Over six years into its lifecycle, the Switch is no stranger to RPGs. They’ve become synonymous with the platform, titles both new and old flocking to its storefront, keen to make good use of its hybrid nature. I for one couldn’t get through many of these games without it. Playing an eighty-hour quest just seems all the more viable if you can pick up and play when you’re simply lounging in bed or travelling about. Atelier Ryza 3 is exactly the kind of game that the Switch is perfect for, and one I would have felt entirely less interested in playing had I not held it in the palm of my hand.
Picking up one year after the events of the previous game, Atelier Ryza 3 sees the titular Ryza embark on a new adventure with her ever-expanding party of friends, in a sweeping narrative that acts as a perfect capper to the trilogy. With mysterious islands suddenly appearing all around her home, and an even more mysterious voice sounding strange requests in her head, Ryza is once again pulled into a quest to save the ones she loves.
On its own, the narrative isn’t anything particularly inventive, echoing the usual “save the world” type plotlines usually found in games of this ilk; however, it works perfectly well as a fitting end to this particular story. The Atelier Ryza series is, at heart, a tale about growing up and discovering who you want to be. Over the course of three games, we’ve seen these characters evolve, learn new skills, face harsh challenges, and decide what path they wish to take. It’s all centred on Ryza of course, however, the fates of all her friends are just as important to the overall effectiveness of the game.
The cast, at times, feels ridiculously large. As with any trilogy, a ballooning cast is something you just have to deal with, and likewise, some characters get more focus than others; by focusing on the relationships Ryza has with each however, the ever-ludicrous plot remains firmly grounded in something real. Slaying monsters and travelling to different dimensions is all well and good, but the best stories link this to something real, and this is perhaps one of Atelier Ryza 3’s greatest strengths. Everyone struggles with who they are or want to be at one point or another within their lives, but Atelier shows that we all eventually find our way, even if it’s through taking a path we never expected to take.
If there’s one area Atelier Ryza 3 struggles in particular, however, it’s the combat. The game utilises a mix of turn-based and real-time combat strategies to varied effects. You have to time your attacks quite specifically, waiting for a meter to fill up before you can unleash certain special moves, and linking them all together in order to pull off combos. It all just feels quite counterintuitive, unnatural even. There’s a sense that it was made unnecessarily complicated simply for the sake of being unnecessarily complicated. There’s a lack of fluidity to your actions that feels very grating against the high-stake encounters. Any sense of urgency is laid to rest when you’re fiddling around with a variety of buttons just to pull off a simple attack. You get somewhat used to it as the game goes on, but it remains a somewhat necessary evil throughout the entire experience.
Similarly, alchemy is a mind-boggling and finicky process that could have definitely been streamlined. Each recipe is made up of material loops that need to be filled in to create something, and the loops themselves have a variety of different values, with the loop’s colour determining the elemental ingredients required for it. Higher-quality materials fill these loops faster, however as you advance and unlock better recipes, they will in turn come with more loops to fill in. That description barely scratches the surface of the process, and whilst JRPGs tend to be known for their overcomplicated and obtuse gameplay mechanics, there comes a point where it’s simply not enjoyable.
One saving grace is that the game doesn’t expect you to figure everything out on your own, with a variety of tutorials designed to get you up to speed with the process. These aren’t seamlessly baked into the experience, naturally showing you the way; no, they consist of a headache-inducing series of pop-up text boxes. Again, it conveys the information well enough, but it hardly makes for a fun experience. The ridiculous font size of the text further lets this down. This is a problem that constantly plagues Switch games, and when playing in docked mode it was genuinely difficult to read.
Overall, Atelier Ryza 3 tells an earnest and heartfelt story that pulls together threads from both previous games to finish the series off on a high note. The gameplay mechanics, whilst frustrating at times, aren’t likely to frustrate veterans of the series, however, newcomers should be reassured that the game does try to at least ease you into its more over-the-top gameplay systems. This is an Atelier game through and through, and any fan will find more than enough content here to satisfy.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key £49.99
Atelier Ryza 3 works as a fitting end to this particular trilogy, even if its various gameplay mechanics cause more frustration than enjoyment. Persevere and you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, but this really is a game you need to be fully invested in.