If you’re playing Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key, you’ve most likely played one (or both, you go getter!) of the two previous games. That is, unless you’re like I’ve been with Nintendo’s Fire Emblem and see these characters everwhere, read the wiki pages for them, and adopt them as your own. If that’s the case, I understand; I would lay down my life for Atelier Ryza’s Lent Marslink.
For the uninitiated, Atelier Ryza is a JRPG with turn-based combat and crafting components following the titular Ryza – or Reisalin Stout – as she sets out to have her own adventures with friends Tao, Klaudia, and Lent. During her grand journey, she meets Empel Vollmer, and begins to learn the art of alchemy. The first game in the Atelier Ryza series saw the group following the trail of Ryza’s estranged childhood friend Bos as he tried to pin a series of unfortunate events on Empel and his bodyguard Lila, though Bos changes his ways in the end. The second included Bos in the party of playable characters and saw Ryza and friends continuing their adventures three years later, discovering the secrets of a set of ruins near the capital city.
Atelier Ryza 3, the final installment of the series, sees Ryza a year after the events of the previous game continuing to do the work of an alchemist in her home of Kurken Island. As Tao and Bos arrive to visit, they are ambushed at the beach by strange monsters that come from the Kark Islands, which randomly appeared. They manage to fight the monsters off and as Ryza goes to gather ingredients to create medicine for the injured, she begins hearing voices talking about keys and something called the Code of the Universe. With the Kark Islands creating instability in the mechanisms of Kurken Island, Ryza and company set out to find this “Code” and save Kurken Island in one final adventure.
Gameplay can be split into two categories: combat and crafting. The combat system is a mix of turn-based and real-time combat that allows you to switch between party members and modes. You’ll have eleven characters you can switch between, each with a particular skill set. After an attack your character will have a cooldown time and you’ll jump to another character and utilize their attack or allow them to continue using their normal attack. However, you can also toggle between negative and aggressive modes; negative mode will allow allies to only make normal attacks, while aggressive modes will allow allies to use action points to use special attacks and actions.
Combat in Atelier Ryza can be a little daunting and more than a little confusing at first between managing party members, modes, and learning the controls and timing, but it gets easier with practice, and you want to get that practice in early. If you don’t, you’ll be trying to button-mash your way through higher level enemies, and it will grow frustrating.
There’s also a crafting piece to the gameplay where you’ll create various potions and upgrade equipment using materials and keys. To do this, you’ll visit the cauldron in the base and open up the synthesis menu. Admittedly, this looks a little overwhelming. There’s tons of space for core ingredients, material loops, and elements, but this area is a little easier to figure out and manage than combat. When you collect materials like plants or stones or Secret Keys, you can use these for core or material loops. Each item has an elemental property that will appear as a certain color. These will go in your elemental loops. You need a recipe to create potions, which are found in reference books hidden throughout the world or unlocking them from your skill tree, which can be modified further to create new recipes.
As for building items, you’ll be able to do this once you unlock it in the skill tree, and is similar to crafting potions. You’ll combine found items with an existing weapon or tool to make it stronger or give it special abilities. Crafting may take a few rounds of experimenting to get right, but that’s what makes it fun!
One of the biggest complaints many Atelier Ryza fans have is their party is often so large that certain characters aren’t quite fleshed out. This remains true here as some newer characters, such as Dian Farell and Kala Ideas, don’t get very robust stories, but some of the main group, like Tao, Bos, Lent, and Klaudia, finally feel completely rounded out. Ultimately, I consider this an important fix. Our main crew needed a satisfactory conclusion, and they’ve received it.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End and the Secret Key sends the series off on a high note. It may not break any new ground, but what it lacks in originality is more than made up in storytelling, tweaks to the combat and crafting systems that provide a better (even if confusing at times) experience, and being somewhat digestible for new fans (a handy recap video in the main menu lets you catch up and enjoy the series’ gameplay at its finest). Saying goodbye is always hard, but at least here the send off is bittersweet and never sour.