As the Atelier game franchise hits a milestone anniversary, we take a quick look back at what has helped to make this long-running video game series so special.
This month, the long-running Atelier video game series celebrates its 25th anniversary. The first game in the series Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg was released for the original PlayStation on May 23, 1997, and since then, the series has expanded to include 23 games in the franchise. The most recent entry, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream, released this past February.
While the series is divided into seven distinct sub-series—each focusing on its own distinct set of themes—the overarching theme of the entire series has been alchemy. No matter where each Atelier game is set, the basic premise is the same: the player explores the world to gather ingredients to perform alchemy. This isn’t an idle task either, the alchemy is usually needed to craft items needed to help the story move forward.
What drew me personally into the Atelier series, and doubtless many others over the years, is how laid back the games are. Unlike other games I’ve played, where you feel this constant need to rush around and complete quests or fight hordes of enemies non-stop, the Atelier games take place in a relaxing environment where you, the player, are free to take on quests and tasks at your leisure. While earlier games in the series did have a number of time limits in place to get certain tasks done, this is no longer the case. You’re generally free to pursue whatever side quests you like (at any time you like) rather than strictly stick to the main quest-line.
That’s actually pretty liberating, especially for someone like me. I find some games to be pretty stressful because of their emphasis on always doing this or that. For example Elden Ring, for all its beauty, sends my anxiety soaring through the roof every time I play because everything in the environment wants to kill me.
God of War is equally stressful for me. While the environment isn’t quite as deadly as the aforementioned Elden Ring, it’s still pretty easy to get locked into a loop where you’re stuck facing an enemy you can’t defeat and you can’t go forward until you do. But with the Atelier games, I find myself relaxing and enjoying myself.
I’m basically free to explore every nook and cranny of this anime-like world that’s full of amazing views and creatures, who you don’t even have to engage with if you’re nimble enough. This is one thing I really love about the Atelier series: you only have to fight the monsters if you make contact with them. Therefore, if you’re fast enough, you can explore all you like and avoid monster battles if you’re not in the mood for one.
Another thing that’s pretty amazing about the entire series is how, apart from alchemy, the story centers on making a series of friends and going on adventures with them. It’s a very wholesome experience, as each of these friends are fully fleshed out individuals. It feels very rewarding to get to know each of them. Speaking of amazing characters, it’s incredible we have this long-running series that consistently focuses on female characters doing amazing things with magic and other adventures. That’s pretty empowering, especially if you’re a female gamer (like me) looking for games you can really connect with.
On top of all of this, the thing I love the most about the Atelier series is you don’t have to have played any of the previous games to get into the newest release. Despite having over 20 entries (and counting), each game more or less functions as its own standalone story. The games that do have direct sequels, like Atelier Sophie 2, usually provide enough details that you don’t feel lost with any references to previous events. Actually, I was pleased to see Atelier Sophie 2 take it a step further and provide a full-on cutscene (fully optional) that explains exactly how you get to the events of this game if you didn’t have the chance to play the original Atelier Sophie.
With a number of celebrations being planned to celebrate the series’ 25th anniversary, it seems likely that the Atelier series will be around for many years to come. Given the fun I’ve had with the last few entries in the series, I look forward to seeing what adventures I’ll be taken on next and hopefully you will too.