Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout – Nintendo Switch
Developed by: Gust
Published by: Koei Tecmo America
Release Date: 29th of October 2019
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout (which I’ll just call Atelier Ryza for the sake of sanity from here on out) is the twenty-first entry in developer Gust’s long running series, but you shouldn’t let that put you off. The game is very accessible, in fact from what I’ve heard it’s the easiest in the series to get into, which is helped by the fact that playing it feels like you’re chilling out with friends underneath a warm blanket while it’s gently snowing outside.
In Atelier Ryza you play as Reisalin Stout, but everyone calls her Ryza. Together with childhood friends Tao and Lent, the trio set out on an adventure in an effort to forget their boring or troubled lives at home. The game does a great job of making you care about each one of these heroes, introducing the merciless bullying that Tao has to suffer, Lent’s alcoholic father, and Ryza’s seemingly inevitable destiny to take over her parent’s farm. Each character has a reason to want to get away and go on an adventure, and that’s exactly what they do.
The story of Atelier Ryza is superb, if a little slow to begin with. You really do need to get through those opening hours in order to get to the meat of the game, but once you’re there you’ll be glad you persevered. The gameplay in Atelier Ryza is split up into three areas, alchemy, combat, and exploration.
Alchemy is a core part of any Atelier game, but it’s been simplified in Atelier Ryza, making it far more accessible and less daunting when it’s first introduced. You’ll spend a good chunk of time out in the world, picking up ingredients to use in Alchemy, which is represented by a spherical crafting table. You can experiment with ingredients, which is important because everything from bombs to fishing rods need to be created with alchemy. Thankfully an autofill feature provides a way for inexperienced players, like myself, to easily sort the items they want without needing to look up complicated recipes, or remember the 50 lines of dialogue that I barely paid attention to five seconds ago.
Of course, alchemy isn’t possible without ingredients, and you’ll be picking those up while exploring Atelier Ryza’s world. Items that can be picked up or gathered will helpfully flash while you’re out and about, but you’ll need to create new gathering tools in order to get some items. This might sound tedious, but the combination of the slower paced exploration and gathering, coupled with the game’s incredible soundtrack, gives most of the game a cozy feel that other JRPGs struggle to achieve.
Whilst you’re out and about exploring in Atelier Ryza, you’ll also come across enemies, a lot of them. Similar to the functionality in Dragon Quest 11, these enemies will veer towards you if they see you, but battles won’t start unless you touch them. It’s better to give them a good smack to initiate the battle though, because that gives you an advantage in combat, a surprisingly strong aspect of the game.
Fights revolve around AP, with an AP meter that can be upgraded over the course of a battle. You’ll start with no AP, but once you’ve earned 10 points you can upgrade the meter so that each character can get two hits in per turn, rather than one. You can keep pushing your AP meter until the end of the battle, and up against bosses it can really pay to have a higher number of hits at your disposal.
Combat is really forgiving early on in Atelier Ryza, and as you progress there isn’t much need to grind enemies and level the characters up. However, if you completely ignore all the enemies, you will find yourself getting smashed by the next boss. Despite the game being fairly easy going, there are still a few of these big encounters to challenge you along the way.
I loved my time with Atelier Ryza, but if I had to point out one thing that was a little annoying, and I’m scraping the barrel here, it’s the fact that the game’s dialogue is entirely in Japanese. Of course, with this being a JRPG, I knew what I was letting myself in for, and I wasn’t that bothered about having to read the subtitles for every cutscene. However, if you wanted to get into the game and were expecting to be able to learn everyone’s voices and match them to their faces, like you can with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, then this isn’t the game for you.
Atelier Ryza is a beautiful game, with some truly stunning visuals for those who want to venture into its world. The story doesn’t require a lot of explaining, and you can get on board with the world easily, with no barriers to understanding. This is a solid game for the Switch, with graphics that rival a lot of games from bigger developers.
Atelier Ryza is a brilliant JRPG with a core focus on alchemy that’s refreshingly different to western RPGS. You spend your time achieving the protagonist’s life goals, watching her grow, and getting far too attached to her and her friends. The game’s soundtrack is fantastic, and you could easily have it on as something to zone out to if you just need to calm down. I’d recommend Atelier Ryza to anyone who wants to play something different, and people who want to get into JRPGs without their first game being too daunting.
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A review code was provided to The Switch Effect from the publisher.