Ever since the birth of the first title, the Atelier series has always received acclaim for its captivating stories, strong character relationships, and a long enriching adventure to become the best alchemist. Alchemy is of course a primary focal point of the series, as much of the gameplay is immersed within it and players will need to master synthethis techniques in order to progress the story, as well as allow for more diverse creations through gathering materials. Anyone who’s new to the Atelier series we’ll be honest, the gameplay will require you to do a lot of gathering when compared to battling, and so therefore this creates a slow paced progression system which places more emphasis on creation than actual battles over time.
This isn't to say that battles aren't frequent it's more that your alchemy level plays a very big role in the game and is of great benefit during long battles, so taking your time is key. With that being said, this brings us to Ryza no Atelier ～Tokoyami no Joou to Himitsu no Kakurega～ (Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout), the brand new title in the ongoing Atelier universe. Built with the intention of enticing new players but introducing new mechanics for veterans to enjoy, will Ryza and her friends create an adventure that will be memorable? Read on to find out more.
What to Expect
As a disclaimer, we are reviewing the Japanese copy of the game and as such, the screenshots that will be used in this review will reflect that. Much of the gameplay will be very much retained and so we hope that fans will pick this up when it launches Oct 29th in the west. For now, let’s talk about what to expect from Atelier Ryza and what helps it stand out from its predecessors. For starters, a brand new synthesis system has been introduced which allows players to be more precise in their creations, giving birth to powerful tools, weapons, explosives, among other things. The interface has been visually enhanced and now displays the required materials and effects that can be added for a much easier alchemy process. The ‘Linkage Synthesis’ system features a number of fixed cells that players can now unlock through concise item placement, which now help to expand the number of results the player can discover, through cell branches. More notably, there are special types of cells that allow players to unlock fresh new recipes which encourages players even more to dive deeper, and experiment with various items to see their results! More on the gameplay side later on but let’s continue and dive into the story, along with the visual upgrades, and more.
Ryza no Atelier ～Tokoyami no Joou to Himitsu no Kakurega～ (Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout), revolves around the life of Ryza, a young and aspiring girl who dreams to explore the world in order to create new memories with her friends. They all embark on a wonderful adventure to experience adulthood, but also to discover what is most important to them.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout goes above and beyond to create a lush and beautiful world that feels more real, granting players new and familiar to the series a wonderful immersive experience. Character designs have received a major improvement as Ryza along with her colleagues Lent, Tao, and Claudia all look more lifelike which compliments the world around them. Lush green forests, beautiful wooded style towns, and sparkling blue waters really pop out more in this game and really hit you the moment you start running around and exploring. The overall UI in the game has seen a drastic overhaul which now allows for more freedom in battle, and just more organization to maintain harmony. The way in which characters move in the game however is still quite stiff, much like previous Atelier games which surprised us, considering how much effort was placed on creating a more realistic experience. Be that as it may, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout still looks fantastic both inside and outside of battle, making gathering objectives so much more exhilarating.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout doesn’t disappoint in this area and maintains that Atelier charm that many of us have grown to love. With its cheerful and upbeat melodies both in battle and outside of battle, the emotions players will feel are that of a young and aspiring adventurer which really speak volumes in this game. Players will certainly feel more immersion as the world absorbs you in and you bask in the cornucopia of colors that you see along the journey, with music that compliments it entirely. The voice acting in the game is solid and each character really sounds authentic which once again, helps to bring the story together beautifully. Whether it's the air headedness of Claudia, the brave and valiant Rent speaking his mind, or the very cautious and timid Tao trying to avoid battles, each character feels organic which allows you to build a relationship with them.
As we explained briefly earlier in the review, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout has introduced brand new mechanics that help to enrich the experience. One thing that we’d like to touch on a little bit more is the special change recipe cells and how they can affect the game in the long run. The new ‘Item Rebuild’ process is a feature that allows players to take those very same special items they created and use them again during synthesis. When players rebuild an item it increases the likelihood that the item will become much stronger, and the more times you rebuild the same item the more superior it will become. So this encourages players to really go above and beyond like never before in the Atelier series, granting the ability to really create some powerful tools for battle. There is of course a caveat to all of this though and it’s that, the more you do rebuild an item, over time it increases in dexterity which could potentially limit the amount of characters that can use the item. It creates a choice in the players mind as to whether they’d like to focus more on ease of use or overall strength, which will all depend on the situation that players encounter along the way.
Speaking of situations, players will likely find themselves in a variety of them since you’ll be heading out to do a lot of gathering to grab the right items for synthesis. As you head out into unfamiliar territory you'll encounter enemies that will put you to the test and will encourage you to engage with consideration. The new battle system in Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout gives players a more real-time experience as now your characters can continue their assault simultaneously and not have to wait their turn in order to dish out damage. This adds another element of creativity as players can now swap between characters at the drop of a hat and designate attacks to certain enemies, or create powerful combos. Another new feature allows you to build your tactical meter which grows in power per level, and opens up a new window of attacks that players can utilize. You’re also able to simply do a quick attack if you just want to dish out immediate hits but for those who really want to push heavy damage, taking advantage of your tactical meter will be paramount in the more difficult battles late game. You can instruct your team on how you want to play during battle as well, as on the left hand side of the screen there’s a bar that visually tells you whether to go more offensive or play more passive. By pressing down on the d-pad you can change between these actions at any time, once again opening up more opportunities to take advantage of the enemy and deal the necessary damage to come out on top. It’s very simple and intuitive, which is a big plus for us, but also it does a great job of notifying you what’s happening on screen.
Aside from the real-time battle system in place, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout feels just like any other Atelier title which is both good and bad, which we’ll dive into next.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
So in the end, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout tackles a lot of the past concerns that players had pertaining to the synthesis system, adding in cool features to help encourage more creativity. The real-time battle format helps to create a more free-form style of gameplay and keeps the pace of the game moving in your favor, rather than the more traditional turn-based style the series is notable for. Some players may not favor the new changes but we can safely say that with time you’ll likely find the added features to be rewarding, yet challenging to master. We wished that the character animations were more fluid and not as stiff as they’ve always been, considering this is the 21st title in the main entry series and the PlayStation 4 has more than enough juice left to develop more concise character movement. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout felt at times a lot like Blue Reflection with its very clever use of special effects pertaining to magic, and the way in which animations looked. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is a solid improvement over its past iterations but still requires a bit of fine tuning when it comes to diversifying gameplay a bit more.
The new synthesis system really does help to create more immersion, and gives players that true Alchemy experience.
Voicing is spot on and we love how each character feels organic.
Detailed environments, improved battle mechanics, and better use of colors make this perhaps the best Atelier game to date.
We really wish that Gust would just add more realism to character movements and not make them look so stiff when running around in the world.
The game can feel slow-paced due to traveling around a lot to gather materials. This may turn off new players who are looking for a more action-oriented experience.
Honey's Final Verdict:
While the gathering and battle aspects of the game are quintessential to the Atelier experience, we wish that more was done to really create more involvement with other characters, perhaps allowing for multiple characters to gather with you, rather than Ryza just wandering on her own. The game is slow-paced but that’s a given considering the title, though it’s something to mention since new players may not be familiar with the ebb and flow of how Atelier titles work. Be that as it may, the game was charming and lighthearted which gave us feelings of joy as we played it. We hope you discover that same feeling too. Be sure to check out our reviews on the previous titles, and let us know your thoughts below!
Until next time!
Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!