Koei Tecmo and Gust Co.'s Atelier RPG series has been going for for well over twenty years now — debuting back on Playstation with Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg back in 1997 — and Switch has several entries in its library already. Each game in the series usually has a different protagonist in the lead role, although the upcoming Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy will be the first to feature the same lead hero as the previous game following its international success.
We recently had the chance to interview Junzo Hosoi, producer of Atelier Ryza 2 and brand manager at Gust to find out more about this direct sequel, and ask about the popularity of the character and the possibility of an Atelier Ryza trilogy.
Nintendo Life: Atelier Ryza was particularly well received in the West – what do you think it is about the game that struck such a chord with an international audience?
Junzo Hosoi: The reason I think that Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout struck a chord with an international audience is because it used a real time tactics battle system, which is very popular in the West, instead of the turn-based system usually used in the series. We noticed that people overseas tend to enjoy real-time gameplay, and the team used this information to help the series make a bigger splash. It ended up working really well.
Has feedback from the previous game had a big influence on your plans for the sequel?
We noticed that Western players wanted to explore more of the fields in the first Atelier Ryza game. When creating Atelier Ryza 2, we wanted to give these players what they were looking for, in terms of accessibility, to give them the opportunity to explore their environment further.
Can you tell us a little about if and how the synthesis system has been modified in Ryza 2?
What we are trying to do with Atelier Ryza 2 is to make the synthesis system more accessible for new players, whilst on the other-hand making it deeper for those that already understand the system. The team have done a great job of making the synthesis system easier to understand while adding new features such as “Evolve Link” and “Essence”.
“Evolve Link” allows you to create additional types of items, diving deeper into the system and providing a whole new level to synthesis, while “Essence” gives you different options for more arrangements. These two features will make the system have deeper customizability for our returning players, but introduced in a way so that newcomers will also be comfortable with it.
Exploring ruins is a key part of the story this time... We are also listening to fan feedback and are working hard to make the battle system even deeper and more rewarding.
What is the most significant new addition that Atelier Ryza 2 brings to the series?
The most significant new addition to the series is the ability to explore ruins in Atelier Ryza 2. Exploring ruins is a key part of the story this time; it revolves around discovering the secrets hidden inside them whilst learning more of the surrounding lands. We are also listening to fan feedback and are working hard to make the battle system even deeper and more rewarding.
The lead character received a lot of attention from admirers who see her as a sex symbol. Did that attention influence your approach to Ryza in the sequel at all?
We took the design of Ryza from the first title and worked at showing her growth through her new design; how she has progressed as a human, how she is progressing in her life, and her growth into adulthood.
While many fans prefer to play with the original Japanese voice work anyway, there are others that would enjoy an English voice option. Is the lack of English dub a purely budgetary decision, and is it possible we’ll see English voice options again in future Ateliers?
The reason we haven’t included an English voice option is because we’re trying to keep the release on a very timely schedule, with us wanting to ensure the entire world can play the title as close to the same time as possible. Adding English voices would extend the development time of the title and would significantly push back the Western launch. We are more interested in ensuring everyone can enjoy the title around the same time, but we are not ruling it out as a possibility in the future! If we have a longer development time for an upcoming title then it might be possible.
How has the global situation in 2020 affected development of Atelier Ryza 2 and the team at Gust?
The GUST team, and the titles we have been working on, have definitely been influenced by the COVID-19 situation. As a company, KOEI TECMO Games was able to efficiently adapt and change over to remote work. This allowed us to release Atelier Ryza 2 in a timely manner. We would have loved to release the game earlier, but with the pandemic’s impact on the development process, we had to push back the title a little.
We have team members internally who are testing the game, those both familiar and unfamiliar with the series, so we are able to get useful insight on how enjoyable the game will be in both situations.
Old fans will no doubt have played the first game, and other entries in the Atelier series. For new players, though, do you think it’s best to start with Ryza 1 before playing the sequel?
Fans will definitely have more fun, and be able to enjoy Atelier Ryza 2 more, after playing the first title. We are creating the game though so that you can start playing Atelier Ryza 2 from the get go and really enjoy the experience still. We have team members internally who are testing the game, those both familiar and unfamiliar with the series, so we are able to get useful insight on how enjoyable the game will be in both situations.
We understand that the western version of the game won’t be censored on Switch. With different companies taking different approaches, how do you feel as a developer when a game must be altered for release in other markets or on other platforms?
The GUST team do not see the need to edit a title for another culture or country as something necessarily bad, we do not have any bad or negative opinions particularly on this. Each country has their own unique culture and it really depends on what type of story the director, producer, or creator wants to infuse in the title – sometimes it might not work for every culture.
In the case of Atelier Ryza 2, the title we put together does not need to be censored for any market, and many people around the world can enjoy it as it was intended. Of course, as a player, I understand the desire to play the game as the creator intended.
Now that the Atelier series has its first direct sequel with the same protagonist, is it likely we’ll be seeing Ryza leading another game?
There is definitely a possibility of Ryza starring in another sequel to make a trilogy! It is worth noting that we were considering Ryza as a protagonist for the sequel back during the development of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout.
Can you speak at all about Gust’s plans for Nintendo Switch in the future?
The first title that we released on Switch, Atelier Lydie & Suelle, was the big start for us on the platform. As we have continued to develop titles over the years, it really has become an invaluable console for the team! Because it is so important to us, we would definitely like to release more titles for this platform in the future.
Finally, are there any particular games that you have been enjoying recently, on Switch or any other platform?
Definitely Ring Fit Adventure! While playing, it is exciting to notice how much more you can build yourself up. I have really enjoyed playing it.
Our thanks to Junzo Hosoi. Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy is scheduled for launch in the West at the end of January 2021.