Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book

Game review by
Neilie Johnson, Common Sense Media
Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book Game Poster Image
Cute recipe-gathering role-playing game has a little edge.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Characters are kind, polite. All of them are working to realize a noble or productive goal. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character works hard to become a master alchemist, helps friends, neighbors with their problems. 

Ease of Play

Simple controls, but extensive menus take a while to get used to. Difficulty is low to start, then progress abruptly stops until players level up through hours of repetitive material gathering, combat.

Violence

Combat central to gameplay, but players come up against fanciful monsters, ghosts that simply vanish when defeated. Injured hero characters simply look tired, then become unconscious. 

Sex

Though sporting childlike faces, female characters wear suggestive, semi-revealing costumes featuring cleavage, short skirts, bare midriffs, thigh-high stockings. Mention is made of dating, flirting, using feminine charm to attract customers to a café.

Language

Occasionally use of "damn," "crap." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention made of alcohol sales inside a café; one character is shown drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book is a Japanese role-playing game featuring crafting and combat. Though sexuality isn't overt, some mention is made of dating; male customers are drawn into a café by a Playboy Bunny-looking hostess, and female characters show bouncy cleavage and wear thigh-high stockings and short skirts. There's infrequent mild language and one or two mentions of alcohol consumption. Combat is a core part of the game, but battles are against fanciful creatures that disappear when defeated without any blood or gore. Gameplay is also easy to grasp, but the spike in difficulty until players level up their characters or acquire certain materials can frustrate some gamers.

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What's it about?

ATELIER SOPHIE: THE ALCHEMIST OF THE MYSTERIOUS BOOK stars a young girl who dreams of becoming a Master Alchemist. Following in her grandmother's footsteps, she sets out to teach herself everything necessary to become a valued member of her small rural community. Along the way, she encounters a magical talking book that puts her on the path of an enchanted cauldron. The game is equal parts exploration, combat, and materials gathering. Sophie travels far beyond her small village looking for ingredients, a process that can be dangerous due to the animals and monsters that live in the wild. She and her friends fight these monsters through a fairly simple but strategic turn-based combat system. Exploration then gives Sophie ideas about new alchemical recipes, and once she has the materials, she returns to the atelier to practice her art. 

Is it any good?

As with other games in this series, this one is full of pretty art, chirpy songs, and sappy sentiment. It also has a good helping of fun combat, amusing dialogue, and experimental crafting that will keep you glued to it for hours. Japanese role-playing games are known for two things: beautiful character work and "grinding" (repeating actions to make characters more powerful). The first is here in spades. This is easily the best-looking Atelier game out there, with bright colors and gorgeous watercolor effects on hair and clothing. Unfortunately, the second is also here, which means the fun is contingent on hours of repetition. 

Much of the fun is the story, and story progress is sometimes hamstrung by a special Memory meter. Filling it is required, and this depends on your ability to invent and execute recipes. Successful recipes, in turn, are dependent on how good you are at gathering stuff without getting killed. Combat is fast and flashy, and the multi-hero Support Attack system offers plenty of strategic options. Also, although random fights can be annoying, once you're back at the atelier, you're in for a lot of fun thanks to the revamped crafting system. Functioning as a visual puzzle, crafting involves fitting variously shaped ingredients into a grid; the better they fit, the better the item. It's fun to do, and the suspense of waiting to see your results makes it exciting. In the end, some players could be put off by the sections of enforced repetition. But those willing to endure it are in for some fun surprises.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it takes to master a skill. What's more important: talent or hard work?

  • Discuss memory triggers. Have you ever had a specific sight, smell, or event bring back a distant memory? 

  • Think about different ways to learn. Have you ever learned something watching an online video? 

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