Gust's long-running Atelier series has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. Its various recent appearances on Switch in particular display a steely determination on the part of the Japanese developer to step up with its JRPG franchise and make a concerted effort to rub shoulders with the big guns. In Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, it feels like it's hit a new high, serving up the best Atelier adventure yet and a game that fans and newcomers to the series should find plenty to be delighted by.
For the most part, the Atelier series has switched out its main protagonist for each entry in this 27-year-old franchise. However, Ryza — whether due to popularity or as part of an overall plan — finds herself helming her third outing in a trilogy that's seen her grow from an innocent child stumbling into the world of magic to the well-renowned and sought-after alchemist we meet at the beginning of this final chapter. In affording Ryza time to grow and develop over such a long arc and allowing her friends to follow and grow alongside her, Gust has managed to imbue the narrative with an emotional depth not previously seen in the series, and they really do dig into this aspect here.
There are plenty of surprises, returning characters and cameos for fans to revel in, lots of introspection and scenes where we see the little kids from Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout directly compared to the young adults they've become, we're even treated to sepia shots of them together as they revisit locations from previous adventures. It's a nice touch and it makes for a game that fans will feel immediately at home with. The old team is back and they're ready for a new adventure — an adventure made all the more poignant because we know it'll be Ryza's last as the main protagonist.
Taking place just one year after the events of its predecessor, Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, Atelier Ryza 3 kicks off with Ryza, Lent, Bos, Tao and the rest of the crew jumping back into action as a mysterious group of islands, the Kark Isles, appear out of the sea close to their home. Ryza has recently found herself compelled to craft a strange key whilst working at her atelier and it seems this key is related to a magical door at the centre of these islands. And so another summer of grand adventures, mysteries and friendships begins. There's another fine story here with the usual laid-back mix of elements that focuses on friendship, learning, discovery and personal growth as much as it does any threat emanating from the new islands our heroes set out to explore.
We're not gonna spoil a second of the game's roughly 40-hour campaign, we'll leave it for you to discover its surprises in your own good time, but needless to say it's hands down the best Atelier story yet, and one that's backed up by a bevy of meaningful mechanical improvements that have been introduced to the core gameplay. The changes brought to Ryza 3 provide more thrilling exploration, deeper item creation, the best combat in the series to date and a world that's bigger and more diverse than anything else in the franchise. Not only has every aspect of the core gameplay loop been enhanced here, but Gust has also made it more approachable than ever, with auto-synthesis and all manner of helpful aids for players who'd rather take a bit of a backseat or don't want to get bogged down in item creation that can be mind-bogglingly deep if you go to town with it.
The biggest change this time out focuses on the game's titular secret key, which gives you a new gameplay mechanic revolving around key creation, letting you absorb powers and elements from enemies during battle as well as from your surroundings throughout the adventure. Once you've created keys you can deploy them in various ways; using them in battle gives you temporary bursts of attack power imbued with all manner of buffs, or short windows of time when you can forget about your AP gauge and just whale on opponents non-stop. You'll also deploy them to open up barriers across the landscape, get your hands on treasures and open up more avenues of experimentation, giving you more synthesis possibilities, higher item levels and a greater number of effects and buffs to add to the multitude of weapons, tools, armour and so on that you'll create and equip.
Keys make for a particularly excellent addition from a collectible point of view too. Whilst fighting enemies you can choose to jump into a menu and create a key by leaching various traits out of your current foe, and these traits vary depending on who you're battling. This creates a desire to get out there and find rare baddies and bigger beasties who'll imbue your key collection with better buffs. You can also drain key energy from new locations at set intervals, which helps players get more involved on multiple levels. If you want the best key collection, you've got to get busy exploring to earn it.
In terms of the combat, those who don't want to learn all the intricacies of SP, CC, Action Orders and Order counts, can bypass much of the depth of the fighting. You can control just one character during scraps and leave the AI to deal with the rest of your party, switch between support and aggressive modes to quickly get what you need from teammates, easily escape from battles or pretty much avoid encounters altogether to focus on the series' signature collecting and creation if that's more your bag. Atelier games have always been fairly chilled experiences and Ryza's third outing manages to retain that vibe whilst also giving players who want combat and action far more to write home about.
Combat is the one aspect of this series that's seen the most consistent improvement over the course of the past few entries. It used to take a back seat to exploration and crafting, and it was an element of the game we've not always particularly enjoyed, but it's grown over Ryza's tenure into a properly engrossing affair, full of unlockable moves, fancy skills and a flow that keeps it engaging. Switching between characters freely, striking out with attacks when your AP gauge is charged, timing your defence to deflect and damage enemies and putting together flashy combos that allow you to pull out multiple specials before chaining a move to another character, there's certainly plenty to keep you busy during each and every face off here and the new key mechanic fits into the mix perfectly.
