I was recently invited by Koei-Temco to try the latest build of Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, the newest entry in the twenty-five-year-old role-playing franchise. After entering the swanky central London hotel the press event was being held in and introducing my self to the concierge, I was led down into a basement of a hotel restaurant decked in eclectically classic and opulent furnishings. The setting, decorations and minor interruptions from overly keen hotel staff enhanced the simulation of being an aristocratic alchemist being waited on hand and foot by a legion of loyal staff.
Since the initial Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg was released in 1997 the series has always spun the familiar tropes of the fantasy genre into unique and charming games rife with adventure and friendship. The franchise clicked for me when I thought of the unfamiliar gameplay as an intriguing amalgam of Final Fantasy 9 and the Sims, blending slice of life stories with steampunk fantasy aesthetics, mainly focused on training in alchemy, building connections with the characters you meet, battling monsters and questing to obtain items to build up your ever-expanding library of alchemical spells.
Many of the series’ nineteen mainline games have had time limits built into them, often giving you a bad ending if your tasks are not finished within the arbitrary time limit. This feature had never really been embraced by the fanbase and has now been done away with. As long you can keep your growing town financially stable your game can continue indefinitely, going beyond the limits of the story mode, when the story finishes you can keep building your town forever.
Good Alchemists are hard to find and desperately sought out in the villages across the world. Nelke, the curios aristocratic alchemist in training, was granted leave by her regal father under the promise that she develop the village that you are put in charge of. In my short play time, I met many charming side characters including the Monster Hunter Marie and cool guy Lotos, a young village chief named Knoss exploring the nearby forests in search of a Granzweit Tree and most importantly Misty, the tough but cool maid, who is there to guide, assist and defend you throughout your adventure.
In your quest to gentrify your town you will meet a wide range of voiced characters with both 2D portraits that are animated in the voiced conversation sections and 3D character models in contrast to the 3D backgrounds that I found to be a little lackluster, but this could be due to my town being in its fledgling stages and devoid of any spectacular structures.
The weekly structure of turns are divided into days and unlike in real life, there is normally enough time to complete as many tasks and chores as you want in a day. In my expeditious play session, I got a mere taste of the available side missions, tasks and weekly routines that will lead to a successful town. One of my favorite tasks was Hunts. You may encounter enemies and face off in turn-based battles, each time I went I had built up my team more and it was very satisfying to see the strength of my team literally growing with each additional character fighting my cause alongside Nelke and her band.
You can create ateliers, shops, growing areas, landmarks, roads, and other various facilities in the commercial district, these buildings are the backbone of your economy and although there is no time limit if your town runs out of money you get a game over. Keep in the black to keep your head above water. Save often to avoid disappointment! I can already envision myself happy losing hours upon hours building my town and relationships, going through the weekly cycles, grinding and farming for the best perks and characters.
Tasks completed by you, your allies and friends award you with special events which also boost your friendship with that resident and the rest of the town. Some residents have areas of expertise that will aid you in unlocking specific facilities and new facility ideas and more! At the end of each week, you are given a financial Report where you can see what is selling and adjust your stock to maximize profits to the max!
For the first time, Koei-Tecmo is simultaneously releasing a title on both PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch at the same time, Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, which should always be the case with multi-platform releases. I made sure to ask and Nelke is reported to be the same game across the board, running at 720p in Handheld Mode on the Switch and 1080p docked with parity on all platforms, everything down to the menus and features are identical.
Fitting into the Arland subseries of stories and embracing the town builder side of tactical RPGs, Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists is a fresh spin on the Atelier formula. Build your town into a bustling Metropolis with Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World, out now in Japan and releasing in North America on March 26, 2019, with the European release date March 29, 2019.