Game Review #508: Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout (Nintendo Switch)
Review by: WoodmanFLG
Developer: Koei Tecmo America Publisher: Koei Tecmo America Category: JRPG Release Date: 10.29.2020
Watch the Trailer
Buy Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Tired of Doom and Gloom in YOUR JRPG? Listen, I'm writing this during these crazy quarantine times we're living in right now, and I've been doing big work through my backlog of old RPGs since I can nearly beat 1 in a week now with the amount of time I have. The amount of gods I've killed, worlds I’ve saved and heartbreak I've been through is innumerable, and I can’t stress how much of a fantastic palate cleanser this game has been after the heartbreak of Breath of Fire 4, or the existential crisis of Xenogears. Atelier Ryza is the story of best friends growing up on an island, and making that jump that adults have to do, into things they have never experienced before, and to discover what truly matters to them.
That's right people! We've got cute anime characters doing cute anime things in a JRPG! I’ve put quite a few hours into this bad boy of whimsical worldbuilding, and I've yet to discover any secret plot that will have me killing god, restarting the universe or even battle my inner personality in giant mechs, and honestly? I’m fine with that right now. It's VERY relaxing to play a JRPG with stakes that are a bit more personal than the end of the world. Maybe you want to build a hideout on the island where you grew up, or maybe you want to show the town bullies how much you have grown by getting an item from an area they couldn’t handle, or racing them through areas where you all grew up. But the question is, without those high stakes to keep you intensely into a game, can Koei Tecmo’s Atelier Ryza keep your attention for the full playtime of the game, or will you lose steam by the end, and by extension interest? Well, let's talk a bit more about all the moving parts of this game, and we can figure it out from there!
Ryza, Lent and Tao This game is actually the 21st main entry in the Atelier series (Wow!), and its actually the first entry in a new sub series of atelier games. The devs have said the theme of this game is “Summer Memories”, which really feels appropriate, because this game really gives off those memories of being a kid in your neighborhood growing up, and planning some grand adventure to the other end of it, or maybe visiting the next neighborhood over, even if maybe you weren't supposed to do that, and we know that summer was the time for such shenanigans!
Ryza’s full name is Reisalin Stout, and she is just a girl who lives on a small island by the name of Kurken who thirsts for adventure! She gets adventure, but she also develops a taste for what this universe calls alchemy and what I call OH GOD WHY HAVE I BEEN IN MENUS FOR 30 MINUTES TRYING TO MAKE THE PERFECT SWORD WHY IS THIS SO SATISFYING, or better known as ITEM CREATION! After saving the daughter of a traveling merchant, Ryza meets Empel Vollmer, who is a wandering alchemist that ends up seeing talent and potential in Ryza, and that's how she begins to learn the craft. You will meet many more people on your adventures, some who will teach you things, some who will join your party, and some who will give you sidequests. It is imperative you take advantage of anything these people can give you! Let's talk a little bit about combat and item creation next!
A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That Combat in Atelier Ryza is a mixed bag of turn-based and action elements that come together in a battle system that gradually builds on itself. It gets more complex and handy the longer an encounter goes on, keeping easy encounters simple, and difficult encounters open up to give you more options to handle bigger beasties! You have your tactics level that starts out at one, and as you gain AP through attacking enemies, you can level up your tactics level! What this does, is allow you to attack more times, gain additional effects on your special attacks, and then some!
You control one of your 3 characters directly, while issuing some simple orders to the AI controlled allies, or you can switch between all 3 characters as you see fit. Each tactics level allows you to do another attack with a rhythm mechanic to do the extra attack, which sadly felt kind of pointless once I figured out you can’t fail it, so you can just mash attack to get the max amount of attacks every time. Your special attacks take AP, so you can decide if you want to shoot for a higher tactics level, or if you can beat the enemy with a few powered up special attacks instead! You can also instantly take an action for 10 AP, as well as use an item if you have the resources for that.
Your party members will often make some kind of request during battle, for example “deal magic damage,” “use an Item,” or “deal fire damage.” If you manage to fulfill these requirements your party member will do a special action, be it a powered up attack or a heal, as well as grant some bonus AP for fulfilling the “Action Order” as they are called. You see the upcoming turn order for your party and the enemy party on the side of the screen, and your attacks can slow them down, or even stun them if you fill the stun gauge! All in all, I loved this battle system! It has an element of autonomy, but it's just because it's so fast paced, it wants your thinking time to still be productive to battle and it does that well! Alright… Well now that we did the story, and the combat, let's get into the really unique part of the trifecta that is this game: the Alchemy!
Quest to Make the Best The Atelier series is well known for its focus on alchemy and item creation, but good lord is this a complex and rewarding system! As you run about the world, open chests, defeat enemies, and more, you will find items that are components, and you will also have to harvest them with specific tools. Hitting a bush with your staff may produce one item, but hitting it with something with a blade could give you something completely different, so it's up to you to experiment and memorize! There is a TON of stuff, and everything you get has random qualities and traits on them, which is key to making the best item you can.
You will have to add the required kind of item to spots in the Alchemy system. That will unlock bonuses if you get enough of the requested element points in that spot, as well as unlocking access to adjacent nodes on this grid. You can impart traits from the items used into the end result. So say you want to make a weapon out of parts with a high quality score, as well as traits that would increase damage. But what if you can’t find a component in the wild? Well, you have to make it yourself, so you're going to want to use a high quality ore that has a damage-increasing trait. Make sure you unlock the nodes in a metal bar that let you impart traits from items and put those attack-increasing traits on the metal bar, while also making said metal bar with high quality items. That way you can make the weapon with a high quality, while also imparting the desired traits.
It sounds confusing, and it can be a little but it's the kind of system that can leave you tinkering in menus for AGES, which isn’t always everyone's bag. Personally, I loved solving the mystery of how to make the most badass weapon, or an amazing healing item. As you increase your alchemy level by crafting items, you can learn new recipes by unlocking specific nodes on other recipes and transforming the item. It's one of the most insane and deep item creation systems I've ever messed with, and I honestly love it! You can absolutely get away with just auto making things with the high quality parameter, but you will truly get the most out of this system if you learn it inside and out, and USE it. Seriously, it's an awesome and engaging system that demands a little bit of attention before it shines.
Wrapping Up This game was a blast honestly; from its fun loving characters to its lush open environments, great combat, and amazing item creation! The graphics aren't going to drop your jaw, but everything looks nice, and the aesthetic is presentable. In particular I noticed a bunch of really good lighting work in this game, which is always nice. The music is good too, with the battle theme being a whimsical banger of a track, and you can't help but fall in love with these characters as you follow them through growing up and figuring themselves out. The voice acting is only in Japanese with an English dub, and while sometimes I enjoy being able to look away when I'm playing a game, in this case it just made me pay more attention. I’m a regular sub anime watcher, so it wasn’t a big deal in the first place, but it's some good voice acting at the end of the day as well. I have over 20 hours in right now, and I’m absolutely going to continue playing this one to the end! I can’t wait to see how I end up killing god somehow anyway! Or maybe, I don’t know, we will make someone a cake for the final mission, this game could honestly go either way at this point!
Buy Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout from the Nintendo Switch eShop here. Follow Koei Tecmo America
*A game code was provided for review purposes.