There's a steady drip-feed of new skills to deploy as you rank up the members of your party, plenty of new offensive items to deploy as Ryza's skill tree develops and you can spend an absolute ton of time exploring and creating, crafting more powerful bombs, better health items and stronger armour and weapons. Yep, the synthesis here is a bigger timesink than ever before but, as we mentioned, if you're not down with learning the intricacies of item crafting, you can let the game take over, sit back and let it whip you up high-value consumables while you get on with exploring the huge world.
While that world isn't strictly a fully open one, it's another very positive step up for the series, giving players four large and varied regions to explore. Once you're in a region you can traverse the length and breadth without further loading screens, making for a more seamless experience as you go about gathering and collecting the endless array of ingredients and elements that Ryza can use to craft back at her atelier. As you explore, you'll find fast travel spots dotted all over the landscape that you can then jump between using the map — and you'll need to jump around a lot as you're summoned back and forth on various story-critical missions, as well as the many side quests that pop up as you roam the wilderness.
Mounts make a return too, giving you an array of fast and fun ways to get around — who doesn't love to ride on the back of a dolphin to cross bodies of water? There's more verticality, Ryza can swim, climb, slide and zipline through environments, lots of treasure chests hidden around to discover, a vast array of enemies to fight and plenty of magical locations to tick off your list of places visited. For a series that used to feel a little barebones, with worlds that were a far cry from the standard of most AAA JRPGs, this is the closest Atelier has come to matching the best in the genre. Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is still unmistakably a AA game, but there's much more to enjoy this time around, as a finer balance has been struck between exploration, combat and crafting.
On a more negative note, there are a handful of issues that do drag the fun down in places. Firstly, potential players should note that there's no English dub again, so if you're not comfortable with subtitles then you're out of luck. Regarding subtitles, those that appear as characters chat in battle and whilst exploring are far too small to comfortably read and we could've done with the option to increase the size of these as we're missing a lot of flavour text as a result. We also had some issues with mission descriptions during our time with the game, sometimes finding it difficult to know exactly what we were required to do next. It's not a huge problem, but some further streamlining of how information is relayed to the player wouldn't go amiss.
On the performance side of things, while Atelier Ryza 3 looks great and plays very nicely in both docked and handheld modes, there are some occasions where you'll notice the odd stutter here and there as you bound through environments, and we occasionally had to wait for a few moments during item creation as the game caught up to what we were doing. Overall things run well here, but there are a few niggles that hopefully we'll see ironed out.
Apart from these small issues, Gust has served up what is undoubtedly the best Atelier entry yet. Atelier Ryza 3 is a sprawling adventure full of fun exploration, old friends, new faces, flexible and fast-paced combat, a huge game world and item synthesis that's more addictive than ever before. There's a fantastic gameplay loop in the trifecta of exploring, crafting and battling, which gives players plenty to engage with at any given moment. If you're a long-term fan you're going to love how the final part of this story plays out and, whilst we would advise new players to spend time with the first and second Ryza games to maximise enjoyment, the game does a good job of getting you up to speed on past events if you want to jump straight into the mix.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key ends Ryza's three-game run on a high note, serving up a heady mix of exploration, crafting and combat that benefits greatly from a narrative arc that's had time to develop and grow. The new key mechanics add more depth to combat, synthesis and exploration, the world is more seamless and diverse than ever before and the whole thing comes together to form a satisfying end for this hugely popular protagonist. We did have some issues with small text, no English dub and a little fussiness in how information is relayed, but overall this is Gust's finest adventure to date and a JRPG experience that long-term fans and newcomers alike will find plenty to delight in.
Not sure exactly when I'll get around to it because I'm still in the middle of Octopath and need a break between JRPGs but I've loved every game in the series that I've played so far and will be sure to love this too.
Good to hear the game is solid, my copy comes in tomorrow.
Best pun award...
Best trilogy? Reading RPGFan's review of the second game, I strongly doubt it. Let's hope this one at least has a better localisation.
Of course it reviewed well, I'm not surprised in the slightest these Ryza games have made the Atelier series my favourite JRPGS. I love to squeeze every last drop out of these adventures and it's seems like there will be more to keep me busy this time around. Can't wait to have it in my hands tomorrow! I have been playing Disney Dreamlight Valley for two weeks straight, and I think this might be the game that finally forces it to take a backseat.
