Many Atelier games have made their way to the Nintendo Switch, but it’s finally time for the one that started it all. Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg was first released on the PlayStation console as the Atelier title that sparked the many more that came after it. Enhanced ports were, of course, released; however, Atelier Marie Remake is the latest for modern consoles as at the time of writing this review.
You play as Marie, an alchemy student with bad grades, who has been given a new atelier for a graduation exam. Raising your alchemy skills is part of it, to be capable of creating an item one day that will win the approval of your professor. Before you do this, you must manage your time and engage in hardships such as going out into the world to collect materials, synthesize items in a timely manner for townsfolks, and earn money to purchase utensils and alchemy recipes to continue the cycle.
The story is almost like an animal parent kicking you out of your nest like a newborn to fend for yourself. You know that you have to create an item of high quality but it’s forgotten throughout the game. You’ll have to keep doing what you’re told and hopefully try to pass the professor’s requests when they’re given to you. It’s not that difficult if you like to explore all the content a game offers. As a matter of fact, if this is you, you’d likely already complete it before the request is given.
Gossiping with characters and talking to NPCs is what you’ll find yourself doing throughout the game. Character events trigger as you get closer to characters. Some of the events are easy to miss if you don’t pay attention to the dates. Additionally, with multiple endings, there’s replicability in the mix if you don’t mind going through the 8+ hour gameplay to try to do what you didn’t from your last playthrough.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a classic RPG where time is of the essence. Five in-game years count down till the end of the game and you must complete it before then. The decisions you make will subtract days off from the four-season calendar. Head out into the world, choose to fight a monster or pick up a material, synthesize a new item, and even return to your atelier—it will cost you day(s).
Even though you have more than enough time to beat the game within its time constraints, the remake offers an unlimited mode for those who may feel pressured or rather a more carefree experience. This mode eliminates the time limit; however, not all events will be available if this option is chosen which leaves the normal mode as the more desirable option.
The town map is a small one. You’re expected to explore each area of the town when you’re away from the Atelier at the beginning of the game. Eventually, the need to do this will subside and only becomes a necessary routine when a new event indictor is marked. New areas become accessible as you progress throughout the story and listen to rumors from the townsfolk.
Navigating the world is straightforward. I found myself using the mini map at the start but once I learned how small the town is, I was able to manage without it. The areas of the world were a different story, however, often I’d find myself keeping the map overlay open while moving from area to area. These connected areas aren’t many, but it was nice to have a guide to show me the locations of gatherable materials and enemies.
Enemies roam the open areas and you can strike them first to steal the advantage. Marie’s attack is slow and can easily cause you to fail a preemptive strike. It’s nice to have this difference to add another layer of challenge and it does take some time adjusting to, in order to ensure each strike lands perfectly.
Combat is pretty simple in Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg. You can party up with 2 teammates in turn-based combat. Each character has a single special skill and is capable of using attack/healing/buff items during combat. MP is consumed for using either a special skill or an item. Although limited, gear can be obtained to strengthen characters. Fights certainly will not be the star of the show in this game, especially with the limited number of enemies and bosses, but it’s still nevertheless a fun experience.
Time management plays a part when it comes to combat. Each fight you initiate will consume a single day, therefore you’re going to have to pick your battles wisely. The majority of characters will also charge a fee each time you carry them out into the world. There are two freebies; however, the best will come with a price. However, continuously carrying them on adventures and completing their quests will reduce their fees.
Synthesis and Time Management
There’s no dragging blocks or following material loop trails in Atelier Marie. The synthesis system is a basic one. You’re all set once you have acquired the required materials for synthesis. What makes this challenging is the time bestowed upon you and the failure rate.
Synthesizing each item consumes days. This means each item you synthesize must be properly calculated, whether completed by yourself or your hired help. Synthesizing items can end in failure if you’re unlucky. Lack of utensils and a high fatigue gauge can increase the failure rate. Resting or consuming items can help with the latter, however, utensils must be purchased to increase success rate.
Managing your time is crucial in Atelier Marie. Fairy helpers can help with this, but not without a fee. You can hire fairies and give them tasks to do while you tend to more important matters. They can help gather materials or synthesize items you’ve already made. Keeping an eye on their progress is also necessary, as they sometimes can mess up or waste time when you’re paying them good money for the assistance.
The more you play, the more accessible new content becomes. You’re going to have to synthesize new items and exchange them for money rewards. The money can then be used to purchase beginner alchemy recipes and sometimes even synthesis ingredients. Unlike some of the other Atelier games on the Nintendo Switch, Atelier Marie Remake has a small number of items that can be made from synthesis and a low number of materials that can be gathered. Yet, it does not take away from the fun to be had with the game.
I don’t usually indulge myself in a game’s mini games; however, the The Alchemist of Salburg’s remake surprised me. You can wander around a forest and catch some salmon, yet you can’t take it home with you because a bear snagged them. To get them back, you must avoid the bears in a maze while trying to find the salmon in the real treasure chest. There are many more of these mini games that pop out at unexpected times and while I did enjoy them all, I loved the surprise factor the most.
Quests can be accepted at the Sky Tavern. You can accept as many quests as you desire; however, you must complete them within their given timeframe. Failure to do so, even if you cancel a quest, tarnishes the reputation you’ve been building up. It doesn’t feel worthwhile accepting every available tavern quest because of this. It sets yourself up for failure since days can pass by with the snap of a finger. Thus, making the most out of it will be visiting the Tavern, looking at the new quest rotation, and marking the ones as completed right off the bat. It feels strange since it’s the primary strategy to execute but thankfully there are character quests that add some engagement with their additional dialogue.
Graphics and Soundtrack
While I have not played the original Atelier Marie game, I did find some of its gameplay screenshots. I can confidently say the graphics upgrade is splendid and the soundtrack isn’t far behind. The visuals are so much more beautiful. The chibi models look great when moving throughout the world. The interchanging between still pictures of characters and the chibi designs did not mesh well with me at the beginning, but I eventually warmed up to it.
Koei Tecmo did a fantastic job with remaking Atelier Marie. It’s a great classic RPG that shows the origin of Atelier games, although it can be discouraging to few because of it being short and pricey. The new unlimited mode makes it easier on newcomers to the series. However, it can also be a double-edged sword as the time management slightly helps prevent the simplistic gameplay loop from becoming dull.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg gets a 7/10.