Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Review
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is the latest entry in the classic Atelier franchise. This cute, quirky, and surprisingly intense JRPG series has always been at the edge of my radar. So I jumped at the chance to try out this game. I was eager to find out what all the fuss was about. Now I think I can safely say it’s the mix of cheery slice of life, focus on friendship, and grueling gameplay.
As you might have guessed, this is the third game starring the alchemist Ryza. There’s a built-in prologue movie you can watch if you haven’t played the previous two Ryza games. As a newcomer to the series, this was a lifesaver for me. However, it’s definitely no replacement for actually playing those games. In short, Ryza is a young girl who decides to become an alchemist. But her career goals keep being disrupted when she and her friends are dragged into dangerous fantasy adventures.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key begins with Ryza and friends in the middle of being attacked by monsters. After defeating them, her head begins to feel strange. Then a mysterious voice tells her to find a key. It also gives her an alchemy recipe, which creates a mysterious key. On top of all that, a mysterious group of islands appear around her home and put pressure on Kurken Island’s flotation device, causing earthquakes. Someone needs to do something about this disaster, and that person is going to be Ryza.
No Mercy, Only Crafting
A franchise focused on alchemy must feature item creation. In this game, Ryza uses Synthesis to craft items from various ingredients. You gather those ingredients from across the game world. They come in varying qualities and have traits that can affect the end product. At its core, Atelier Ryza is a cheerful exploration of an alchemist’s daily life. This means the game constantly contrasts Ryza’s laid-back attitude and the grueling crafting mechanics. Ryza has become a reliable alchemist who supports Kurken Island with her skills, sure. But the game refuses to hold your hand while you try and catch up.
The item creation system is one of Atelier’s main claims to fame. Needless to say, it’s incredibly complicated and nuanced. You’d need a spreadsheet to fully explain it and I don’t have that kind of space here. Suffice to say that if you love complex crafting systems, this is the game for you. If the idea of trying to fill out trait loops to unlock traits make your head hurt… play something else.
It’s very easy to get sidetracked gathering resources, crafting, and selling items that don’t make the cut. I was having a ton of fun despite having completely forgotten the main story even existed. Many elements of this game are painfully unintuitive. I don’t think it’ll appeal to casual fans much. But if you crave complex crafting systems, nuanced JRPG combat, and cute anime characters being friends, you’ll love Atelier Ryza 3.
A Joy to Explore… Most of the Time
The time that isn’t spent crafting is spent gathering resources, fighting, and exploring. The graphics are lovely and Ryza’s world feels lush and vibrant. There are some really beautiful environments in this game. And I was always eager to see what lay around each corner. The character designs are very cute, too. But they’re also very archetypal for JRPG characters. Ryza herself probably has the most creative design in that sense. And she’s still cut from the same cloth as most other Atelier protagonists. But clichés don’t have to be bad, and Atelier Ryza 3’s character designs are still friendly and inviting. The sense of familiarity works nicely with a game that’s as much slice of life as it is fantasy adventure. Sadly, the voice acting is only available in Japanese.
Combat is basically a rhythm game. Both you and your enemies gain AP in real time. You hammer the attack button at the right time to do multiple strikes. Hit the block button at the right time to shield extra damage. Hold the special attack buttons at the right time to use your specials. Hit the wrong button at the wrong time and you disrupt the flow of battle. You can line elaborate combo attacks and swap characters mid-combo to do even more damage.
You’d better hope you don’t forget anything because it’s very hard to check the combat mechanics later. I know this because I kept forgetting which button did what. An incredibly complex combat system may be rewarding to people who can figure it out. But if you can’t, it’s a constant stream of punishment.
Atelier Ryza 3 Needs a Built-In Spreadsheet
Atelier Ryza 3 claims to have 30 hours of main storyline, 60 hours including side content. This assumes you already know to play already. I’d tack on another 12 hours to that if you’re a newcomer, especially if you keep forgetting button combinations. To make matters worse, most of the nuance to skill trees and crafting is not explained clearly. This means you have to trial and error your way through upgrades.
This game was definitely made for people who are already Atelier fans. Or at least fans of the other Ryza games. I felt like I came into the story late. The prologue movie is not enough. And there are a ton of callbacks to previous adventures. These are clearly meant to tug at players’ heartstrings. Unfortunately, I know nothing and my heartstrings remain untugged.
Also, the items labeled consumables aren’t actually consumed when you use them. This is convenient, but it’s also very unintuitive. Just like most of the game’s crafting system. Again, you need spreadsheets to figure this stuff out. It feels like the game demands I spend hours making trash items out of trash resources. Only then will it let me make anything worthwhile.
Credit where credit is due, this is a charming game with a lot of love poured into it. When I got into the flow, it gave me a unique experience I’ve never quite found anywhere else. But I don’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the Atelier franchise. At least, not until people start putting their item crafting spreadsheets online.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***
- Tons of replay value
- Beautiful open world
- Cute characters
- Incredibly complex crafting system
- Feels unique
- Difficulty curve is vertical
- Doesn’t explain things
- Definitely a sequel
- Incredibly complex crafting system
- I noticed a few typos