Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure RPG, Crafting
Developer: Gust
Publisher: KOEI TECMO AMERICA
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4
Tested on: PS4

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout – Review

Site Score
8.0
Good: Great summer vibes with a unique story
Bad: Lacks some challenge besides certain ''bosses'', Crafting options could go faster.
User Score
9.0
(4 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (4 votes cast)

The Atelier series consists of games that have been around since 1997. A common theme in these games is gathering ingredients and performing alchemy to create new (useable) items from these ingredients. Items such as armor, fishing rods, potions, cookies, and more. It’s very much like the greedy Tom Nook from Animal Crossing and let’s say Squall from Final Fantasy VIII made an anime love child, or multiple children, about hoarding as much money and items as possible, by not only slaying creatures, but by crafting tools to harvest nature as well. Their latest child is named Ryza, and she has quite an adventurous story to tell.

Story

That is, adventurous in a way that it would be adventurous for normal people as well. Nothing over the top, no village being plundered and parents being murdered. No, Atelier Ryza is very calm in a way. It has two central themes. One is more visual and all about forgotten, warm days of summer, where everything seemed possible when you were a child. The other one is central for the story and all about growing up in general and following your dreams, as we get to follow a young farmer girl named Ryza and a few of her friends who each decide they have their own goals and ambitions around the same time.

With a whole bunch of cutscenes, about one every two story-zones (which translates to one cutscene every two minutes in the beginning), Ryza quickly discovers her love for alchemy and sets out to grow as an alchemist. This is earning her weird looks from family and villagers, though her kindness and network of a few close friends are always there to help her. You get to sit back and enjoy this story as it unfolds most of the time. When not looking at the cutscenes, the game is also calm and easy on you, as you can control the hopping Ryza who lives on a beautiful island with plenty to see. The story is a bit limiting in your freedom to move for a long time but gradually allows you to discover more and more of the world surrounding you.

Graphics

With absolutely beautiful graphics, Atelier Ryza is appealing to all audiences and ages. It’s a highly detailed and colorful world, where the only thing not being done very properly are mouth movements during conversations. Besides that, it’s a very soft anime style with warmth and compassion beaming into whatever room you are playing the game. The summery vibes could be perfect for the upcoming cold winter. In terms of anime games, it’s very well done and alive, including the various animations in combat and conversations.

Sound

Where the graphics are appealing to all ages and colorful, the sound backs it all up with very light-hearted orchestral/cinematic music. It’s the type of music that you find in anime series that don’t take themselves too seriously. A bit humorous, hopping around as easily as Ryza herself. The voices are also really well done. With original Japanese voices and English subtitles, you get the best that anime actors can offer. The tougher righteous guy, the cute independent girl, the cowardly nerd, Ryza and her friends come through in a proper fashion.

Gameplay

Despite the calm summer vibes while playing, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout also has some fighting involved. It can be dubbed an adventure RPG with a few action elements. Ryza has her own room where you can do things such as changing your clothes, resting to wait for the morning/day/evening/night, saving your game, and creating new objects with alchemy. These objects can be crafted by manually following a rather complex system where you add single ingredients and add bonus properties to those items which, for a lot of items, is really useless. Luckily you can also auto-create items by following recipes with a single push of the button, but the auto-creation system is still pretty slow and could use an adaptation to create many things at once.

When not in your room, you are either gathering ingredients and just exploring the environments, or you are doing small quests for villagers and friends. The main story is a combination of all these things but has the purpose in gameplay to slowly unlock new things and weave all the gameplay elements together. When out to gather stuff, you can pick up some items, while for others you will have to craft certain objects first. A fishing spot can’t be accessed without a fishing pole, a tree can’t be cut to lumber without an axe. Some of these items can’t be created until later on, giving you a reason to come back to earlier areas. Also, there are multiple monsters in each area. You can hit them on the head or bump into them to start a fight. But since the combat is actually really easy, especially the first few hours and after creating some items such as bombs, all this calm, comfortable gameplay can also be annoying because it lacks a challenge.

During fights, you have portraits floating down in the left corner that indicate which character’s turn is next. When it’s your turn, you can either reposition yourself (which means front or back row mostly), do a normal attack, use a special attack, or use an item such as healthy options or bombs. Atelier Ryza tries to do it all a bit different than similar battle systems such as Final Fantasy or Pok√©mon though. For one, each basic weapon attack gives you one AP. With ten AP, also gained by hitting a monster on the head in the field which gives you an advantage, you can upgrade your tactics level to level two. This means your characters will now do two basic attacks, doing more damage, as well as gaining AP faster.

But, you can also choose to use AP for spells. The key to winning tougher fights is to figure out how strong your enemies are, what their weaknesses are, and to balance your tactical level upgrade versus your spell and item usage to barely lose health while finishing the fight as fast as possible. Which is, as mentioned, not really hard. So while cool, the AP system combined with some other extras during fights seem to give you a ”fake” challenge in a way, as much as a game telling you to press the green or red button on time. But perhaps that’s just fine because Atelier Ryza is all about the relaxing experience of creating and enjoying surroundings anyway.

Conclusion

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout can be a bit weird when you don’t know what to expect. The game is almost meditative in its beautiful environments and simple system of letting you go out to gather ingredients to transform them using the more (overly) complicated alchemy system. The fighting lack some challenge but altogether, it still fits together in a weird and cozy way that allows for some addicting, relaxing gameplay with a neat story and uplifting music.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (4 votes cast)
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Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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Find me on youtube to see some playthroughs! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuBrlulGywcb0EiYWBnA1ng

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