Everyone that will inevitably comment and say they have the other two but haven't played them yet (I get it my backlog is crippling too) you owe it to yourselves to bump these games up in the priority list. They really are great!
I played the second Ryza game and enjoyed it a lot but it also made me realize I'll never play a game without English VO again.
I would never in a million years give a 9 to a game that will only retroactively voice dub a game if enough people buy it. When Koei doesn't bother dubbing on a full priced game - I do not bother buying their games.
Loving the butthurt entitlement about English dub.
Delighted to see this reviewing well, I'll be adding it to my lovely PAL Atelier collection some time soon, though will probably wait for the price to drop 10-20%
Please note I am in no way disrespecting or disregarding your opinions on the lack of dub. I think options are everything and I can understand why you wouldn't want to support games without dub.
The funny thing is with this series (and I am so heavily biased and I'll happily admit that) I actually don't miss an English dub and trust me I am not some otaku purist or anything, in fact most of the games I play I will always choose the English dub (unless its dreadful) just so I don't have to read so much and I can understand what they are saying in battle, but with these games, I feel like the VA's are so emotive, that how they are feeling really comes through in the tones of their voice, without being over the top anime screams. I actually think Ryza's voice is so cute and I've actually picked up a handful of Japanese words playing these games.
In fact if they were to continue this series with Ryza (obviously that's not happening) and then they added an English dub, I would prefer the Japanese voices because it's what I'm used to, same with the upcoming Ryza anime I will choose subbed and I never watch anime in Japanese (well I barely watch anime anymore to be fair)
Gust are amazing devs and the fact that they bring a game out every year that reaches this level of quality is incredible, I reckon they couldn't keep up that momentum if they added English. Not just that the Atelier series was so niche before the Ryza games, I don't know what their sales were, but I would guess that they've only really seen a drastic increase in sales when old thicc thighs herself came on the scene.
I reckon if this sells well then they will have to spend a few years making a new game and a new protag that can rival her, and I would be very surprised if they didn't add English then, but I don't think even they knew how well this trilogy would put their franchise on the map.
Anyway that was a stroop waffle and a half and I would say these games are 100% worth the money with or without English. I am more attached to these characters than in any other JRPG and their personalities and dialogue are all written word and fantastic JP voice work, what does that tell you when most others I play with English?
Again no disrespect at all, I think they should add it eventually for sure to give players more choice, but in no way does it make them not worth it as they are now.
Maybe one day I'll give these games a try but my backlog keeps on growing every year. Love the Pun for this review though lol
I believe the reviewer forgot to add a bullet point to the "Joys" section: Thighs
Might wanna update that, just saying.
@Nanami_Ataraxia I disagree.
That's totally fine, I already said I was biased as all heck! xD
Hopefully future games will add it to get players like you on board, but if not meh, plenty of other great games on Switch with English voiceover.
Looks great! I have the first two installments in the backlog, so I suppose I should grab this eventually.
I’ll definitely be picking this up down the line, since like nearly everyone else here, I have the first two Ryza games but haven’t played them.
I wonder where an Atelier hardcore fan would rank all the games.
Sounds awesome! Ryza 2 was a big step up from the first game in the trilogy (which was already quite fun) so this should be another gem.
Once I'm done with Xenoblade 3 I'll probably play the Ryza trilogy
When Japanese game don't have English dub:
Cons section: No English dub
People in comments: No dub - no buy. I want to play the game on the language that I understand. JP voices are annoying and awful. Etc, etc...
When Japanese game don't have JP voice-overs:
Reviewers are talking about how English dub is great and do not mention about the existence of JP voice-overs at all.
Most people in comments: silence
Double standards, I guess?
I've never played an Atelier game before — presumably I'd do well to start from the first game if I were to jump into Ryza, yes?
This is Nintendo Life, they don’t enjoy “fan service” like thighs, here.
Very happy to see that Ryza is getting the trilogy ending she deserves. I really should give one of these games a try someday.
@Cashews I don't have an issue with subs at all so I have to admit it's not something I'd really consider marking a game down for. I usually go with the native dub where possible anyway.
You would get so much more out of it if you played with the first one, yes!
and that's without having played this one yet y'know on account of it not being out yet XD but even from the first to the second the character growth was unreal and I'm sure it gets better in the finale if other reviews are to be believed.
My take is - if I am playing a role playing game - I need to be in that role to enjoy the story. Having an over-affected anime VA is jarring. I wouldn't even require top notch English VA - just serviceable.
