Game Title: Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists – Ateliers of the New World
Company: Gust, Koei Tecmo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life: 2 – 3 hours
Cloud Save Support: Yes
Download: 14.8 GB
Atelier is one of my favorite more recent RPG franchises. Seeing all the cute and funny character interactions, the beautiful visuals, and gathering in dungeons has always been fun for me. At least since I got into the more recent games of the series. Since then, I’ve played all 3 “modern” trilogies, along with one of the Mana Khemia spin-offs way back when.
So, when I heard a huge cross-over of the entire series was coming out, I was really excited to see my favorite characters along with discovering some of the older Atelier characters at the same time.
After having gotten the game and seeing it was a bit different than what I was expecting, here is my review of Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists for the NIntendo Switch!
Nelke centers around an Aristocrat named Nelke. She is sent to a small village as its Administrator to build it into a lively city along with researching special artifacts in the area known as “Sage Relics”. After setting up the village, however, she starts to notice Alchemists popping up in the area, one after another and each set from different worlds with no idea how to get back home.
The story of this game I wouldn’t call bad, but I also wouldn’t call it the series’ best. There are many character interactions that are quite comical, like Vio from the Gramnade series getting into an argument with Firis from the Mystery series over the latter not enjoying carrots and Vio just not having it.
It certainly has its comical moments, but I feel that many of the cutscenes lack that cute comedy that modern Atelier is known for.
Nelke is, in fact, not an RPG with synthesis elements thrown into the mix. Gust completely changed the genre for this one. Nelke is actually a town-building sim game with some light RPG elements thrown into the mix. Instead of wandering around dungeons and mixing items through synthesis, you build up a town and manage resources for most of the game.
First of all, the amount of characters crammed into this game is absurd. For a 20th anniversary game, they went all out. You have pretty much every protagonist across the entire series, plus side characters from every game. If you count side characters that you can’t take into battle, there are over 100 Atelier characters here, not counting people like Nelke who were made for this game.
Progression in this game is more built around the sim elements of the game. You run in “Turns”, where each turn you manage your town and then have a “Vacation” to interact with your residents as well as venturing out into dungeons for “Investigations” where you can gather materials and fight monsters in turn-based combat.
How all of this is done may not be what you’d expect. The sim elements has you using town funds to build facilities like Ateliers, Shops, and Gardens and assigning residents to them, be those residents Alchemists or side characters like Monika or Sphere. Every character has a stat for all the different types of roles as well, so there’s a large element of making sure that someone with a high Shop stat is put in charge of a Store and someone with a high Gather stat is deployed to dungeons to gather new materials.
One thing of note here is that there is no Synthesis System, really. You do have to gather materials and combine them into new items, but more in the form of you just informing each Alchemist what to make and they go at it when that turn’s “Build” phase ends. You don’t do it, yourself.
It feels less Sim-like during Vacation days. During these days, you have a time limit that goes down when you visit characters to view events or get special requests from them and this feels very at home with the Atelier series as it’s just like viewing character events that normally pop up in whatever the game’s hub town is, but more considering how large the roster is. There is never a day that goes by without new events popping up.
Finally, Investigations. These I expected to go like typical Atelier dungeon-crawling, but it is a bit different. Instead of you wandering around dungeons by yourself, your party just sort of “walks” the dungeon by themselves, picking up items as they go along. Of course, when combat starts, you control characters then, but only to a point. You control non-Alchemist characters while the Alchemists automatically use support commands when their turn comes.
With this all coming together, this is much, much more of a simulation game than an RPG. You don’t have much control over the characters and you more or less just manage them (as Nelke’s title suggests). This is also a very tricky and difficult sim game. Like many Atelier games, you have time limits for each Main Task, and some of these are extremely hard to get done on time. You might only have 10 days to increase your population by 1,000 or earn over 100k in sales.
The reason for this is timing. Many have tasks you have to do certain other tasks to do, which take up days to find locations, more days to do research to unlock an item you need, and more days further to develop what you need for the task. You don’t have much leeway time and many of the tasks had me constantly going back to previous save data because I wasted too much time and had to write down a list of everything I needed to do to not fail and get a Game Over.
I found this very offputting at first as I was stuck on a single Main Task for hours upon hours, but once I really understood the system and where characters went, it became manageable with constant planning. It can be done, but I feel some of the time restraints are a bit too unreasonable.
Now let’s get into content and length. Like other games of the series, you’ll be spending quite a bit of time with this one. If you don’t constantly fail early tasks like I did for awhile, you’ll likely be spending at least 30-35 hours on the game, but with the difficulty in mind, I’d probably put it more around 40-45 hours. So, there’s definitely quite a bit of content here.
Controlling the game is pretty simple, really. No touch controls. No motion controls. Since it is a sim game, I figured it would be more simplistic, overall.
You can move around in the menus with the Arrow Buttons and the Left Analog Stick, while the Right Analog Stick revolves the camera around in Build Mode when trying to create or move structures in your town. The L and R triggers are used mostly in combat when you want to switch between the different modes like Manual and Semi-Auto.
Then we have the face buttons. A is used for confirming actions and B for canceling them. X pulls up the log and Y lets you rotate structures around when placing them.
Graphically, you don’t really see that much. Only certain cutscenes are rendered in the 3D engine, but when they do appear or when you get into combat, the game looks pretty nice. It definitely has that Atelier Lydie style, but much more polished. Very few jaggies and no blurring.
Performance-wise, it’s good for the most part. There are frame drops when you use certain skills in battle, but outside of that, it stays pretty steady.
Battery Life was difficult to gauge for me, since it has sim modes and battle modes. But here is the Battery Range for Nelke:
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 18 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 21 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 34 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 2 hours, 41 minutes
Certainly lower than I expected, but acceptable.
In conclusion, Nelke is very different from the rest of the Atelier series, focusing less on alchemy and RPG battles and more on building up a town sim and seeing all of the interactions between the characters. It’s a game I’m rather conflicted on. I love the character interactions and how often they’re available, but really don’t like how unreasonable many of the time limitation tasks are. It’s certainly something Atelier fans will enjoy, but you need to Master the task system and plan ahead every chapter to not fail and get a Game Over.
Final Score: 6/10