Atelier games are about being an alchemist, brewing concoctions, and generally saving the world/solving some big problems/learning alchemy/maintaining an atelier. After a length weight, Atelier Sophie: Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is finally here and is Gusts' first Atelier title built for the PlayStation 4. Does the Atelier series transition well to a next-gen console? Pretty darned well.
First off, I love the Atelier games. They are great, seriously, we have covered a few. Each title is chalkfull of a cast of lovable characters that each have their own struggles that tug at your heartstrings (nnnngggghhhh ... Ateleir Ayesha ...). Atelier Sophie is no different, though at times feels more lightweight than previous titles, with the affable, if airheaded Sophie leading the troupe this time around. While Eschy and Logy, or even Ayesha all had wonderful supporting characters, I have a serious "thing" for Sophie's friend and supporter, Monika Ellmenreich. Voiced in English by the stunning and vibrant Erica Lindbeck and voiced in Japanese by the utterly gorgeous, incredibly talented, and simply wonderful Suzaki Aya. She is Sophie's more serious friend and supporter, and frankly, one of my favorites in the entire franchise.
Monika aside, Atelier Sophie is a proper entry into the Atelier franchise, though I do have a few little (and I mean LITTLE) issues with it. The first issue is how you "glide" across the ground; simply walking across the screen shows Sophie sliding before stepping; it is extremely distracting and shows that Gust may still be stuck in the portables mindset. I would be more forgiving if this was a Vita port to the PlayStation 4, where the Vita is nowhere near as strong as the PlayStation 4, but it is not. Atelier Sophie was built for next-gen systems and this sort of amateur animation is troublesome. On the topic of amateur animation, and the second issue I have with Atelier Sophie is the lip syncing. Whether you are playing the game in Japanese (as you should be) or you are playing in English, the lip syncing is atrocious. The quality of syncing is PlayStation One era at best, and is a massive letdown given the quality of everything else in Atelier Sophie.
Though the Atelier games have always looked good, I was absolutely stunned by the gorgeous character art and animation (syncing and footsteps aside). Within minutes of meeting Monika, Sophie's childhood friend, I was in love, and even twenty and thirty hours into the game I am still floored by amazing vistas, stunning character art, or the deep and wonderful story. Add to that mix the tried-and-true atelier item gathering/crafting mechanics and a solid combat mechanic, and well ... you have one of Gust's best to date.
If the PlayStation 4 will continue to get priority from Gust I would like to see more attention spent on careful animation and getting away from the amateur-level animations and syncing that I see in Sophie. However, their writing remains top notch, their choice of seiyu and English voice actors remains some of the best in the industry, and their addictive blend of resource gathering, crafting, and more traditional JRPG goodness is masterful when it is at it's worst. Atelier Sophie: Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a powerful entry into one of the best JRPG franchises to date.
Article by Robert