The Atelier series is beloved by JRPG fans who enjoy traditional systems and wholesome adventure. The game’s focus on character growth, low-impact narratives, and item crafting has stolen the hearts of many weebs, ours included. However, the series typically focuses on a new main protagonist for each entry, but that’s changed in recent years. Surprisingly, Atelier Ryza has shaken the series up even further with a third entry on the way, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key.
To learn more about this new adventure, we spoke with the Producer and Head of Gust, Junzo Hosoi.
Ivanir Ignacchitti: Ryza 2 was the first sequel with the same protagonist in the Atelier series. With this third entry, what was it like in the writing room to be able to expand even further on a character’s growth unlike ever before in the Atelier series?
Junzo Hosoi: In previous Atelier series games, the protagonist of the previous game became a mentor and is shown to have matured by guiding the characters of the next game. But in this series we’ve kept the character Ryza as the protagonist throughout, so I think we’ve been able to carefully create a protagonist whose growth is shown through the gradual accumulation of various experiences.
As a result, we’ve been able to strongly show how she has matured emotionally. We were very conscious of structuring it so that how Ryza thinks, how she faces the world, and how she approaches alchemy, that all of this would affect and be linked to Ryza’s future.
II: While the first Ryza game was built around the bittersweet theme of summer memories, the second game seemed more about expanding Ryza’s horizons through exploring the ruins. So what would you say is the theme for this upcoming third game?
JH: As the title suggests, “the end” is the theme. In this game, we wanted to completely show the end of a youthful period of their lives. This game tells the journey of Ryza becoming an adult and finding what she wants to spend her life doing, and bidding farewell to the person she has been.
II: Exploration has been at the root of the Ryza series, with Ryza 2 drastically improving this aspect with various tools and options like swimming or jumping around. It even rewarded players for looking up every nook and cranny through its Exploration Diary. As Ryza 3’s story revolves around the appearance of mysterious islands, how are you planning to evolve these systems further?
JH: The core system in this game is the implementation of “secret keys.” By using keys that can be obtained in various situations, they can unlock treasure boxes and gates hidden in the field, allowing players to progress in the game with a lot more to meticulously explore than in the previous game. Also, collected keys can be used in synthesis and battle. It’s a game design where simply keys should be collected and used.
II: The new game will feature 11 party members. Will all the previous playable characters be back in playable condition or unable to join due to their current circumstances? Considering the number, at least two of them should be new. Can you tell us anything about the newcomers?
JH: More details will be revealed in upcoming months, but I think characters from previous games that fans are hoping for will probably be playable! As for new character(s), I think they are unique in their own ways so please look forward to them.
II: Unlike previous games in the series, the Ryza games and the recent Sophie 2 focus on a single story rather than multiple endings. Is this what we should expect from the series going forward, or do you have plans to bring back the character endings in a future game?
JH: With each series and title, it is something we consider so I think it might return in the future! However, for the Secret series, they do not have multiple endings. Since the Secret series is not only Ryza’s story but also her friends’ stories as well, we would like to properly show the path that each of them take.
II: Alchemy is at the core of the franchise, and each series and title in the game brings a unique spin on the mechanics. The Ryza series streamlined it considerably, and Sophie 2 combined what the team learned in those games with its unique puzzle-like formula. So what is Ryza 3’s alchemy like?
JH: It basically follows the system used in the first two Ryza games. This time, there is the addition of secret keys, so enhancing items has become more intuitive. In addition, there is a big change to the recipes so that there is now a system where players can rewrite them to create the effect they want, so it will be possible to synthesize items with a greater degree of freedom than in previous games.
II: The fast, dynamic real-time battles are back in Ryza 3. Are there any new mechanics you implemented to further polish and streamline combat? How do Ryza 3’s battle systems compare to Ryza 2?
JH: This time around, two characters can be switched out, allowing for more strategies in battles. Also, by using secret keys, the pace of battles has become more like action games. In addition, characters that aren’t included in the battle party can perform support actions, so more player strategies can be reflected in battle compared to the previous games.
II: One aspect we came to associate with Gust titles over all these years are gorgeous soundtracks that are bliss to listen to. The sound team nails this aspect so well it’s impossible to ignore its high quality. For Ryza 3, can we expect the same composers to come back?
JH: In Ryza 3, starting with the Gust sound team, we received the cooperation of many people who created tracks that really liven the game world. Similar to previous games, we have many tracks that will excite players. In addition to the four regions in the game, there is also an expansive field so I hope players will notice the changes to the music while exploring.
II: Still, on the subject of music, one detail that distinguishes the Atelier Ryza games from many other RPGs is the variety of instruments that grant a vivid feeling to the OST performance. In particular, its prominent usage of wind instruments, like the flute, the piccolo, the clarinet, and the fagotto, come to mind. Will tracks keep this mark, or are you going for a different atmosphere this time?
JH: We are going for a similar movie-like musical accompaniment as the main arrangement. In addition to considering different instruments to match character personalities, we are also preparing various gimmicks such as tracks that have slight changes based on different areas in certain maps.
II: Any chance we could see an Atelier dating sim in the future? Like, maybe one with Ryza having the opportunity to get more intimate with Klaudia? The series had an otome game before with Atelier Elkrone, but there should be some room to explore more venues in the future.
JH: Actually, we did consider it once.. But at the time there were various obstacles so we had to give up…
So I think there still a possibility!
II: Anything you’d like to tell the overseas fans about Atelier Ryza 3?
JH: Thank you for always supporting the Atelier series! We have taken all the various feedback received for the Ryza games and are creating a game that is the biggest challenge of the series for us, so I think you can all look forward to it! We hope you will continue to support the Atelier series and Gust.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam on February 24, 2023.
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