Whenever I begin a review for a game in a well-established series, I like to give my background knowledge on the franchise so returning and new players alike can get a feel for what they should expect heading into the newest entry. Well, when it comes to Atelier titles, I think I’d call myself an enthusiast.
I’m yet to play the original Ryza, I played Ryza 2 for about 100 hours – you can read all my thoughts on that in my Atelier Ryza 2 Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy review, and sunk a similar amount of time into Sophie 2 – go ahead and read my full Atelier Sophie 2 review for more on that one. I absolutely love both of those games and, not to spoil the rest of my review, but Ryza 3 hits all the same wonderful notes and is a joy to play.
Ryza 3 is an alright starting point in the series, but I do think I’ve missed a few easter eggs as I never got around to playing the first game. However, this doesn’t hinder my enjoyment and the story is entirely separate, only featuring a few familiar faces from the game’s past. So, what can you expect from this whimsical tale? Well, you take the role of Reisalin ‘Ryza’ Stout, an established alchemist who is very trusted by her fellow townsfolk.
One day a new island pops up out of nowhere off the shore of her hometown, and the village elder tasks her and her friends with understanding where exactly this new area has come from, and hopefully finding a way to get rid of it. From here, you go on an epic journey with friends both new and old, using alchemy along the way to craft new items and weapons to defeat increasingly difficult foes.
I’m not going to delve much deeper into the story, as I think the best part of a good RPG is unravelling different story threads and feeling the genuine emotions each beat throws at you. But all of you returning players can definitely expect a story as fun and satisfying as others you’ve encountered in the series, and new players who appreciate the typical JRPG fare are bound to enjoy it.
Outside of the story, I think fun, polished combat is potentially the second most important aspect. The combat feels like an improved version of Ryza 2 and is definitely fluid. You control one character while the rest auto-attack beside you but can flick between your party with ease during a fight if you’d prefer to control someone else for a bit.
At the start of the game, it feels a little button-mashy as you can tap A to attack and kill most adversaries without much more effort, but as you continue, you need to hold down shoulder buttons to use skills or toss items at friends to help them or foes to hinder them. Mere hours into the game I used alchemy to craft bombs with all different elements, and relished in tossing them all at tough enemies whenever possible. As you progress even further and unlock more skills, items, and characters. Each of these elements makes completing a successful, smooth combo very satisfying.
Now you know that combat is as good as ever, what about the alchemy system? Well, well, well, what a surprise, it’s an ever-so-slightly improved version of the system found in Ryza 2. But let me start at the beginning again for all the newbies. Before you can do your alchemy, you must first traverse through the world to collect different materials that you then toss into a big ol’ pot to make bombs, weapons, and all manner of other goodies.
In Ryza and Sophie 2 collecting feels a little slow and stuttered, as each time you pick up an item Ryza or Sophie pauses to bend down and grab it, now in Ryza 3 you can do sprint-by pickups, and it makes gathering a breeze. However, my issue with the basket item limit remains. This time round you can carry 300 materials, and if you’re deep into a gathering session and hit the limit you need to return to your hideout and drop everything off. This can be tedious when you just want to explore and enjoy the world, but it can also occasionally be a nice break that allows you to spend some time actually performing alchemy.
I also need to point out a tedious issue found in a few Atelier games: the screeches of the main character while gathering. It’s obviously a very silly little thing, but I honestly wish Ryza would shut up rather than shouting “HYAAH” every few swings of her tools. I can also let this slide as you can now pet almost all cats and dogs you come across to receive items. I’m willing to forgive a lot for an animal-patting mechanic.
After you pick up all these goodies, you then get to start crafting. This starts off simple, you just put a few items into each material loop and voila, you receive some sort of basic item for your troubles. Sounds easy and the tutorials are very thorough, but mastering the intricacies can take time as you learn how to apply each element and track down higher-quality materials. I have spent many sidetracked hours creating better and better weapons or powerful plajigs.
Heading out into the world before or after your alchemic endeavours is a joy. The huge open areas to explore are full of vibrant colours, a great mixture of tough and cute enemies, and loads of sidequests that take you off the beaten track. I often get distracted chasing down goodies for NPCs or just making sure every section of the map is made available for fast travel.
I played Ryza 3 entirely on an OLED Nintendo Switch, but I think this screen is too small for the available subtitles and as the game is only in Japanese, they’re necessary to understand what’s going on. I would love an accessibility option that allows me to increase the size so I’m not squinting at the screen. For me, this is a small price to pay for portability, but I can imagine it’s a dealbreaker for others.
Another issue that I’m not sure I can attribute to the Switch version or the game in general is brightness. A few areas during in-game daytime do get particularly dazzling, and not in a good way, but more in a way that makes textures hard to make out and things blur into each other. Lowering my system brightness helps a bit and I obviously continued to play for many hours more, but it’s something that could potentially be solved with an in-game brightness slider that most other modern games have.
Outside of my subtitle and brightness issues, I think the Switch version plays wonderfully with quick load times, little to no stutters or framerate issues, and the portability of the Switch is absolutely perfect for when you want to spend hours doing alchemy while watching a bit of TV in the background.
I’m going to start sounding like a broken record, but Ryza 3 really does feel like an optimised version of 2, I can highly recommend it to both new and old players, I love the gameplay loop, and think it’s a grand final foray for Ryza and her crew.
Atelier Ryza 3 Switch review
Atelier Ryza 3 is the perfect way to end the trilogy with slight improvements on almost all aspects found in its predecessors, an intriguing story, and some fluid, satisfying combat. An absolute must-play for Atelier fans.