What the heck is the Atelier series, and why should I care?
Posted On December 31, 2019
Ah, the Atelier series. That one JRPG franchise I slept on for the majority of my life, only to find it stumbling through the bullshite that is PS Now. I’m in love with it, and can’t even believe it took me this long to discover it for myself.
In a nutshell, the Atelier series is a long-running JRPG video game franchise that focuses on Alchemy. It has JRPG mechanics, features colorful casts, and delights the treasure hunter in us all.
It’s a game series about crafting, relationships, and personal growth.
Each game focuses on one or two main characters, and their goals tend to be “become good at Alchemy” and/or “save the world or something”.
It’s very “slice of life” and not exactly an example of novel storytelling, but it doesn’t have to be. The Atelier series is for people who like crafting items, not deep stories.
Every game has a slightly tweaked synthesis system, so even if you’ve played other titles, it’s fresh each time.
Battling in Atelier—for the most part—is token turn-based JRPG mechanics. (Atelier Ryza is a departure from that, which we’ll get to in a moment.)
The plot is much of the same: sometimes it’s amazing, and sometimes it’s decent, but it’s never ever truly bad.
Just like the Tales series, and Pokemon: Atelier can’t really fall flat, because the formula just works.
If crafting up a storm, romping around with a tropey/fun anime cast, and battling adorable monsters seems like your thing, the Atelier series was made with you in mind.
Which Atelier Game Should I Start With?
For Super-Noobs, Atelier Shallie Might Be Your Go-To.
There’s something to keep in mind where Atelier games are concerned: some of them have time limits, which force you to complete tasks on a specific trajectory, or face a game-over.
Atelier fans are divided on this feature, but I think it sucks all the fun out of crafting and exploring, and it can be needlessly brutal for noobies. Starting with an Atelier game without a time limit is probably a good move.
For something that marries the appeal of older Atelier titles and newer ones, my very first jaunt is also probably a good place to start.
Atelier Shallie is Noob-Friendly, Easy to get into, and Fun!
My first venture into the Atelier series was Atelier Shallie. I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into, having dove in on a whim. What I found at first was a crafting system that confounded me.
But as time went on, I found my greatest new obsession.
The plot of this game is very straightforward: your planet is running out of water, and that sucks, but alchemy can fix it or whatever.
In this game, you pick one of the two main characters to play. Both of them have the nickname Shallie, but they’re very different people, with very different goals, and different story routes.
Damsel Shallie is the girl with dark hair, and her whole “sheltered princess must use alchemy to save my village” shtick wasn’t really my vibe.
Her town is in danger of literally dehydrating to death.
I chose Shallotte (like the onion) Elminus to play as: a scrappy girl without a dad, who has a very sick mom, and is super poor, but wants to prove herself in her community.
I could relate to her story of just trying to work very-goddamn-hard to make cash, and being routinely underestimated.
It also helps that she’s very cute.
Her journey to become an alchemist, because she really doesn’t have a lot going for her, is admirable. Every step of the way, people doubt her, and don’t think she can hack it.
Despite how confusing the crafting system was, at first, I wanted her to succeed, to prove the other characters wrong.
That’s what kept me invested. Then it was all downhill from there. I was hooked.
We stan this hardworking munchkin who excels despite all odds.
Atelier Shallie has an awesome supporting cast, too.
There are plenty of characters to love.
This little cinnamon roll is named Miruca, and she fights with a magical spike-gun-weapon-thing. She can make cool weapons for you, and also is often misunderstood. She has a blunt talking style, which turns people off.
Miruca won my heart when she kept showing up at Shallie’s house, acting rude, but always being there. Being there to talk some sense into our lovable ditz, and being there to be supportive.
I love characters that seem rough at first, but honestly are jellybeans.
It feels like you truly earn their friendship when they open up to you.
Then there’s Jurie, Miruca’s sister, who is the complete opposite. She’s a warm, carefree treasure hunter who cares a lot and loves adventuring. Jurie is also a writer, which tickled me pink when I found out.
Jurie and Miruca don’t have the best relationship to start, because Miruca deems her very irresponsible, but as time goes on, they grow to understand each other more, and mend their relationship.
I really enjoyed their interpersonal relationship. It’s nice to see characters at odds come together again.
Then there’s Wilbell Voll-Erslied, who’s a genius mage that flies around on a broom. Shallie meets her and instantly claims that she’s her new mentor. That doesn’t make sense, because Wilbell is not an Alchemist.
