Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key Interview
The latest title in Gust’s long-running Atelier series and the third entry in the Secret sub-series, Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key launches this week on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch. RPGamer was given the opportunity ask Junzo Hosoi, the Head of Gust, some questions about the game — which takes place a year after Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, with Reisalin “Ryza” Stout returning as protagonist — and the ideas behind it.
Alex Fuller (RPGamer): How does it feel to be wrapping up Ryza’s story? Is there anything you want players to take away from her journey overall?
Junzo Hosoi, Head of Gust: I have feelings of sadness, but also feelings of looking forward to her journey, so my feelings are a bit complicated… It’s hard to put into words. I think that having this invaluable time that is only shared with really close friends, and that time might be seen by other as being “trivial” but become really precious and unforgettable memories to those friends, can become the path and foundation of determining their future. If players can feel that through Ryza and her friends’ adventure, that would make me happy.
RPGamer: What new additions does Atelier Ryza 3 bring to gameplay?
Hosoi-san: I think the biggest additions are the open field and keys. We’ve ended the loading time between maps and in its place make it possible to explore between maps seamlessly, so I think the impression of the play has obviously changed. Regarding the keys, it is very unusual in the Atelier series to have something that crosses over between the system and scenarios, so I think that it will also feel new to those who have played previous games in the series.
RPGamer: Were there any challenges in coming up with a way to build something new in the already established setting for Atelier Ryza 3?
Hosoi-san: In this game, for both the story and system, “keys” is a keyword. Because of this, we needed to consider how keys appeared and are shown in situations such as when the keys are generated, when they are used, and then how they are used in the game, how to make them effective, how to make players want to use them, how to make them alluring, and thinking about all this was a real struggle.
RPGamer: How challenging was it to switch to an “open field” design and what do you think it adds to the game?
Hosoi-san: In Atelier Ryza 2, we gained some experience of a large field, then in Atelier Sophie 2 we experienced the seamless transition from the field to battles, so we have cultivated some experience. In this game these aspects have been powered up, but we were particular of the point of “exploring a vast open field in a way that can be enjoyed as an Atelier series game.” Having a very large single map where players can go anywhere is something that I didn’t think wouldn’t fit the current way Atelier is played. As a result, by dividing it into regions, then connecting those maps within the regions seamlessly, we’ve constructed fields where it’s easy to be aware of what materials are located in which parts of each region.
Also, by introducing an open field, I think players can marvel at or feel excited about areas they’re visiting for the first time, letting players feel the enjoyable RPG-like aspects of the game. When there are areas on the map that seem really far away which you actually head towards on your own feet, the scenery gradually changes, and you might find unexpected things along the way. The changes in the landscape and the sense of excitement that comes with it is something I hope players will enjoy.
RPGamer: What made you consider using “keys” as a main theme and how big of an impact do they play across the game?
Hosoi-san: We wanted something that had a solid theme, and also leave a catchy impression on players. And we wanted something that would hold a lot of different meanings in terms of the system, and something that would be core to and used throughout the game, so we selected the theme of keys. Keys can be used both for opening and closing things, so we though it is a suitable motif where in this game the story of Ryza and her friends comes to an end. The keys are important items that show the path of Ryza’s adventure in the game scenario, can be used to strengthen characters in battles, and can be used to strengthen or adjust items created in synthesis.
RPGamer: How does this game further the relationships between the principal cast, and how does Ryza grow as a person?
Hosoi-san: Each of the three titles in the Secret series illustrates “a single summer adventure” of Ryza and her friends. At first Ryza is 17 years old and still had a lot of childish aspects to her and she is right in the middle of her teenage years when she runs up against a wall and learns to value someone other than herself. In this game, Ryza is now 21 years old, and finds her own way as an adult. There are many instances in life when you make certain realizations or reach crossroads, and our aim was to show this aspect in-game through the Secret series, so I hope all of the players will watch to the end the growth of Ryza and her friends.
RPGamer: Ryza has shown a huge evolution in the Atelier series, how important is it to keep evolving each game while still keeping the core themes and spirit?
Hosoi-san: The Atelier series consists of titles that we create together with all the players, so we think it is very important to incorporate the feedback and needs of the fans which result in the series evolving. And of course we are conscious of the trends of the time, and we as the developers also have things we’d like to create, so we think about how those are compatible with the Atelier series, and what we can do to blend them into an Atelier game.
RPGamer: Is this the definitive end of a trilogy, or is there more in store for Ryza?
Hosoi-san: Ryza’s story reaches its finale in Atelier Ryza 3.
RPGamer: Has the success of Ryza encouraged you to consider more lead heroines sticking in that role for multiple titles in future?
Hosoi-san: Yes, I think so. There are a lot of Gust titles where a female character is the protagonist, so as a direction to take I feel that it wasn’t a mistake.
RPGamer: In your opinion, what makes the Atelier series so special that players keep returning to this series?
Hosoi-san: I think there might be a sense of security of having a game released almost every year, but I think it’s the key feature of the series where the protagonist grows after coming across alchemy, then tries to accomplish or achieve something is what players emphasize with. And I also think the fact we’ve continued with the theme of alchemy all throughout the series.
We would like to extend our deepest thanks to Junzo Hosoi for his time and for answering our questions. We would also like to thank Marc Bianchi and ONE PR Studio for setting up the interview. Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key will release on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch on March 24, 2023.