Atelier Ryza Review – Relaxing Cuteness
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Release: 29th October 2019 (PC)
GUST’s biggest franchise is Atelier, by far. Featuring almost annually entries full of new characters, ideas and cute plotlines, they became a popular niche series for (J)RPG fans from around the world. With Atelier Ryza they didn’t only try to modernize this whole thing quite a bit but also polish it to a wholly new degree so how did it hold up? Very comfily.
Ryza is pretty much living a perfect idle life. Strolling around with her friends Tao and Lent, trying to find an exciting adventure in their quit townlife. After all, Ryza’s only goal is to become a famous alchemist, go on adventures, have fun and live this carefree fantasy life. Unfortunately, while her dream of learning alchemiy soon becomes reality, there are forces she might have to put them to use against sooner than she desires.
More than ever, Atelier Ryza isn’t about fighting a big evil or saving the world, nor about rising to the very top, instead, the true core of this entry is simply having a relaxing, fun time more than ever. Naturally, there’s an overarching plot, Ryza is becoming better and better and all that stuff known from other entries, it just feels a bit more relaxing and wholesome and previously. This is also because of the whole plotline being even more trimmed down to clichés, forseeable but kinda endearingly naive twists and so on. It feels like a love letter to innocent fantasy stories and should be enjoyed as such.
Naturally Atelier Ryza makes many adjustments in the gameplay too, like the kinda real time combat system. Instead of stiff rounds, enemies and you gain points each second, enabling both to cast spells, attack or use items, similar to other more action oriented JRPGs. While this isn’t a giant revolution, it makes the very stiff GUST system surprisingly more engaging and reactive, since the game constantly tries to build pressure through the many available menus, amount of enemies, party members you can control and general speed at which characters can execute moves.
Combat just feels a lot more streamlined and… fresher, which can be applied to many other aspects too. Like the gathering of resources pretty much never requires you to watch animations of Ryza picking stuff up, the ability to teleport to any gathering spot and hub spot or the seemingly more interesting quests, that offer a better pacing to the previous games. While none of those improvements is entirely new to the series, all of them brought together with the new focus and general streamlined experience actually removes many of the tiny bumps I had with Atelier games.
Speaking of bumps, everyone familiar with Atelier Ryza likely already saw the heaps of fanart and anticipation around not only Ryza’s design but many of the female main protagonists but also male ones in general. I think this perfectly summarizes one central appeal of this, maybe even the biggest one: This entry is the visual high point of the franchise so far. Featuring memorable designs that finally find the right spot between the innocent, outgoing spirit of the plot and Ryza but also the typical anime-like sexiness. Naturally, this is all intentional, it wants to invoke the image of being exactly what you expect from it: Kinda naive and fun to hang around with for that exact reason.
On top of that, Atelier Ryza is a generally beautiful game, profiting heavily from its strong lighting which can create some truly stunning sceneries. Combined with the great design work all-around, it definitely became the one title I could recognize without a doubt out of the whole series. Of course, the soundtrack is a relaxing breeze of fluffy air as well.
Atelier Ryza feels like the comfiest and warmest entry in the series since a long time. Featuring some of the best character designs in the whole series, an enchantingly beautiful graphics upgrade, some new comfort features and a whole lot of innocent, relaxing fun. It’s a title anyone who wants some warm place to relax can enjoy to its fullest and honestly, should right now.
[A Review Code was provided by Koei Tecmo Europe]