There’s an undeniable amount of life that an RPG can bring and the Atelier series has always been something I look forward to every year with this year giving us Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout. Maybe it’s the lovable cast of characters, the picturesque and gorgeous visuals or simply the small and grand adventures that follows. There’s no denying how much GUST as a developer has grown and improved upon their beloved franchise but this year’s iteration would be the biggest leap from the game series we all knew and love.
The Atelier series has seen a lot of changes in the course of over 20 years, from adding new elements to the table like Atelier Firis’ open-world or removing other aspects such as the grueling time limits before a game over but Atelier Ryza winds it up a notch with its new modes of synthesis that is more, should I dare say it, beginner-friendly in a way where you can potentially create a simple item at first but can come back to it later to rebuild and improve upon its properties, adding countless of items until you’re satisfied. The usual turn-based battle systems also got a huge overhaul that is now more reminiscent of Nelke & the Legendary Alchemists’ active battle system but has a bit more interaction than the usual tropes. But we’ll go in-depth with all that later.
Atelier Ryza’s core story is a fun and relatable theme that involves a band of mischievous friends growing up with their own set of dreams. Whether it’s an alchemist honing her skill to synthesize the perfect pudding or a curious adventurer ready to leap cliffs in search of adventure. It takes you on a grand adventure with Reisalin Stout (a.k.a. Ryza), the curious and misbehaved tomboy that would soon find her way to the world of twirling and swirling – alchemy as others would call it. Along with her friends Lent and Tao, they’ll meet new friends, uncover the hidden secrets of the village and save the world from the imminent threat that would soon find their way to the overworld.
“The Grind Never Stops”
It is without a doubt that Atelier Ryza has reached new heights for the franchise. One of the biggest reasons is Ryza’s THICC thighs that took the internet by storm but it’s also thanks to the changes that make the game more accessible to the public eye. One such feature is the re-imagined item synthesis where players would spend most of their time crafting new and exciting items like a plateful of pudding or a gooey mess of poisonous liquids. The early bits of the game have you with simple recipes you can synthesize with a set amount of items that can be added to the pot with every ten alchemy levels adding up the amount of item that can be added by one.
In a way, the game’s synthesis offers a more open and involved process of creating new stuff out of everyday items where you can control what effects the final product will have by adding items to that specific node and branching out to other nodes you can unlock until you’re satisfied. And unlike Atelier Lulua where you’re required to craft specific items with specific effects, go to certain places or fight specific monsters based on riddles, Atelier Ryza’s approach is a bit more straightforward where a specific recipe would have icons and specifies what items are required to be able to get a new item out of an already known recipe.
Yet what makes the game a little bit more approachable for a beginner would be how you can rebuild already synthesized items in order to unlock new node effects at the cost of gems that can be obtained by breaking down unneeded items or materials. This makes it easier for anyone to get the best effects out of an item should your alchemy level allow it as each material that gets added from rebuilding also increases the item level which can’t go above your own alchemy level.
But before we can even craft such game-breaking items, one must learn where and how to get them. And this is where I think the game has fumbled if they’re making the franchise easily accessible to newcomers. There are multiple ways on how a bush or even a log can be gathered, whether you’re chopping it with an axe or smashing it in with the hammer so it goes without saying, players will be backtracking every now and then once new gathering tools are crafted which adds up to the confusion on where to go and what to gather to obtain undiscovered materials without having to check a wiki every now and then.
The game also introduces a new way to gather materials in the form of travel bottles that would create gathering fields by using materials to create a miniature gathering area which can also be shared via four-character passwords to recreate the world from another player’s save file. A great way to obtain new materials but I just wished there was a better way to sort out the materials that can be used to create new worlds. As it stands, I find myself browsing through a shit load of wing plants or eiche before I can get through what other materials would have to offer.
“Wait… I’m still charging my ultimate!”
The game’s battle system while not a totally new concept is a fresh take away from the usual turn-based combat. Atelier Ryza’s battle flow starts off when you make contact to a monster or hit it with your gathering tools with each one having different effects like having lower break gauge, decreased health or lower speed aside from starting with 10 AP upon successful hit to be able to use skills from turn one or increase your tactics level that would ultimately let you attack more times per level or unleash an ultimate move after reaching max tactics. You take control of one of three characters that can be switched on the fly using the shoulder buttons and this becomes a really hectic battle system during hard boss encounters as you switch from one character to the other, issue tactics, heal with a supporting character, use items with any of the characters, convert items to core charges, all while balancing that in a timely manner. It’s not a bad battle system but it does put you in the burner more often than not during such situations without having to tone down the difficulty.
Visually, it’s simply one of the best the series has done so far like something straight out of a fairy tale storybook. Going through each area feels surreal and at the same time fitting for its theme. I was easily taken aback after passing through Pixie Forest and the Main Road at the very beginning of the game which is no wonder why Ryza and the gang wanted to go outside the village in the first place. Its soundtrack is superb and really completes the immersion for a fantasy-like adventure. There’s a lack of English voice acting however which is honestly not something I’m particularly disappointed about considering how well the Japanese cast has done the voices for their characters. But I figured I’ll point it out anyway for the people that don’t want looking at the text boxes that pop up every now and then.
Atelier Ryza and all its glory is a well-deserved addition to the franchise. GUST isn’t afraid to make changes and while some of those changes haven’t borne good fruit in the past, Atelier Ryza is definitely one of those that provide a plateful of surprises and interesting core mechanics. The story is also one of its greatest features which were unexpectedly better than I initially thought from the beginning. The battle system is a bit of a hit or miss with the lack of a classic mode for fans that prefer to take their time but this is a must-play whether you have a thigh fetish or simply enjoy RPGs altogether.
The deluxe edition review code was provided by the publisher which includes the game, costume palette swaps of the default outfits with a summer-themed outfit for the for the main characters, Ryza, Lent, Tao, Klaudia, Hideout parts which allows you to change the atelier’s interior, an initial dash item such as movement speed shoes and a knapsack to store more items and a set of gems used for item rebuilding.
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- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
- Developers: Koei Tecmo Games, Gust Co. Ltd.
- Publishers: Koei Tecmo Games, Koei Tecmo