Atelier Ryza 3
Image: Koei Tecmo

It's almost time to say goodbye to Ryza. The third and final game in the Secret trilogy, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, comes to Switch this Friday, and everyone's favourite tomboy alchemist — Reisalin Stout, or Ryza — will be once again donning her alchemist's staff to find out why mysterious islands have been popping up all around the world.

Switch fans are really spoilt for choice with the Atelier series, but the Ryza trilogy has — so far — proven to be excellent. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is a "newcomer-friendly" adventure with a heartfelt story, while we said Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy was "the best game in the series yet". So Ryza's last outing has a lot to live up to.

Ahead of the game's release this Friday, we sat down in the workshop with Koei Tecmo's Head of Gust and lead producer on the Secret trilogy Junzo Hosoi to talk fond farewells, including how the Atelier series has changed with Ryza, what's next for the franchise, and we found out that Hosoi-san is a bit of a Xenoblade fan...

Nintendo Life: With the Atelier series traditionally changing protagonists with each new entry, what is it about Ryza that’s seen her ending up with a full trilogy to her name? Is it popularity with the audience or was this the plan all along, to build three games around her?

Junzo Hosoi
Junzo Hosoi, Head of Gust at Koei Tecmo and Atelier Ryza 3's producer. — Image: Koei Tecmo

Junzo Hosoi: Since the start of the "Secret" series, we wanted to create a story in which the same main protagonist continues to grow and develop, so the fact that Ryza remains the main protagonist is in line with our original plan. From the start of the project, I had always wanted to conclude the "Secret" series as a trilogy, but whether it would be a series of two games or a trilogy was a decision we would have to make based on the response of our players. Thanks to the positive response to Atelier Ryza and Atelier Ryza 2, we were able to create Atelier Ryza 3 with Ryza returning as the main character.

Crafting myriad items and getting busy in your atelier has always been at the heart of this series. We’ve already seen lots of new mechanics and streamlined features added over the past two games, can you tell us what new things we can expect this time around that you’re particularly excited about?

Hosoi-san: It would be the two major systems of the "open field" and "keys". Within a single region, we have stopped the loading between maps, allowing you to explore the map seamlessly. This will clearly change the way you feel about the gameplay.

The "keys" are also new to the Atelier series, as it spans both systems and scenarios, so it will be new even to those who have played previous games in the series.

Atelier Ryza 3 Party
Image: Koei Tecmo

In terms of the game’s world, are we looking at a fully open environment from the start this time around, or are things still split into segments that are gated off by narrative events or separated by loading screens?

Hosoi-san: Ryza and her friends will adventure through four different regions. Each region is an open field where multiple maps are seamlessly connected and they can move among them without loading times. The game is designed so that players can enjoy the open field from the beginning. However, there will be loading when travelling back and forth between regions or when using fast travel.

Having reviewed all of the Switch entries in the series over the past few years, we’ve noticed a shift from what you might call a more ‘fan-servicey’ style towards RPGs that feel like they are trying to appeal to a much wider audience. Has it been a conscious decision to redirect the style of the franchise in this way?

Hosoi-san: Yes, it is. We want as many players as possible to pick up and play our games. For this reason, we are constantly listening to the opinions of various players and looking for and coming up with content that they will enjoy again. We would be happy if many people think of Gust games when they think of JRPGs.

Atelier Ryza 3 World
Image: Koei Tecmo

“Alchemist of the End” certainly sounds a little perilous, is the tone of this new game darker than we are used to? Does it deal with more serious issues than Ryza’s previous two outings?

Hosoi-san: The themes of the game are the roots of alchemy, the mysteries of the world, and the final goal and destination of Ryza and each of her friends. The impression you may get may be dark, but Ryza and the other characters have grown while keeping the same energy and spontaneity as they've always had. So, compared to the previous games, it is not darker than before.

We feel that the series’ combat has really improved over the past few years — it feels as though it shares almost equal footing with the creation mechanics now. How has the action evolved for this latest adventure?

Hosoi-san: The combat is similar to past games so there are no major changes. However, by using the new "key" system, you can enjoy faster and more exhilarating battles, such as being able to repeatedly hit using a normal attack and use skills continuously.

We already know that this will be Ryza’s final adventure, at least in the role she inhabits currently. Going forward, can you tell us anything about plans you may have the Atelier world? Can we expect a similar style of experience with a new protagonist or are there any plans to shake things up?

Hosoi-san: As for the future, we are not thinking about anything right now. First of all, I would like everyone to enjoy Atelier Ryza 3, which will be Ryza's final adventure. I believe that the Atelier series are titles that are created together with the players, so I would be happy to hear everyone's thoughts and opinions after playing the game.

We know you’ve probably been asked this a ton of times, but given the growing success of Ryza, are there any plans this time around to provide an English dub of the game, even if it’s after the initial release?

Hosoi-san: If there are many requests, there is a possibility. We look forward to hearing from you!

Finally, the Atelier games have, with good reason, become hugely popular RPGs on Nintendo Switch. Outside of your own games, can you tell us what RPGs you’ve been playing or have a particular admiration for on the console?

Hosoi-san: I always look forward to the Xenoblade series!

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

We extend our thanks to Junzo Hosoi at the team at Koei Tecmo and Gust for taking the time to speak to us about Atelier Ryza 3. The game launches on Switch on 24th March 2023. Share your excitement about returning to your atelier in the comments.

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