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Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout

Posted by GG Goblin On December - 3 - 2019

A new Atelier game that feels new.

 
The Atelier series of JRPGs have been going for such a long time now, and seem to release new entries at such a rate that it is easy to imagine the games falling into a rut. With each new Atelier game, Gust have made small tweaks or tried new things, but there is a general sense of similarity to the whole series, built around a relaxed pace, a more personal story, and the use of Alchemy. Fans of the games have long known what to expect and are rarely disappointed. Newcomers, on the other hand, are often left confused by the slower pacing, the lack of emphasis on combat and the complexities of the Alchemy system itself. However, Gust seem ready to address at least some of these issues and attempt to make the Atelier series more appealing to a whole new audience with the latest title Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout. For this title, Gust have made a few substantial changes to the formula, and the result is quite exceptional.

 


 
Until now, the Atelier games have tended to follow the coming of age story of a cute, girly protagonist with a helpful heart. While fighting is always part of the game, it has been much more of a secondary consideration to the act of collecting materials and then creating equipment, potions and whatever through the deep and complex Alchemy systems. A couple of entries in the series have been more accessible than others, proving good starting points for new players. Everything about Atelier Ryza, the latest game, feels like it has been designed to appeal to new players and invite them into the world of Alchemy more than anything else, although there is still plenty for returning fans to enjoy.

 
Atelier Ryza gives the player time to acclimatise to the game by introducing the main character to the wider world at the same pace. The main character here is Reisalin Stout, known as Ryza, a young girl with overly protective parents that just wants to strike out from her dull home in Rasenboden Village and have an adventure. Ryza is somewhat different to the previous Atelier main characters, which has been a real bone of contention among fans of the series, but I am not going to get into that. Suffice to say that, despite her headstrong attitude and tendency to get her own way, Ryza still makes for a great main character that will embark on her own coming of age adventure through the course of the story. Accompanied by her two friends Lent and Tao, each of whom have their own slightly darker issues that they will have to deal with, the three will slowly set off on an adventure into the larger world around them.

 
Slowly is the key in Atelier Ryza, and may be the most difficult thing for new players to come to terms with. As is often the case in the Atelier games, they move forward at a snails pace, at least in the early hours. With Atelier Ryza and the intention to slowly introduce players to the game, it will be a while before the main character even hears about Alchemy, and the time it will take for Ryza to at least become competent with the system of combining ingredients to make new things will be lengthy. The game tells a sweet and enjoyable story, but it is not exactly dynamic. Given that it will be hours of gameplay before things get moving, players without patience will struggle to stay invested.

 


 
But the ones that do stay invested will not only be treated to a great story, but also to some revamped gameplay. As already mentioned, there have been changes made to make the whole game more accessible to newcomers, and one of the most important changes comes from the actual Alchemy system. More visually appealing, the new system features branches that look similar to skill trees from various other games, and the player will add the various collected materials to nodes. The system is still as complex as before, with new nodes to unlock, leading to even more interesting item synthesis. Players who don’t want to invest their time in understanding the ins and outs of item synthesis need not worry too much either, as there is even an automatic system in place, although this will remove much of what makes the Atelier games good.

 
Collecting materials, synthesizing items and following a good story make up a large portion of Atelier Ryza, but there are plenty of other JRPG staples to be found as well. In previous games the fighting with enemies has always been considered a means to an end, something that needed to be done in the pursuit of more materials. However, Atelier Ryza has changed it up so that the combat now feels like something to really enjoy. Players now do battle in real time, while still waiting for their turn to act. It can be fast and chaotic as the player controls only one character in battle, although can switch to another character to take advantage of their own sets of moves with the click of a button. There are plenty of complexities to work out, such as action points which can be spent to activate special moves, giving rise to a surprisingly deep and enjoyable combat system, something the previous Atelier games were not known for.

 
Visually, Atelier Ryza is the best looking Atelier game on Switch. While there may be some improvements if playing on the PS4 Pro, there really are no complaints playing on a docked Switch. Playing in handheld mode, which the game is supremely suited for, and the smaller screen gives everything that little bit more definition. It also has to be noted that the game performs flawlessly on Switch as well.

 


 
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout really does feel like a new beginning for the Atelier series. While some long time fans may find themselves having to reconcile the new look and systems, it really does make the game far more accessible to new players, and having more fans can mean nothing but good things for the game. For JRPG fans and those who have cast a glance over previous Atelier games without jumping in, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout shines brightly on Nintendo Switch.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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