[Review] Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout – Nintendo Switch

Written by slimwiggins

Reviewed by Thomas

  • Developer: KOEI TECMO GAMES CO., LTD.
  • Publisher: KOEI TECMO
  • Release Date: 01/11/2019
  • Price: £49.99 / $59.99
  • Review code provided by KOEI TECMO

Intro

Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout joins an ever growing lineup of Atelier games. With the release of each new game in the series, it’s fun to look at what separates it from past entries. Take a look at my review of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout and see if the latest evolution is a successful mixture or a recipe for disaster.

Budding Friendships

Ryza and her friends live on a small secluded island. In fact, they don’t even have an alchemist let alone know what an atelier is. Atelier Ryza focuses on growing youths, the importance of friendship and developing bonds. They face trials more real to life than just vehement dragons. Lent, the strapping lad with washboard abs has an abusive father. Tao, the studious book-smart bloke is frequently bullied. Together with Ryza they navigate life on the island until a pair of mysterious strangers appear. One happens to be an alchemist who guides Ryza in her new found passion.

Life on the tranquil island slowly begins to change. Large monsters begin to appear. A drought is nearing and the fish become scarce. All travesties put the friends to the test. Especially Ryza who is able to display the benefits of alchemy and show the islanders that it has advantages and isn’t just a hokey fad.

The story has heart and the characters are endearing. The dialogue is laborious at times which dampens the flow of the game. Cutscenes would often interrupt my endeavors and leave me forgetful of my task. It didn’t help that some cutscenes would alter your location. Thankfully a skip option with a decent recap  were readily available.

A New Beginning

Atelier Ryza deviates from traditional turn-based combat. It melds real time action and keeps you engaged in each skirmish. For the most part the characters stay in a fixed position. They don’t run around during battle. You still issue commands but only for one person. You can switch between who you control. It took me a while to adjust to the battle system. At first it seemed overly complex but after a few scrapes I was able to grasp the intricacies. The combat is a fresh approach to blending turn-based action and real time. Your friends act independently and recommend certain actions. If you complete the action within a time limit, the friend who made the suggestion will perform a special attack dealing massive damage.

Exploration was also fine tuned in this Atelier game. Easily swapping around your various tools made harvesting a snap. Using a different tool on an item would yield different ingredients so it was nice to experiment with all the possibilities. The alchemy mechanic was more fun and engaging in Atelier Ryza as well. Hidden within each component during the crafting process is another item. The link system was a clever way to branch out and improve your alchemy experiments from the assortment of materials at your disposal. Of all the Atelier games I’ve played, this one hooked me with the crafting mechanic. I spent hours fine tuning and improving simple concoctions just to use in another recipe. All of the minor improvements aside, Atelier Ryza could come off a bit daunting to new players of the series. It took nearly eight hours to clear the “tutorial”, or introductory act.

An Island of Discovery

On the surface, the graphics in Atelier Ryza look the same as its predecessors. Some minor tweaks to the shading and cells were more noticeable when I compared them to screenshots of the other Nintendo Switch Atelier titles. The environments and characters look lovely on the big or small screen of the Nintendo Switch. The vibrant art and evokes memories of peaceful Summers when there wasn’t a care in the world. Likewise the score in Atelier Ryza molds a setting of wonderment and tranquility. Exploration was a relaxing event and for better or worse, during late night game sessions it lulled me to sleep.

Tethered by Teamwork

From a technical aspect, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout ran as lovely as the characters depicted within the game. I didn’t run into any bugs or glitches and the load times were admissible. Though I spent the majority of the time playing in handheld mode, it was nice to experience Atelier Ryza on the television as well.

Final Wrap

Atelier Ryza was a bit hard to get into at first. Once I passed a few hours I couldn’t put it down. The new tweaks took some getting used to but paid off. Hours melted away while I puzzled at the cauldron and the combat has some unique twists. I also found the exploration and harvesting more joyful this time around thanks to the relaxing nature, beautiful backgrounds and accompanying music. I can’t recommend Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout enough. The slow start and abrupt cutscenes keep this game from a perfect score, but that shouldn’t keep it from your Nintendo Switch library.

Pros

  • Refreshing Combat
  • Addictive Alchemy
  • Pleasant on the Eyes and Ears
  • Did I Mention Addictive?

Cons

  • Sluggish Start
  • Dialogue Downers

Verdict
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout packs an unfathomable amount of charm into one title that only a master alchemist could cook up.
4.5/5

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