I’ve really wanted to get into these games for quite some time, they seem very peaceful and good for a wind down session after work or something. However, the series has so many entries that it gives me no faith that I will ever be able to get to the new ones. Would I be able to start the ones on the PS4 without missing anything, or should I start from the very beginning? Are these games even any fun?
It’s a very run of the mill JRPG series but good enough if you just want to enjoy it without much thought, though it has some challenges especially in terms of time limit. I think it will boil down to if you appreciate (gorgeous) 2D more over the often clumsy 3D of the series, then I would recommend you to give a look at games like Iris or Mana Khemia on PS2.
You may already know this much but they’re all built into narrative trilogies. So that’s the ideal chunk for avoiding coming into the games in the middle of stuff (and at 18 games deep, it’s not really an option of starting at the beginning, even if you wanted to play them in order). I certainly haven’t gone back and played them all. Right now, Firis is game 2 of the Mysterious series and they put out a free bridging DLC from the first game in the series, Atelier Sophie.
You can also, if you’ve got a PS3 or a Vita, grab a bundled collection. Right now that’s the Arland series (which is two back from current; the Dusk series has not yet been bundled into a single package). The PS3 gets the Arland Atelier Trilogy with the Vita getting the Trilogy Plus (each game was ported with additions to the Vita so got the Plus name). To be honest, if you’re looking to jump into the series, looking for a cheap copy of Atelier Sophie wouldn’t be a bad idea. They also recently ported it to PC so it may appear in an upcoming Steam sale (otherwise PS4 or Vita), although I’ve not heard anything about that bridging DLC coming to PC yet. From there, assuming you enjoy the series, Firis is the obvious next choice. Only then would I consider jumping backwards into the archives to see how the series has changed and developed.
Edit: a note on the above - the time limits have been getting progressively more lenient as the series has developed. So if that’s an issue then definitely focus on the latest series and be prepared for being forced to new game+ dealing with time constraints if you go back into the series archives.
I still think the best game in the series is Mana Khemia. It’s kind of a spin off title, but I believe it is still considered to be the 9th game in the series.
It’s a bit Persona-esque with the characters going to school for alchemy, and even has social link like conversations with the members of your party. There are some bad things about it, like a certain out of place character, and a pretty bad ending, but I still enjoyed it a lot.
It came out for the Playstation 2, but a psp version is available on the playstation store that can be played on a psp or vita/pstv. It is not a great port, some of the graphic assets are scaled down strangely and come off as a bit blurry, but it is perfectly playable.
Mana Khemia is an exception to the fact of Atelier games come in trilogies. There was a Mana Khemia 2, but I really didn’t like what I played of it. It’s not like the first game even needed a sequal anyway.
If you want to play the newer ones, I think Atelier Sophie is a very good place to start. I actually picked it up just a few months ago, and have been meaning to get back to it after getting distracted by Zelda and Persona 5. The atelier games are very cute and I enjoy playing them as a low key relaxing kind of game.
I enjoyed the Arland and Dusk trilogies on PS3. I believe they’re all on Vita by now?
If you were looking to just start on PS4 then Sophie would be the one to go with. Overall from what I’ve played I liked Escha & Logy the most.
Tangentially, this franchise might have the most “slept on” soundtrack in gaming. Gust does some good music.