I found a new example of why it puts me off so much. I really enjoyed the first season of The Vinland Saga on Netflix. I thought the english VA was top-notch. I had just finished all of season 1 and was pleased as Sake to see Season 2 all cued up. Japanese only. Bummer.
But I get it. They do look like fun games with a cool art style. I just personally can't get past it.
@Nanami_Ataraxia Yeah, there are so many game series I hear about when they're already up to their second or third entry, and if they're story/character based, then I always make a point to go back and start from the beginning — cheers for the heads up!
Double checks headline
@Andee No problem at all!
Yeah I'm the same, I'm usually years behind on everything xD The secret series (Ryza games) is like the one thing I'm on top of pretty much.
As long as the games are not tooo dated I always try and play the first in a series, but that's just not possible for everyone due to time/money ect.
I'm so glad the game is good on switch I was worried the open zones would have bad performance.
I'll also throw my hat into the voice acting thing as someone whos the polar opposite and say I hate English voice acting for Japanese games, so if Atelier never gets English VA I wouldn't blink an eye. I've only ever played JP games and watched anime subtitles with their original JP audio since the 2000s when games started to actually include the JP audio with them, and actually returned games (Tales of Xillia is a good example) because I couldn't stand the English voices in them for more than 10 minutes.
Hey everyone is different, and you aren't the only one here that feels that way. If the lack of dub makes it hard for you to get into games that's completely fair and understandable. I do primarily prefer to listen in English for similar reasons to you, being forced to read or listening to foreign languages can either pull you into a story, or really take you out of it. Hey I'm a Pokemon fan we still don't have ANY voiceover in those games so that may be a reason that it doesn't bother me as much as most, as they pretty much taught me to read in the first place.
The only thing that got me to comment before was how I truly believe the games are worth the asking price with or without dub, but your Reasoning is sound and I get why that would hurt your enjoyment of the game.
Isn’t the lack of a English dub a odd complaint? Because there’s plenty of games that don’t have English dubs.
I haven’t beaten the 2nd Rzya game yet. But when I do eventually I’ll pick up the final game.
@Nanami_Ataraxia Oh definitely — especially with JRPGs (although these ones are apparently mercifully short, like 30 hours or so), but yeah I really wanted to play Nier Replicant before Automata, and while I'm glad I did, getting all those extra endings was a huge faff!
I haven't played Ryza 2 yet. Perhaps I'll try to get through that before Tears of the Kingdom comes out.
I really enjoyed the first two, no doubt I'll enjoy the third. It would have had to turn out absolutely horrible for me not to want it, and even then I still would have given it a rent just to be sure.
@Vyacheslav333 you forgot the third option when a game has both, but the English one sucks and people complain about that.
People should accept that english dubs are not free, and while Ryza games had their fair share of success, a lot of japanese games (even older Atelier ones) don’t have that luxury, not to mention how much dubbing has to be done (and I rather not see what some games did, where the english dubbing was just a small part of the japanese one, due to the costs)
I could make this discussion longer, but I already know what people begging for dubs will say.
So I keep it at two things, I like GOOD dubs, no matter if english or japanese, bad dubs destroy the experience and more (applies for games and anime)
But more importantly, people asking for english dubs should finally realise why a lot of these games lack English dubbing in the first place, because from what I see 9 out of 10 times these people totally ignore the reasons a game lacks it.
@Rayquaza2510 O. Yeah. You're right.
Luckily I don’t care about English dubs in Japanese games so gonna proceed to play after I finish Octopath 2
I'm glad to hear this game is even better than the other 2 Ryza entries, both of which I loved! I already have the game pre-ordered and I can't wait to get started once I finish Fire Emblem Engage.
I never spend less than 75 hours on these games but I REALLY take my time and squeeze every last drop out of them, I haven't played and not hit the level cap yet cause the crafting and combat are so addictive xD but yeah most say 30/40 hours to complete them.
Ha! it's funny you mention Nier! I've had that in the shrink wrap since it released on Switch. That's the only console I have, so I'm hoping and praying they bring the prequel over soon, because starting there just seems wrong to me even though you technically can play it without prior knowledge
Would you say it was worth the time investment for all the endings? without spoilers of course? I'm still wondering if the pay-off is good. I'm happy to do all routes in VN's not so sure for JRPG's though :S
The dubs for the Atelier games were never that great to begin with. The voice acting was fine, sometimes really good, but they only every dubbed like 30-50% of it vs. the Japanese version which had like 90% of the game voiced. Ryza’s kind of the odd one out in that regard once again, it had less voice acting than previous games iirc.