Shallie didn’t “get it” for a long time, because honestly she’s not that bright.
Watching Shallie try and fail repeatedly to fly around on a broom, while Wilbell just stands there, incapable of telling this poor Onion it’s never going to work, was so very charming.
There are plenty of other charming characters to talk about, but in order to find out more about them, you’re going to have to go play the game.
Atelier Shallie boasts a robust, nigh-indecipherable synthesis system.
But don’t let that stop you: Once you ‘get it’, it’s simple, and simply addictive.
I don’t tend to go into video games needing a guide, but since the synthesis/alchemy system was so new for me, I really wanted to get it right. Sadly, Atelier Shallie has no actual guide. It really doesn’t, and the one it does have is a piece of shit.
But, intent on actually learning how to play this game, and without any real money to buy recipes to craft items, and without any knowledge of what I was doing…I sat there and pumped out a bunch of honey.
Yup, I made honey.
What kind of honey you ask?
Honey with deese stats that, upon getting later recipes, I could use to make 100 quality wood planks that had insane skills attached.
And then I made those planks into parts for weapons, that then made weapons so strong I could nuke basically any monster, ever.
Breaking a game with OP items I made felt amazing.
If you think that sounds like fun, give Shallie a chance!
Atelier Shallie’s crafting system is what delivers, keeps you hooked, and has you staying up till 2:00am on a workday just trying to make that one deese shiny thing you’ve been trying to make for what feels like decades.
Atelier Shallie is an exercise in item crafting addiction.
Once you understand the nuances, you’ll do almost nothing but run around gathering things on various maps, and making stuff until the wee morning hours.
If you get good enough at synthesis, the battles with monsters honestly don’t even matter anymore, because it’s a cake-walk.
If you enjoy breaking a game system by being very clever, you’ll love Atelier Shallie, and probably every other Atelier game, ever.
Atelier Shallie is an overall solid game that serves as a great introduction to the Atelier franchise.
Atelier Shallie is a beautiful game, with a heartwarming cast, a simple plot, and a fun synthesis system. It doesn’t have a punishing time limit system, and even without a solid guide, it wasn’t that hard to figure out what to do.
If you like cute anime girls, JRPGs, exploring, treasure hunting, and crafting, Atelier Shallie is probably your best starter-entry, here.
Atelier Ryza Is Gorgeous, has Fast Combat, and a cast that broke my heart (in a good way).
If that sounds like fun, please try it out!
If turn-based battle mechanics give you a migraine, Atelier Ryza, is your Tales-like panacea. It’s also a good entry-point for people who wish to enjoy more lush 3D exploration on bigger maps, can appreciate fan service, and want more access to more recipes.
It also has the most heart-warming/heart-breaking Atelier ending I’ve played, and because Atelier games have 3 games per universe, I’m foaming at the mouth to see what happens next.
Atelier Ryza is my favorite Atelier game so far, and if you sleep on this title but love JRPGs and crafting, you have no soul.
Atelier Ryza has the best crafting system. Fite me.
Synthesis feels natural, and painless, because Ryza is a creative, clever crafting Goddess.
Ryza also introduces a mechanic I’m not sure is available in other titles. You’re able to change your recipes halfway through your synthesis process, leading to more and more concoctions.
This is exciting, because my one grievance with Atelier Shallie is it took forever to get enough cash to buy recipes to make literally anything.
Not only that, but Ryza’s crafting system seems like a natural upgrade from previous titles. You’re given all of the freedom, with no time limit, and almost none of the downsides.
At some point, you can make a Philosopher’s stone, and not to spoil you too much, but you can create a synthesis feedback loop that makes it possible to duplicate basically anything you make, without new materials.
I felt like a God playing Atelier Ryza, so much so in fact that I told my partner Ryza would win in a fight against Goku of DBZ simply because she’d invent a weapon that would erase his very existence.
I stand by that assessment.
If you want to feel like a synthesis God, Ryza is your go-to.
Atelier Ryza is also possibly the best looking Atelier game, ever.
If graphics mean a lot to you, start with Ryza.
The maps in Atelier Ryza are bigger than previous titles, and feel more expansive versus dungeon-y. You’ll find yourself actually wanting to stick around and explore, because everything is just so goddamn beautiful.
