I took my first step into the Atelier series two years ago with Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. It surprised me with its summer vacation vibes and dense systems. Now with the heroine’s final adventure, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, we are concluding the journey.
As mentioned in our preview last month, you need not be daunted by Atelier Ryza 3’s place as a trilogy-closer (nor by the series’ incredibly long subtitles), as the story gets newcomers up to speed on the fly. Once the table is set in the early hours, Ryza and friends are thrust into a wider world on a mission to help her hometown. And the world is, indeed, wide. Those opening hours can be extended just by exploring the vast regions around Ryza’s home, returning from the first game. I was struck by how much ground there was to cover at my leisure right off the hop.
Coming off of previewing the PC version, I was a little skeptical about how Atelier Ryza 3 would fare on Nintendo Switch, but it performs admirably. There’s some loss of fidelity in handheld mode, but it looks great on the OLED’s screen. More importantly, the sprawling environments load and run smoothly in both modes without glaring issues.
“Coming off of previewing the PC version, I was a little skeptical about how Atelier Ryza 3 would fare on Nintendo Switch, but it performs admirably.”
It’s easy to get lost in the open-world environments as you gather materials for crafting along the way to your story goals. Atelier Ryza 3 could reel in fans of Stardew Valley and other games with cozy crafting elements in at least this one department — harvesting supplies that are the right type and element for what you want to craft, and pack the right amount of power, can be a time-consuming endeavour in itself, even when dodging random encounters.
Combat in Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, however, is more strenuous. In its predecessor, players control one party member at a time in active battle, chaining their own basic attacks into special finishers in concert with their allies. It’s not necessarily the height of RPG complexity, but it is also involved enough that it demands coordination even in random battles, while bosses and challenging random encounters will put all of your skills to the test.
The fruits of Ryza’s hunting and gathering are brought to bear in the alchemy system. Again, Atelier Ryza 3 doesn’t reinvent its predecessor’s wheel. Crafting is still a somewhat convoluted and obtuse system, but the automated help feature can cleave through for you if you don’t have the time or patience to experiment. Leaning into it, however, is more rewarding in both the material and metaphorical senses.
You may be seeing a common thread so far. Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key has retained most of the prior game’s core elements, for good and bad. Systems have been slightly refined and introduced in a better fashion, yet some of the most tedious elements remain, like the simple act of healing your party.
“Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key has retained most of the prior game’s core elements, for good and bad.”
Got smacked around in your last fight? Better heal in battle with the slow item system, sprint to the sparse rest points, or warp all the way back to the atelier! It’s still somewhat baffling to me that a game based on the concept of synthesizing items can be so dense about the simple act of using said items.
There’s also a new system revolving around magical keys that Ryza mysteriously learns early on. These keys meld onto the battle and crafting systems, adding to their complexity. In a fight, Ryza can craft keys from weakened enemies (almost in some strange twist on Pokémon conventions) or use an existing key’s power for certain effects. They can also be used in alchemy to heighten effects, especially if their attributes match certain attributes of the item being crafted.
However, this time around Atelier Ryza 3’s plot was more compelling off the hop. The writing still isn’t perfect, but graciously, it’s less chock-full of conventional anime dialogue. I praised Atelier Ryza 2 for starting off on a light “summer adventure” feel, but its follow-up drew me in with the one-two punch of the narrative stakes and the wide fields in between quest points.
Beyond the familiar locales around Ryza’s home, Atelier Ryza 3 really shines in its brand-new sprawling fields. Being able to establish a base of our own in each region is a huge boon. Unlike the key system, this new iteration of an element from the first game — where players choose the kind of atelier Ryza builds to earn certain benefits — imparts a sense of ownership and customization without adding another wrinkle of complexity.
Holding the whole package together is another whimsical score from Kazuki Yanagawa. Its breezy instrumentation remains a perfect fit for Ryza’s spirit, invigorating in battle one minute and playful in the conversations that follow. Overall the presentation is solid, aside from some odd camera angles in certain cutscenes (and that’s not counting the obligatory moments of blatant fanservice, though that seemed a little more subdued this time around).
Despite the return of some nagging flaws, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is nonetheless a dense, multifaceted gem of a JRPG. The open-world elements are a perfect asset to its existing formula of crafting and battling, just the thing needed to round out the whole experience. There’s plenty on offer here for longtime fans and newcomers alike — like Octopath Traveler 2 before it, another meaty quest to scratch your itch for more traditional RPG elements.
This content was originally published here.