Ah yes, Atelier. What a mixed history I have with this franchise. Before I dive into discussing my time with this franchise, it’s time for some needed background. My experience with this series is likely going to be one of the most pathetic scenarios you have encountered in the realms of gaming. I first attempted to play the Atelier series in 2014 with Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky after hearing that it is heavy on item-making. Item-crafting is one of my favorite past-times in games, so having a JRPG with that as its central focus was more than welcoming; it was exciting.
I ended up getting Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky for the PS3 and it was…an interesting experience. While I can’t exactly recall the specificities of what I felt back then, there is one particular sensation I distinctly remember, one that I still feel whenever looking at the games now; underestimation. I did read that synthesis was involved and required some degree of mental fortitude, but I never quite expected the level of complexity that was present in this game, and the rest of the series by extension.
As piteous as this is, I spent over 100 hours on the original Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, and I never came to understand how its synthesis worked. None of the systems ever clicked with me, and it frustrated me to no end. Every other avenue of the game compelled and entertained me, and the prospect of synthesis was easily the most excited I have ever been by a game in a long, long while. However, my ineptitude won out, and I never came to acquire a sufficient understanding of its mechanics.
As for the specifics of what I misunderstood, I am unfortunately too inept to even recite that. All I really understood, and still understand, is that you mix items to create a new item. That’s it. Traits, properties, order, abilities; all of those factors go way over my head no matter how many explanations I read online or however often someone attempts to make the concepts more parseable. This same dilemma occurred with almost every other game of the franchise I have tried as well, and yup, I played a lot of the other games, including:
- Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (PS3)
- Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland DX (PS3)
- Atelier Shallie: Alchemists of the Dusk Sea (PS3)
- Atelier Escha & Logy: Alchemists of the Dusk Sky DX (Vita)
- Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk DX (Vita)
- Atelier Totori: The Adventurer of Arland DX (Vita)
- Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book (Vita)
- Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings (PS4)
- Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout (PS4)
So, while I have not tried every title of the franchise, I have tried more than a fair amount, and to this day, the only game that I have understood is Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout. I have no idea how, but the first Ryza game made almost immediate sense to me.
The synthesis system in it heavily reminded me of the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X and the Crystarium in Final Fantasy XIII. Maybe the nature of how I could relate this particular synthesis system to prior gaming experiences I have had made it far easier to parse; honestly, who knows. I even got the platinum trophy for this game too, and it was super easy. Most importantly though, I vastly enjoyed myself. This was one of the most satisfying gaming experiences I have ever had, and my desire to reach this sense of catharsis with the other games in the franchise still burns strongly, even after 6+ years of attempting them.
I joined an Atelier Discord a few years ago, but sadly my pleas for help might have come off as memeing because I was met with snarking comments and only a few potentially beneficial tips. Sadly, nothing helped. The problem that I found is that if you follow what people say to do, it feels more like a walkthrough than actually learning about the system. It creates a linear experience when you’re being told exactly what to create when I would have much rather preferred to use the system to create items unique to me. I know this is pausable, but I might just lack the understanding of these nuanced traits and qualities.
To this day, I have never seen anyone like me who has had such great difficulty with trying to parse these games. Everyone I encounter is so confident in their understandings of the series’ synthesis systems that I almost feel like a freak for not being able to. I don’t want this to be a pity fest, but is it possible that I’m the only one who isn’t getting it?
That being said, the cathartic experience I had with Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout more than reinvigorated my desire to someday become knowledgeable with the previous Atelier’s synthesis systems. However, as the quality-of-life systems improve for the series, perhaps more people will find ways to become fans of the series. Or, maybe I’ll be left as the only person who can’t create an S-tier weapon with Carries Fire and Extra Damage traits.
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