We recently sat down to play Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, the third and final installment in the Atelier Ryza sub-trilogy of the overall ‘Atelier’ franchise from developer Gust.
With the last Ryza game now released, and the recent news about Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg, you might be thinking it’s time to dive into the world of cute girls and large explosions!
If you’re interested in starting the Atelier series, but don’t know which game to play, then let us help you out! There’s an Atelier game that’s right for everyone, and today on Honey’s Anime, we’ll help you figure out Where To Start With the Atelier Series!
Wait, We’re Crafting What…?
Firstly, by way of introduction, we’ll offer a general overview of the franchise.
From the very first game, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, released in 1997 for the original PlayStation, developer Gust has followed a general formula that’s been tweaked and experimented with, but never entirely changed.
Your core gameplay loop in any Atelier game involves exploring various maps, collecting materials, defeating monsters, then using those materials to craft items. These items include armor, weapons, attack items, or ‘synthesis’ items (such as wooden planks, magical elixirs, and so forth) that are used to further enhance the creation of other items.
Throughout each game’s story, you’ll use your alchemical and combat skills to level up, find better materials, make better items, and repeat until the day is saved!
With that intro out of the way, let’s talk about the three main starting points for the Atelier franchise, starting with the most recent and most accessible series—Ryza.
Atelier Ryza (2019—2023)
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout was a bold re-imagining of the franchise, a gamble that paid huge dividends for Gust, netting them 500,000 sales within a year.
With a peppy, more anime-esque girl, a bright color palette, and redesigned combat and crafting systems, Atelier Ryza is undoubtedly the friendliest and easiest game to approach. All of the games are available on modern consoles, and run particularly well on the Nintendo Switch and PS4 systems.
This bright, summer-time adventure is incredibly accessible, with the more complex alchemical system taking a back seat to exploration and combat. Players with experience in the other games can certainly find depth in the “material loop” system, but the game doesn’t punish newbies for not immediately understanding how to craft the perfect item.
If you’ve come from playing action RPGs, you’ll enjoy the ATB (Active Time Battle) system that comes right from Final Fantasy VII and its ilk. Unleashing flashy combos and sending your enemies flying never gets old, either!
Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland (2010-2018)
Originally released for the PlayStation 3 in 2010, the best version of the game that’s readily available is 2018’s Atelier Rorona DX, which adds some quality of life features for the Nintendo Switch and PS4.
Rorona isn’t the first of the Atelier games to come to the West—that honor belongs to the PlayStation 2’s Atelier Iris—but Rorona manages to strike a balance between modern playability and ‘old school Atelier difficulty.’
See, behind all those pink frills and adorable expressions, the Atelier franchise was once a notoriously difficult time-management sim, where players had to balance exploration with crafting, since every action took up precious amounts of in-game time. Rorona’s time management adds a layer of strategizing to your “collect-and-craft” loop, forcing you to make the most of every battle and every trip on the world map.
For some, the tight confines of these deadlines make the game more challenging than it needs to be; but if you’re familiar with maximizing your in-game time from series like Rune Factory, Rorona offers some great characters, with a CTB (Conditional Turn-Based) combat system that prioritizes smart use of damage-inflicting items to level the playing field.
Atelier Ayesha: The Alchemist of Dusk (2013-2020)
Similar to Rorona, Ayesha first launched for the PS3 many moons ago, and saw a recent re-release on modern platforms by way of Atelier Ayesha DX, along with the rest of the ‘Dusk’ trilogy, including our personal favorite, Escha & Logy.
Ayesha’s adventure combines some of the best elements from the earlier, more punishing Rorona titles, while maintaining a surprisingly grounded sensibility that would eventually be lost in Atelier Sophie and Atelier Ryza.
Ayesha’s journey to find her lost, presumed-dead, sister, takes her on a journey from a humble ‘apothecary’ to a full-fledged alchemist, accompanied by a colorful crew of rogues. There’s still a time limit to observe, and if you’re not careful, you can easily run out of time—but the deadlines aren’t so punishing as to make the gameplay frustrating.
The turn-based battles are fun and even involve a positioning element to deal “back attacks” to unsuspecting enemies, and the alchemy system—while not quite as intuitive as later entries—has surprising depth and rewards players who are willing to understand its nuances.
Players also have a roster of challenges they can complete to gain extra rewards and learn more alchemical recipes, which encourages continual crafting and experimentation—a system that only gets better with the sequel, Escha & Logy.
With so many different games released over 25 years, Gust has taken their basic idea and iterated countless times to create new stories and worlds, all while adapting to changing expectations from players.
Depending on your own level of experience and what type of difficulty you’re looking for, any of these three titles will give you an excellent start to this deep and compelling franchise.
Are you an Atelier fan? What do you think about our list? Let us know down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!