But I’ve refused to play games for less, so I’m not judging anyone who won’t play without a dub. I’d like to see them return ‘cause I like having choices, but I’d like to see both languages hitting that ~90% voice acting mark. :<
@Vyacheslav333 It's the opposite in the anime community. I've gotten threats just because I prefer English dubbed over subtitles, lol .. I'll take it either way but if an English dub is available then I'll watch that. In games or visual novels I honestly don't care because I can read at my own pace.
@Greatluigi Personally I think its a relatively minor complaint, especially in a medium where you’re forced to read anyways. I can see how its a dealbreaker for people who don’t like JP VAs though. I personally don’t mind it either way. I’ve heard good and bad from either language, especially in the dark days of the mid 2010s anime dubs.
Heck yes, I'm excited!!! I prefer playing in Japanese with subs anyway, so that's not an issue for me. I get my copy tomorrow and I'll dive right into it. I literally just finished Astral Chain and I'm in need of a new JRPG to sink 100+ hours into. This easily goes into my "best trilogies on the Switch" list.
Waiting for a sale on the first game to get into this series.
@Nanami_Ataraxia Yeah, same — I got both of them for Christmas — Automata on Switch and Replicant for PS4, as it was the only option available, but by all accounts the Switch version of Automata is pretty flawless.
Having played Replicant through and achieved all the endings, I'm glad I did; as the closure was nice. In hindsight I probably should have spaced it out a bit between each ending; by the end you're pretty OP so it gets easier and quicker, and the game is a joy to play so it JUST skirted the line of feeling like a chore, but barely. Also the game does a decent job of signposting how to get them as well, without having to resort to an FAQ.
Great review, convinced me even more (not that I needed much more convincing, but still) that I really should play Atelier games at some point and the Ryza sub-series in particular!
@Rayquaza2510 You forgot the fourth option which @Nanami_Ataraxia mentioned, i.e. no voices at all so while being able to choose between Japanese (my pick whenever available like @Vyacheslav333 not only because Japanese is my major field of study, but also since I usually like them more) and English ones would be awesome to appeal to more people I feel that we all should appreciate whenever there are voices at all in games and especially so when they're good regardless of the language!
@Nanami_Ataraxia I can't speak to the ryza games since I still haven't gotten far in them, but you really don't need to wait for replicant to play automata, they're not so intertwined you'd miss anything playing it first (since you'd already be missing some since drakengard 3 isn't available). If the switch ever does get replicant you'll be able to appreciate the story that much more, at least that's how it was for me.
Wonderful review, not surprised it scored well. Proud to have Ryza as my avatar for all these years, haha.
@JustMonika M. I understand.
@Rayquaza2510 @JohnnyMind Oh, yeah. There are some VNs without voice-overs at all – Gnosia, Paranormasight... Hmm, but, what's about the fifth(?) option - partially voiced dialogues? 1st Danganronpa and NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition, for example.
That's great, that's all I needed to know, you've convinced me to go for all endings then when I eventually get to it!
@jbreez00 That's great to know thankyou so much! I will jump right into to that one then (when the backlog allows haha)
@Vyacheslav333 Didn't mention it since I went to the other extreme but yes, partially voiced dialogues also make me appreciate more fully voiced ones in general!
@JohnnyMind I remember playing Corpse Party: BloodCovered(original PC remake) with partially voiced dialogues and different seiyûs... That was disappointing, to say the least...
Not the biggest fan of partially voiced dialogues, I can live with them to a certain point in some games, but the more dialogue a game has (or worse, it's a VN) the less I can live with it, and quickly that ends up being annoying.
No voices at all can be disappointing, but if I had to pick between those two, then I rather have nothing than just a part of it.
@Rayquaza2510 «Not the biggest fan of partially voiced dialogues...»
«...but the more dialogue a game has (or worse, it's a VN) the less I can live with it, and quickly that ends up being annoying.»
Well... Yeah. Especially, when you read characters' dialogue in silence for a few minutes, and then you hear "Eek!". This is the only thing that was voiced in the entire dialogue... (I'm referring to Corpse Party: BloodCovered)
«No voices at all can be disappointing, but if I had to pick between those two, then I rather have nothing than just a part of it.»
Well... That's your way, and I can understand it. Imo, better something than nothing. I can't imagine 1st Danganronpa or NieR:Automata The End of YoRHa Edition without the voice-overs... But... Corpse Party: BloodCovered will be better without it's partially voiced dialogues at all... Yep...
seems atelier 2 had better performance then atelier 3
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