Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout is the beginning of a brand new sub-series of the franchise… and the 21st entry in the series! Learn more in our Atelier Ryza review!
The story is about Reisalin Stout, who everyone calls Ryza, a young girl living on Kurken Island in the Rasenboden village, far from the world and the adventures it has to offer. She lives a rather dull life with her parents on the farm but dreams of bigger adventures. This is why one day, she leaves on a boat with her friends to rescue Klaudia, the daughter of a merchant coming to the Rasenboden village.
They will then all get rescued by Lila and Empel, who happens to be an alchemist, sparking an interest in Ryza. After experiencing some basic alchemy, she learns that she’s a natural for it and decides to progress down this path while still pursuing new adventures with her friends.
The combat in this game presents a change when compared to previous entries in the long-running series: the game now features a turn-based system that’s always active, even when you’re selecting which action you’ll perform, which makes for more fast-paced battles. You’ll be able to choose between regular attacks that will gather Action Points (AP) that are shared for the whole team, Skills that will spend those AP, or Move to better position yourself or actually flee. If you decide to preserve your AP, once you reach the max, you’ll be able to upgrade your Tactics Level (which resets for each battle) that throws some extra actions into the mix. Since you only control Ryza, you’ll be able to switch between Aggressive or Negative mode, which makes your AI friends either spend their AP or save it.
Alchemy is still a core part of the game, but the system has changed a lot. To synthesize, the action of mixing materials together to create an object based on a recipe, you now use what is called Material Loops. When you select a recipe, you’re presented with connected spheres (a Material Loop). Each one will have small dots on it, representing the number of materials you can add to it, and a color representing its element. Adding enough materials of the loop’s element will unlock additional loops connected around, allowing for more materials to be added and thus more traits or attributes for your created item. While it might seem complex at first after a few synthesizes, it becomes easier to do, and there’s also an option to auto-add materials if you prefer.
To be able to do alchemy, you’ll have to gather materials, which also received a small change compared to previous games. Picking up materials is still there, but sometimes gathering spots will not let you gather new supplies. You’ll have to gain access to additional items that will “unlock” those materials for pickup. It will also potentially changes what you can get on a spot based on the item you use to gather there. For example, your staff will drop fruits from trees, but an axe will allow you to gather wood.
The game’s visuals are the traditional Atelier stuff we know and love, with colorful environments, and a lively cast and soundtrack that’s always a pleasure to listen to. I am still waiting on a slight graphical overhaul that, but I guess that will come with the next console since for this gen, the series is releasing on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, so there’s only so much the team can do.
I’m a regular with the Atelier series, so it’s always fun to get a new entry and see what they have in store for us. I was pleasantly surprised by all the changes in this game. For me, the combat is always a bit secondary in the series, as the focus is on quests and synthesis. So seeing something more fast-paced is a welcomed addition for me as you can get through fights rather quickly. And for those who aren’t thrilled with this change, there’s the possibility to lower the game’s difficulty, so the fights aren’t too hard.
The new synthesis system honestly caught me off guard when I started playing, and I wasn’t too sure about it, especially since the first synthesis is done for you by Empel, and get all the explanation without doing it yourself. But after taking things into my own hands and doing a couple of them, it wasn’t that hard to get accustomed to, and I’d even say I prefer this system over the previous ones.
Where I had a bit of difficulty with the game is how the story is present and how it evolves… and how the information presented to you is a bit hard to understand. The narrative is presented in a way that you don’t always clearly get the required information for where you need to go, so you have to look at your journal and try to find out the place they want you to go to, as there aren’t too many markers on the map. It makes for moments where you’re just wandering around town, trying to find what you’re supposed to do.
As for the trophies, it’s a rather straightforward list that won’t pose any challenge to an Atelier franchise regular. Leveling up your battle and alchemist levels will require a bit of an extra grind, which is to be expected, but the other trophies should unlock naturally as you progress through the game.
Atelier Ryza brings a lot of refreshing changes in the long-running series, which in itself is a reason why JRPG and Atelier fans should play the game. The story progression is a bit lacking compared to previous entrie,s but it shouldn’t stop you from trying this game. Considering this is the first entry in this sub-series, I’m pretty sure Gust will tune up the formula down the road in a future release to produce an excellent title.
PSN Price: $59.99
This Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout review is based on a PlayStation 4 copy provided by KOEI TECMO America.