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Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book

Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Koei / EA
Developer: GUST
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is the latest in the Atelier series. Like Atelier Shallie, there is no time limit (which I am happy to see gone). In fact, you will spend quite a number of hours in this game.

Atelier Sophie is in English with subtitles, but you can put it in Japanese if you want. In both languages, I think they did a really good job with the voicework. The characters are easy to understand, but they all have their own personalities and it shows in their voices. The same is true of their appearances. Even though a lot of the characters are from the same area, they have wildly different clothing styles and clothing preferences.

Your musical entertainment is very similar to the rest of the Atelier series. While youíre in town itís a peppy, upbeat tempo. While out in the field you have a variety of music. There are different musical selections for battle, for gathering, and at other various events. Your characters also talk during battle, a lot. I wish they had a bit more variety in their sayings though, as they do get a bit repetitive.


Gameplay:

Kirchen Bell is the small town where Sophie lives and she is an alchemist who runs an atelier that she inherited from her late grandmother. Monika Ellmenriech (looks like Linca) is a friend and Horst Basler is the cafť owner. You can take on side quests from him and he also has rumors from time to time. Marguerite Behlmer is a shop keeper and the mother of Oskar Behlmer. Oskar joins you in fighting right away as heís been your friend since you were kids. Oskar reminds me very much of Augustus Gloop from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in his appearance. Elise Phulie is the book store owner and Tess Heitzmann is also a friend and she lets you get items from her. Harol Simens runs the clock shop, when he chooses to work. Meklet and Atomina are researching alchemy, but they arenít alchemists since they donít have the natural talent, but they are very interesting characters. Logy is in this one as well. You might remember him from Atelier Escha & Logy. Heís going to be your blacksmith. Julio Sebald Leidenschaft is a knight of Adalett, who saves you in the forest and then joins you since he needs an alchemist. Leon (a girl) will function as a clothing store for you, eventually, while Fritz Weissberg is a dollmaker, a puppeteer. Several of these people, including Leon and Fritz, will join your party eventually. The townsfolk are quite interesting, probably the most interesting of any of the Atelier games that I have played. I havenít even mentioned all of them!

This tale really begins when Sophie finds a reference book of her grandmotherís on a shelf. She decides to add to it her own alchemy recipes, which she is working to learn. When she does, the book starts to talk and she tells Sophie that her name is Plachta. Plachta tells you about a device called the Cauldron of Knowledge that will let you do amazing alchemy things, but as soon as she tells you about it, she forgets where it is. Plachta has forgotten a lot, including what she is. Since she canít remember where the cauldron is, Plachta offers to teach you alchemy. Of course, to do anything you need to go gather items, with Monika and Oskar to help you fight. As I mentioned, others will join you too. Sophie decides that the best thing she can do would be to help Plachta recover her memories, which isnít going to be easy.

Your time as Sophie is divided between alchemy and time in the field. You need to go fight monsters in the field to gather items for the alchemy. You will do alchemy at the cauldron and the alchemy is a bit different from the previous games, but Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book does a fairly good job of explaining what to do. You will just need to play around with it. You also have different cauldrons that you can use and you can upgrade those cauldrons. The second one you get has a 5x5 grid, which you will need for larger items. I will tell you that if you decide to upgrade it, make sure you still keep the 5x5 grid. I wasnít paying attention to that and had to upgrade it again to fix it back! You can save your game at the desk and you can rest in the bed. When you choose to rest, it asks you how much time you want to rest for. While there is no overall time limit, time does pass and you should keep track of it. When you move between areas, explore, synthesize, and more, time will pass. You can find different items and monsters at different times. There are 5 days in a week and two of them are weekends. People will be in different places and do different things, like go to church, on the weekends. A month is 30 days (6 weeks). It will take a lot of time to help Plachta and to figure out what is really going on, but just keep at it and you will get there.


Difficulty:

When you start up Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, the game will default you to Normal difficulty, but you can change it in the Settings. You also have the option of Easy, if things are too hard on you, or Hard and Despair, if you want more of a challenge. Personally, I found Normal to be on the easier side. I would recommend Despair only after youíve created some really powerful items.

You can have up to four people in your party. Once you have more join you, youíll have to choose which ones you want to take into battle with you. Even if you do not have them fight, standby characters will gain experience, so you donít have to worry about switching out to keep your party members around the same level. If you kill your whole party, you will automatically wake up at the atelier. You will lose some of the items that you gathered on that trip out, but thatís really all. Itís not much of a punishment for dying. You will need to watch your LP. LP lowers when you are outside of the town. If you battle with low LP, your stats will be lowered, which will make it much harder to tackle enemies that you know you have beaten before. As you get more experience, you will be able to use support skills and eventually special skills. These skills will depend on your characterís stance. They can be in either an Offensive or a Defensive stance. You might want to switch your characters so theyíre not all in the same stances, to avoid using the special skills until you need them.


Game Mechanics:

Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a pretty easy game to get the hang of playing. It has a turn-based battle system and the characterís turn is based upon their speed. You will be able to see who is scheduled to attack in what order by the bar on the left side of the screen. Your character can attack, defend, try to run, or use a skill. Obviously the skills available will be based on the character and they will get more skills as they level up.

Synthesis is a bit different from the previous games. You will now place the items on a synthesis board. You want to cover more panels on it and watch for bonus areas too. You can overlap them, but it will cause the first one to disappear. Youíll need to play around with placements for a while to get the effects that you want. Once you get different cauldrons, you can choose which one you want to use. It took me a bit to get used to, but overall I like the synthesis this way.

Overall, this is so far my least favorite of the Atelier series, simply because I still, after 15+ hours, have no clue what the point of the game is, other than to help Plachta recover her memories. I am certain there is more and I have a feeling that it will be more interesting when I get there, but it feels like there is a whole lot of boring work just to get to the real game. Not that the alchemy and fighting is necessarily boring, but I just want a bit more to the storyline from the beginning. So while Atelier Sophie is a good game, itís still my least favorite of the series. If youíre a fan of the series, I would still recommend it, but be prepared to put in a number of hours!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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