Games I play: Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout is the umpteenth game in the Atelier-series by Gust. An often cozy, slice-of-life RPG with focus on alchemy—a robust crafting system that’s at the core of its gameplay. I first came in contact with the series on PlayStation 2 with Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana and its sequels during my first “buy all Japanese RPGs” period. With Ryza on Switch getting glowing reviews, I thought I’d try jumping back in.

It’s hard to not notice that Gust is firmly stuck in the “pretty anime girls” way of designing characters but if you can look past that, there’s a very charming and engaging RPG underneath. Both the pseudo-turn-based battle system and the alchemy you do in the titular Atelier are easy to learn but also deep and very rewarding. The gameplay loop of reaching a new area, gathering new resources, synthesizing new things to get stronger to be able to reach another new area is as solid as it gets. It was all too easy to play just a little bit more, and suddenly it was late into the night. The plot is not much of a plot, but the game is quite good at focusing on the bonds between the characters—a hodgepodge bunch that you end up feeling quite attached to by the end.

Things I liked:

  • The gameplay loop is very engaging
  • The battle system is surprisingly inventive and deep
  • Alchemy is fun!
  • Absolutely brilliant music, the first battle theme is firmly planted in my brain
  • It’s the perfect length, taking between 20-40 hours to beat depending on how much you engage with side content

Things I didn’t like:

  • The character design of certain female characters…
  • The side quests’ annoying “wait one day and return” structure
  • The walking animation feels real out of sync with the actual movement of the character, a small thing but something that really irked me

All in all, Atelier Ryza was a very cozy RPG-meets-crafting-sim that was just the right length to keep me invested and entertained. If you can stomach the anime visual style, it’s a real gem of a game that’s the perfect palette cleanser after big, dark, and overly serious games like Final Fantasy XVI.