There’s a certain pixie map that has fairies dancing on a toadstool if you show up at night, which is impossibly charming. There are sweeping, gorgeous, glorious seas of flowers.
There’s an entire red-painted maple grove with amber stones and a grove of toadstools and pixies.
Atelier Ryza is a work of art; it’s an ode to the beauty of nature.
Atelier Ryza is beautiful, and boasts a photography feature for a reason. It’s a beautiful game, with beautiful characters, that wants you to enjoy the heck out of Alchemy and synthesizing items.
What’s not to love?
Atelier Ryza’s fast-paced battle system is a breath of fresh air.
If Tales had a baby with Atelier, Ryza would be that baby.
Ryza’s battle system, though confusing at first, gets into such a good rhythm it’s hard to put down. Pretty soon you’ll be whipping through battles at mach speeds, taking out gigantic bosses with bombs and a stick.
Ryza’s battle system is fully active. The combat doesn’t slow down, which can be a challenge for people used to turn-based combat, but that’s why I love it.
Other characters play off of your decisions, and there are moments where you can tag-team and provoke certain skills because you followed the advice of your comrades.
There’s also an insane way to upgrade your weapons via synthesis, and if you’re smart, you’ll be mowing down mega-bosses in no-time flat.
Atelier Ryza’s battle system was made to match modern JRPG standards, and honestly destroys most of them without much effort.
Atelier Ryza has characters that made me weep.
They’re not only pretty, but they’re pretty relatable, human, and inspiring.
I’d be lying if my first impression of Lila wasn’t: Yes, please destroy me, weapon-woman. I’d also be lying if I said my first impression of Alchemist Empel, her partner, wasn’t: he’s totally dating the warrior woman, no wonder he looks exhausted all the time.
But as time went on, and the plot blossomed naturally like Ryza’s synthesis skills, I was pretty much floored by how touching every character’s story was.
I don’t want to spoil this game for you, because the revelations, and the natural progression of young adults moving towards their paths in life, was so very satisfying. I won’t rob you of this.
Just know that Ryza isn’t just Atelier: Fanservice addition. Once the cast starts to develop, their journeys will leave a mark on your soul, and the ending will make you sob like a baby.
Atelier Ryza is everything I love about JRPGs, and more.
If any of this sounds like a fun time, please pick up Atelier Ryza.
All in all, Atelier Ryza is a fairly fan service-heavy addition to the Atelier series, but there’s an actual game behind it. It’s fun, it’s full of charming characters, it’s beautiful, and there’s almost no limit to what you can do.
It hits you in the feels, it gives you the good synthesis, it has a great battle system, it’s gorgeous, and I firmly believe it’s one of the best JRPGs I’ve played in recent years.
If you’re into active battle systems, babes, bros, feels, and being a synthesis God, Ryza is the game for you.
What about the other Atelier Games?
There are 21 games in the mainline series. I’ve played 7, and completed 3. This is an impossible question.
The main thing you need to take away from this baby-review of the Atelier titles, which is just as hard to review as an expose on the gigantic Tales series, is that each game is different.
There’s no one game you should start with, because it’s up to your own personal preferences.
The only way I can really help you decide is to give you the titles that I feel have the lowest barrier of entry, with the most to offer.
What I will say, however, is that older titles are more challenging than the two I’ve mentioned.
My current Atelier bae is Atelier Lydie & Suelle, and I’m finding it borderline punishing, even if it also lacks a time limit.
You’d think with wielding twin Alchemists it’d be easier—two heads are better than one—but I find myself poor, under-leveled, and without enough space to carry items far too often.
But that doesn’t mean Atelier Lydie isn’t fun; it is.
I’d say it’s a good progression for people who’ve played and enjoyed Ryza/Shallie. As I haven’t finished it yet, I can’t quite analyze it very deeply, but it’s enjoyable.
In fact, on some level, I think every single Atelier game is enjoyable. It just matters what type of gamer you are, and what characters you’d resonate with most.
That’s for you to discover.
Why should I pick up the Atelier Series?
If you like crafting, being a hoarder, and cute anime girls, this is the game series for you.
It’s hard to quantify a series that features 21 mainline titles, all of which have at least something to offer somebody. I guess my one key takeaway from my exploration of the Atelier series—and you bet your sweet butt I’m going to try to play all of them—is that there’s so much to do, so much to make, and so much to explore.
It feels fresh and innovative when so many JRPGs don’t.