With the release of Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key just around the corner, fans might want to revisit the core gameplay elements and story of the Ryza series (also known as the Secret series). Meanwhile, new players may be eager to try the upcoming game but concerned that starting with the third game will create a disjointed gameplay experience. Will that really be the case? In this article, we will briefly recap the stories of the Secret series and their essential gameplay mechanics, all to answer the doubts of new players while serving as a brief recollection for those who have played the first two games.
The Atelier series is known for its relaxed and casual approach to storytelling. The games often feature lighthearted storylines, with most protagonists being amateur alchemists seeking to improve their craft in order to benefit the world and those around them. The focus of the games is mostly not on epic drama or world-altering events, but on the slice-of-life experiences of being an alchemist, such as battling and gathering materials in the wild, while also synthesizing in your atelier shop, which could serve as a relaxing and enjoyable escape from the stresses of the real world.
(Note: below might include some spoilers for the story of Ryza 1 & 2 but with little context, please skip to the next section as you see fit)
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout follows the story of a young girl named Reisalin Stout, who goes by the nickname Ryza. Ryza lives on Kurken Island with her friends Tao and Lent, and dreams of exploring the world beyond her small home. The group befriend Klaudia when they sneak to the mainland one day, becoming the apprentices of skilled alchemist Empel and his bodyguard Lila during their journey. As they improve their crafts, Bos, an estranged childhood friend, plots to wrongly accuse Empel and Lila of causing problems on the island, due to jealousy towards their achievements. The failure of his schemes has led to the party’s pursue of him all the way to an alternate realm, where the truth behind the origin of Kurken Island and threats of invasion by an ancient force called “Philuscha” are then discovered. Bos ultimately reconciles with Ryza’s party and joins them to make amends for the wrongdoings of his family. After successfully stopping the invasion, members of Ryza’s party each take their own separate ways, with Ryza staying on the island in order to prepare for future adventures.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy sees Ryza now working as an alchemist and teacher in Kurken Island. One day, she receives an invitation from Tao, who is now studying with Bos in Ashra-am Baird, to help out his research on nearby ruins. Before she departs, she is entrusted with the task of investigating a mysterious stone possessed by Moritz, father of Bos. Ryza then reunites with Tao and Bos at the capital, as well as meeting Tao’s pupil Patricia. She discovers that the stone is actually an egg containing a creature which she names "Fi”, before reuniting with Klaudia, Lent, Empel, and Lila, as they continue their research on the ruins and the origins of Fi. Clifford and Serri would also join the party as new playable characters in Ryza 2. Later in the story, the party must prevent an accident caused by Fi's powers by confronting the stronger foes of the ancient forces previously encountered in the first game. After the incident, Ryza bids farewell to her friends as well as Fi, certain that they will meet again eventually.
- Synthesis system:
The synthesis system is a key gameplay mechanic in the Atelier series that allows players to create various items and weapons by combining materials, ingredients, and recipes. The system is based on the concept of alchemy and allows you to craft a wide range of useful items that can be used in battles or for exploration. It is often linked to other gameplay mechanics, such as exploration, battles, and quests, where players may need to synthesize specific items to complete certain tasks.
Each game also features a unique synthesis system, but the basic mechanics are similar across most games. The process usually involves selecting materials or ingredients, choosing a recipe, and then executing the synthesis. The quality and properties of the resulting item depend on the quality of the materials used and the player's skill level in alchemy. Mastering the system could definitely lead you to easier victories in battles.
Compared to previous games, the Secret series features a simpler and more streamlined synthesizing system, design to be more accessible to new players. For example, power traits in the Secret series is more straightforward as it only require players to choose the traits that provide the most % buffs, whereas in older titles like the Arland and Dusk series, there are other categories of power traits, such as those that increase power based on traits level, those which provide flat number power increases, and so on. This is great for newcomers to easily grow accustomed to the series' core gameplay system, although hardcore fans might feel that the synthesis system in Ryza is way too easy compared to earlier entries of Atelier games. Despite almost every other Atelier game having a more intricate synthesis system that requires players to bring along useful items to win battles, it is not to say the synthesizing in Ryza in an easy feat, and it could still pose a decent challenge to newcomers.
While the Atelier games might not be groundbreaking in terms of its combat systems, it is still worth mentioning that each game boasts slightly different combat mechanics, although they generally involve turn-based battles with various twists. One of the most notable features of the Atelier’s turn-based combat system is the party-based battles. In most Atelier games, you control a party of characters who battle together. Each character has their own set of skills and abilities, and it's up to you to coordinate their attacks and defenses to take down your opponents.
The strategic aspect of combat is embodied through the use of Action Points (AP). Each turn, you have a certain number of AP to spend on your characters' actions. Different actions require different amounts of AP, so you need to decide how to allocate your points to make the most of them. This system encourages you to think ahead and plan your actions carefully.
The Secret series introduced more fast-paced combat system based on the Active Time Battle (ATB) formula, which sets it apart from older titles in the Atelier franchise. First introduced in the Final Fantasy franchise, in ATB systems, characters and enemies have a meter that gradually fills up over time, and once the meter is full, they can take their turn. As characters don’t always act on the turn ratio of 1:1, battles will be more fast-paced, closely resembling real-time combat. Battles in Ryza also feel livelier as the characters will actually move around the battlefield in order to deal with enemies that are spread out. In this series, delivering devastating combos to build up AP is essential to increase your Tactics Level, which in turn increases the damage that your party could deal and accelerates the pace of the game. In Ryza 2, increasing your tactics level is automatic and does not consume AP anymore, so that players can enjoy more streamlined battles. However, due to the absence of time-management mechanisms, battles are generally easier in the Secret series, as the games provide players with ample time to grind their levels up.
Being the latest subseries within the long-running franchise, the Secret series has been very beginner friendly, as the games do a very good job of explaining all of its mechanics from the ground up, and its combat and crafting are simple yet fun. Also, unlike some of the previous subseries, Ryza 1 & 2 have no time-limit, which is great for those who want to get their feet wet before checking out other more challenging titles.
In terms of narrative, Ryza 1 and 2 focus more on adventuring and exploring. In addition, compared to Ryza 1’s simple requests, side quests in Ryza 2 are more engaging as each quests represents their own quest chains linked to a character’s arc, encouraging players to see through each of their interesting stories. As the series evolves, much QOL improvements have also been made, such as players being able to see what each of your gathering tools will harvest at a glance in Ryza 2.
For the question of whether players should play the Secret series in order, the answer is "No, it's not necessary, but it's still recommended." It is recommended because of the game’s emphasis on character development and the relationships between them, thus players that skipped the prequels might be not feel the “nostalgic” feeling generated by the stories of the reunion between Ryza and friends. However, this is also the only reason why it is recommended for players to start from the beginning of the series. As these backstories could be easily looked up online, it probably wouldn’t take long before you get familiarized with each of the faces in-game. Gameplay-wise, each game usually walks the players through step-by-step tutorials, hence players need not worry about the games being hard to pick up.
Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key is confirmed to boast the largest roster within the trilogy, with a total of 11 playable characters. The game's title hints at a central focus on "keys", with synthesizing, combat, and exploration mechanisms all revolving around this concept. For new players, there’s even an optional Prologue Movie that summarizes everything that happened in the previous two games into a video of around 10 minutes. “Unlock” a new adventure with Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key, coming up worldwide on March 24.
That concludes Lluvia's recap of the Secret series, and we hope it has answered any doubts you may have had. Join us in the fun of immersing in the wonders of Ryza’s thighs(?) !!!