Sometimes we all need a little bit of colour in our lives. Games these days tend to be jam packed with grit, gore and chaos. With the dystopian long overthrowing the utopian especially in the sci-fi, action or drama genre, it comes as a refreshing surprise to play a game that doesn’t require me to fight for survival or be the last hope for humanity.
Released on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book couldn’t be any more kawaii if it tried. With its cutesy dialogue, characters and story-lines, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is most certainly a typical JRPG (Japanese role playing game).
In Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book players take on the role of Sophie, an alchemist with her own atelier. Although Sophie may have the enthusiasm and passion to become a good alchemist, she often finds herself failing without the proper guidance or mentoring. When a mysterious talking book (Plachta) turns up out of the blue offering Sophie guidance, it becomes her goal to help restore the book’s memories and true form.
In spite of the game being the 17th installment of the Atelier series, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book can pass as a standalone game and doesn’t require any previous knowledge or game-play to play the game. As a fair newcomer to the anime genre, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book left me with a smile on my face. With bright colours and sweet music I felt as if I’d been transported into a game I would play when I was little, full of sunshine, rainbows and all the harmless stuff. To take note though, Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is rated for ages 12 and up and does contain combat and violence. In terms of the game’s combat, I have to admit it wasn’t one of my favourites. Like most JRPGs, combat came in the form of turn based actions that soon became boring and repetitive. As much as I wanted to enjoy the combat, there wasn’t much room for experimentation, making it feel as if I held no control over what was happening a part from the odd offence/defence decisions.
Saying this, combat most certainly didn’t dominate the game. When you take on the role of Sophie the alchemist its fitting that a chunk of the game involves alchemy crafting. Based heavily off the narrative, in order to help Plachta (the mysterious book) get her memories back, Sophie must learn from those around her to gain ‘life’ experience and come up with new alchemist recipes. After Sophie has gathered ingredients to craft something new, she creates it and puts the new recipe in the mysterious book. The mysterious book then gains new memories in order to progress the story and ultimately remember knowledge that can make Sophie a better alchemist. As simple as it sounds, the gaining of ‘life’ experience isn’t very clear. You are told to obtain it but not how to obtain it. This resulted in endless wandering most of the time, talking to townsfolk, exploring different areas or gathering materials you may or may not need. Although the map showcases a large and exciting world, the various locations and settings prove to be a disappointment, recycling the skeleton of each location and leaving myself questioning why such an effort to travel everywhere is necessary.
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a character driven story, hence the RPG. Unlike most dubbing, I appreciated the English voices for each character even if they weren’t the best (mainly based off the script and dialogue). It was a lot more immersive than if I had to stare at subtitles all day.
Being the cheerful and frivolous game that Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is, it won’t be for everyone. Fans of the JRPG will know what to expect and perhaps be more susceptible to its genre whilst others might struggle to bear with it.
- Fun aesthetic
- Can pass as a standalone game
- Repetitive turn based combat
- Confusing story progression