Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust Co.
Medium: Digital/Vita Card/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No

Calling Atelier Firis a “back to basics” approach for the franchise is probably inaccurate. After all, at its core, it’s not that different from any of the 17+ Atelier games that have come before it. As is typical, the game revolves around a girl (Firis, in this case) gathering materials, exploring a map, battling monsters, and, of course, mixing together all kinds of ingredients — in other words, doing exactly what every other Atelier heroine has done since the series began. Saying this particular game was ?back to basics? would imply that the series had been branching off into ever-more-elaborate directions, when that?s clearly not the case. As I?ve written many times before, when you play an Atelier game you know what you?re getting into, and in that respect, Atelier Firis is precisely what you?d expect.

And yet, even by those standards, Atelier Firis feels even more rote than usual. Maybe I was just spoiled by the fact that Atelie Shallie Plus gave multiple ways to approach the game, but here you have one main character who goes about doing things in precisely one way.

What’s more, that one way goes back to the very heart of what the series is. You’re playing here as a girl just discovering what alchemy — at least in the context of the Atelier series — means. Thus, you get a whole lot of exposition explaining how alchemy works, coupled with quite a bit of step-by-step instruction on how to do it all. Given, again, that we’re eighteen games in, I have a hard time imagining there are many people playing or learning this stuff for the first time.

Of course, if Atelier Firis actually is someone?s first time with an Atelier game, then in that respect there?s an argument to be made that it may be the perfect game for newcomers.

That argument wouldn?t come from me, though. Because even if the gameplay may be slightly more accessible than that of other Atelier games, Atelier Firis? performance on the Vita is pretty far from acceptable. I?m not sure what the developers did this time that they?d never done before (maybe bigger maps?), but whatever it was, it didn?t do the game?s handheld version any favours. At the best of times, you can constantly see the walls and sky popping into existence around Firis; at the worst, you can practically feel the Vita chugging in your hands as everything slows down to a snail?s pace and it takes forever for Firis to even walk down a pathway.

In other words, Atelier Firis represents the first Atelier game I?ve ever played that I wouldn?t be able to recommend. For a series that has long been known for meeting a certain level of competence, it?s a surprising letdown.

Grade: C+