I remember the day I started Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout. It was the first Atelier game I played, and I only decided to try it by chance. Nevertheless, I was glad I did, as it got me into the massive haul of Atelier games. About four years have passed and Ryza has gone a long way with this third entry. Even though I’m a bit late with my review, let’s see if this one ends things in a favorable manner.
The adventure continues when mysterious islands, the Kark Isles, appear near Ryza’s hometown a year after the events of the previous game. Now it’s up Ryza and her friends to do what they do best—investigating these lands. Familiar faces will be seen and a captivating story will be told for both Ryza fans and newcomers who wish to jump straight into the latest entry. It might just be the best story in the Ryza trilogy.
If you’re familiar with Ryza games, you know just what to expect with Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key. The story will have you on the go, building up ateliers as you move from region to region. You’ll still have some of that sweet ol’ secret base life and many character and story cutscenes to immerse yourself in. Expect to catch up with old faces and meet new, interesting characters with varying personalities.
The main components that make up the gameplay formula are exploring the world, gathering materials, fighting monsters, and creating new items through synthesis. New mounts and the ability to pet roaming dogs and cats await you. I loved watching the wholesome petting animation, although not enough to perform the action each time a dog or cat passes by after halfway through the game. It eventually gets old, not to mention the inevitable degrading of the item reward’s usefulness that comes with it.
If there’s one thing I would have liked to see, it would be more free costumes to choose from early in the game. I wasn’t satisfied with the amount available I unlocked and the DLC costumes cost a pretty penny. The new characters were lacking in options. And of course, everyone else failed in comparison to Ryza’s wardrobe—which I’m not even surprised about because she’s the protagonist.
Exploration and Quests
It’s still a relaxing experience to travel through regions and gather materials in Atelier Ryza 3. There’s a large world to explore and different types of quests to complete. Either watch Ryza pick up materials or make haste by amassing them while running; the game caters to both parties whether they like it fast or slow.
What I’ve found intriguing is the random quests that trigger while exploring the lands. The magic eventually subsides, though, since they’re primarily plain quests for the sake of acquiring a quick reward. Besides these random quests, there are main quests, world quests, normal quests, character quests, and party quests. Out of them all, the only worthwhile ones are the main quests, character quests and world quests.
The map takes some time to get used to, but it’s a joy to use after getting the hang of it. It marks all of the key locations. Sometimes navigation can get tricky, but you should be fine as long as you’re able to trace the paths. I often found it difficult to find my atelier regardless of where I was, so having the option to fast travel to it with the press of a button was a blessing.
Those who love exploring will likely enjoy uncovering new areas in this game. Progressing through the story opens up new areas, but you can still play at your own pace and finish up what what you have not yet uncovered. The map starts off obscure but a clearer version unveils with each landmark met with the unlocking of a fast travel point.
Atelier Ryza 3’s combat system doesn’t change much other than the addition of Keys. It’s still the fast turn-based combat with real-time elements you know and love from the series. I did wish the playable characters had more skills to interchange between, though. Using the same set of skills made me lose a bit of interest every so often. Combat did get easier as I leveled up, made godly bombs, and equipped better gear. This is why accessibility to changing the difficulty is a godsend.
The majority of playable characters from the series are available to use in Ryza 3. It’s sad to see two of the lesser known characters go, but old and new faces have joined the fray. You’re able to put three in the main party and have two as switchable backup. The combat mechanics make it so that benched characters can get a chance to shine, and I found the level of customization to be fascinating.
There are a lot of enemies to fight. I did wish there was a better variety of boss-tier enemies scattered throughout the world. At one point, I found myself fighting the same optional boss three or four times in a row just to complete some side quests. But new and old foes alike can be found throughout the regions of this game.
Keys are the new gimmick in Atelier Ryza 3. They add different types of buffs and effects during battle depending on which is used. Sadly, it wasn’t too impressive during fights. I found myself scarcely using them for the combat buffs and focused more on using my blank keys to form high quality keys that can be utilized for synthesis instead.
No surprise that the synthesis system is a good one in this game. A bit sparkly than previous games because of the better graphics; however, if I had to choose between Atelier Ryza 3’s synthesis system and one of the previous Atelier games released on the Nintendo Switch, I might have gone with the latter. It’s not because synthesis in Atelier Ryza 3 is bad, it’s just that I’ve had more fun in comparison, especially after sinking hours into Ryza 1 & 2, both of which synthesis has been built upon.
As a veteran Atelier player, I longed for better materials to make better tools and the best items. I liked how the menu marked items that weren’t synthesized yet. It made it easy to mark them as favorites to sort them in their own, separate list. I had a little trouble grasping the concept of using Keys to their full potential with synthesis, but that’s because I refused to read up on it, making it a little trial and error for me.
Winding back to synthesis, the greatest joy it’s brought me is the reward of knowing I made good gear. I loved putting the time aside to wisely use the materials I collected from my journey for crafting recipes to make the best gear I could. Unlocking the greatest effects and transferring the best traits from shifting through material loops was a must for me. The ability to let the game auto synthesize items took care of the rest and has been a time-saving blessing.
There’s a Skill Tree just like the second game of the series. You accumulate SP from activities such as synthesizing items and completing quests. The SP you obtain can be spent on enhancements and new recipes. The latter can be surprising to find after searching every nook and cranny only to discover it was hidden away in the Skill Tree. Yes, you must keep unlocking options to see a branch of new options.
My greatest fear was amassing so much SP that I would have ran out of options to purchase. Fortunately, I did not have this issue while playing even though I’ve farmed a lot of SP. I did start ignoring some of the random quests lategame (the ones that rewarded farmable SP) and tried to choose the SP enhancements last from the Skill Tree (if I remember correctly), so maybe that helped.
Graphics and Soundtrack
The Atelier Ryza games are known for their beauty and the third game in the series does not disappoint. It’s colorful as ever but not a drastic improvement over the last game (which is to be expected for its Nintendo Switch version). While you won’t be seeing any high quality rocks that’d make your jaw drop, the performance is maybe the best out of the three games. Battles are smooth and loading screens are lightning fast. It’s just that I wish the text was a bit larger as my eyes sometimes strained to read it.
As far as the soundtrack goes, it’s pretty good and sets the right mood for exploration and battling. The voice acting is in Japanese, and while I do love hearing it, I often missed the conversations between characters when moving around. It’s not a total loss since the best dialogue are the cutscenes that can have your undivided attention.
There’s no doubt you will enjoy Atelier Ryza 3 if you liked its predecessors. Despite its shortcomings, the game tops the trilogy with the best story and combat, adds some quality of life improvements, and puts in a dash of appeal to the synthesis system.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key gets a 9/10.