Thanks to the Switch ports of the Arland series I finally experienced the JRPG series that I didn’t realise I was missing out on.
The excellent JRPG tropes and turn based battle systems kept the games familiar, while the time restrictions, with the beautiful, happy world made the games feel freshly unique. Naturally I was excited to see what a brand-new release would be like at launch the, but Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World wasn’t what I was expecting, for better or worse.
The series is well known and loved for its simple, fun turn-based battles. Your alchemist tries to beat the odds, to usually achieve something that is less than cataclysmic. Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World does away with the general gameplay loop that JRPG fans would expect but keeps the tone that makes this series special.
You play as Nelke, an aristocrat who sucks at alchemy, but is tasked with turning the small town of Westwald into a bigger more functional town. This is the task that she has been assigned and what the majority of the gameplay revolves around, but she also wants to find the ancient Granzweit Tree. It’s a serviceable enough story, and the town has all the other Atelier game’s characters stop by for cameos. As a new fan to the series, I didn’t know most of these characters, so they became generic NPCs, which longer time fans would appreciate more.
The core of the gameplay is the town building, which has you needing to collect resources, whether grown or out in the wild, to build new buildings, and to make your shops turn a profit. Usually your alchemists convert the materials in the wild into items for your shops, so you need to make sure you are getting enough of each material. You also need to make sure they are being turned into the right items to meet demand, and that your buildings are staffed with the right people to make it worthwhile.
It’s a simple gameplay loop that can be tricky if you let it get out of hand too quickly as you won’t achieve each goal within their allotted times. As such a radical departure for the series normal gameplay I liked what they tried to do. It can, however, be hard to turn off the instinct to hope for more of what the series has done so well in the past.
The only combat loop has you sending off your party to collect resources and explore which takes a 2D side on view. The team walks forward battling enemies and picking resources up, which is fine, but not great. This is what made the game underwhelm me, as exploring new places, collecting new resources and fighting new enemies is where the games are at their best, but not for Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World.
Overall Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World is an interesting take for the series, and I applaud their decision to try something new. The aesthetic and story feel much like what I enjoy about the series, but the gameplay is so average that it’s a hard game to recommend for anyone but the biggest fans of Atelier.
Released: April 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, also on PlayStation 4
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Publisher: Koei Tecmo