Under Koei Tecmo’s wide umbrella, Nagano-based developer Gust is working hard on multiple Atelier projects, including Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World and the Atelier Arland Series Deluxe Pack.
In order to know more, DualShockers talked to Producers Keisuke Kikuchi and Junzo Hosoi, also trying to extract a few tidbits of information on what could come next.
Giuseppe: Why did you decide to remaster the Arland trilogy now? What made you think it was the right timing?
Keisuke Kikuchi: Last year was the 20th anniversary of the Atelier series, and during that time we released a lot of merchandise and we organized many events dedicated to the previous characters of the franchise. We heard the feedback from many fans that wanted to see some of the older characters once again.
The Arland series was coming close to its 10th anniversary and it’s one of our more popular series, so we thought that it might be a great opportunity to bring it back to current generation consoles like PS4 and Switch.
G: Have you ever thought of remaking the original Atelier games that started everything to modern consoles? The Arland series is old enough, but a lot of gamers nowadays are still part of the generation that played it on PS3 or PS Vita, but the Salburg series is almost unknown to most since it’s twenty years old.
KK: We released Atelier Marie for Smartphone devices, but that was only for Japan. Definitely, if we hear a lot of requests from the fans, that’s something that we could consider.
G: This is pretty much a remaster of the PS Vita version, including most of the DLC. Did you ever think you could add more to it, since several years have passed, or maybe you feel that by now, it’s a complete experience requiring no further expansion?
KK: We do feel that the current version with the DLC is the complete version of the games.
G: You could always add more costumes. There is always room for more costumes.
G: I believe Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists is considered a spin-off and not part of the main series. This is basically the first year in a while in which there is no mainline Atelier game. Are you already planning or working on the next main title?
KK: This is definitely a spin-off. In terms of the main series, we are developing multiple games at once, so we are thinking about the next one as well.
G: Anything about it that you could share or tease?
KK: If you could maybe wait a little bit longer… maybe when the weather gets a bit colder [Laughs].
G: I’m looking forward to it! How did the idea of a city-building game come up? That was quite unexpected.
KK: We wanted to make a game featuring the alchemists from the previous series. If the main character of the game was an alchemist, she would probably be self-sufficient, and the past alchemists would probably just show up to be supporting characters. We really wanted them to be more involved, so we decided to use town-building.
Through that, all the alchemists from the previous games can appear and you can request services from them like synthesis, battle support, and more. This way they have a much more active role in the game, and through these various activities, the city will grow.
G: Nelke is not an alchemist indeed. Have you ever thought about the possibility of making her an alchemist instead?
Junzo Hosoi: During the very beginning of the concept phase we considered that an alchemist could be appropriate, but when we thought about it, we realized that if she was an alchemist there would really be no need for anyone else to assist her. She would probably be able to go out and collect things on her own and doing her own synthesizing. Then we thought that she could have a different career but also be involved with alchemy, but we still didn’t really see that as something conducive to needing help from others.
When we came to the first pitch, Nelke already wasn’t an alchemist. We made her the daughter of a wealthy family, who can also have a more neutral point of view within the game. We considered an alchemy-related career only during the earliest concept stages.
G: What was the inspiration for Nelke’s design? She looks very different from many of the protagonists we have seen in previous games.
Junzo Hosoi: She comes from a family of aristocrats, so we thought she should have a style that felt more European. We worked closely with Character Designer NOCO in order to come up with the final version of the design. We thought there had to be some similarities with previous Atelier games, like her wearing a hat of some sorts, even if it’s a style of hat that we never used before. Yet, our aim was certainly to come up with something different.
G: Who normally comes up with the names of the characters of the series? Some of them certainly sound very European.
KK: Many of them have origins in various European languages: Nelke is inspired by German. Normally it’s the game’s Director and the Scenario Writer who come up with words that sound appropriate. For instance, Escha & Logy were inspired by “eschatology.”
G: That’s dark! [Laughs]
JJ: [Laughs] The Dusk series was about a world descending towards oblivion, so the theme was pretty dark. Nelke’s name comes from a flower in German.
KK: The names for the Mysterious series included assonance, like Sophie, Firis, Lydie & Suelle. There was a connection.
G: How complex is the city-building in Nelke? Is it something comparable to dedicated games like SimCity, or it’s more like a side-dish?
KK: It’s not really a deep simulation game like SimCity. The town-building has two main features to it: first of all, you’ll be able to decide where to build what. As the city progresses you’ll be able to place several buildings, and depending on the locations you choose, you’ll determine how the town grows and different things may happen in it.
The second decision is who will be assigned to each particular job. Who do you select to be at the atelier to synthesize items? Who do you place at a certain shop to sell certain items? Each character has certain specializations, so selecting the right person for the right job is important. As the town grows more people will join you, including more alchemists.
G: Is there a lot of freedom in who to assign to each job, or maybe there are clear “best” choices depending on everyone’s specializations? If I don’t select the best character for a job, am I shooting myself in the foot?
KK: Yes and no. For instance, Marie is best suited to synthesize certain items and sell certain items, and she has other parameters on top of that. So yes, you could choose a character for a job they aren’t very good at, and they won’t be very successful, but then you can also have different combinations of characters with different strengths.
There isn’t one character with exactly the same features as anyone else. You can definitely play with various combinations and gradually getting to know their strengths and weaknesses. Each character is an individual and has their own distinct perks.
G: Is Nelke a game that you strictly see as a one-off, or maybe it could become its own trilogy in the future? What I mean is, could there be a Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists 2?
KK: This title is meant as a celebratory game for the 20th anniversary. About what comes next, we’re more looking forward to the next main Atelier game. Maybe for the 25th or 30th anniversaries, we might consider it if there are even more characters that we could include in this kind of game. It’s definitely not decided yet.
Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists: Ateliers of the New World will launch in the west in early 2019 for PS4, Switch, and PC. You can check out its first English trailer and pre-order the game on Amazon.
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