Preview code used, with many thanks to KOEI TECMO EUROPE.
Being a huge fan of the Atelier series, made by Gust, I was very happy to try out the new upcoming Atelier title Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg. I’ve seen the series evolve over the years, so it’s very interesting to see how this very first Atelier game plays. The release is still over a month away, on July 12th, 2023.
A Bit of History
It was May 1997 when the first title of what would be the Atelier series was released in Japan. Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg saw the light on PlayStation. It was ported to several other platforms, like the Sega Saturn and the Game Boy Color, but never outside of Japan. The first games to arrive in the West came much later. Those were the three Atelier Iris games, the first one arriving in 2005.
What’s interesting is that the series’ creator, Shinichi Yoshiike said in an interview with 4Gamer in 2018 that he likes creating and collecting and decided to make a game with that in mind. It’s based on Alchemy, after learning about that interesting topic during his academic studies and inspired by his interest in children’s books and classics.
Why am I taking you on this tour into the past? Because it shows that the Atelier series wasn’t the RPG that we know today. The Atelier series has soared in popularity, mainly because of the Atelier Ryza games. The Ryza games are RPGs with all the alchemy elements required, but also with battles that can be surprisingly tough. They force you to make the most of the combination of getting the best ingredients to synthesize into the best battle items.
However, 26 years ago it started out as a cute simulation game about alchemy set in a fantasy world. Keep this in mind while first looking at the Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg.
Marlone, No Star Pupil
Meet Marlone, or Marie to her friends. Where we have gotten used to our Atelier heroines being ace at alchemy and striving to improve constantly, Marie is no star pupil. In fact, she is in danger of failing alchemy school. Her tutor Ingrid sees potential anyway, as she gives her an atelier and five years to synthesize an item of astounding quality. If she fails this too, Marie will be expelled. Fortunately, Marie is not the person to give up without a try. Helped by her friend Shae, she sets out to complete the task.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg does a good job of taking you by the hand for the tutorial. You learn that Alchemy is key; after all, you have your assignment. But to be able to synthesize, you need materials, and you will need to learn the recipes from books. The books can be bought at the Academy in town; the materials can be bought or foraged. Of course, foraging for materials means going out into the world beyond the gates of Salburg, and Marie is smart enough not to do this without protection. Where in later games, the alchemist’s friends selflessly accompany them and fight together, and Marie has to hire people to accompany her. Which means money is key!
Making enough money, or coins, to get by is important. Around town, you will find several characters to hire. Some go with you for nothing, like Shae, but she is certainly not the strongest one. Although, I love her move of slapping the enemy to inflict damage.
It’s up to you if you go for someone with a high price but with a high level or make use of the people that don’t cost as much but aren’t as good in battle yet. Though I would say, based on my first impressions, that there is less emphasis on battles in this game.
The books from which you learn recipes cost a lot of money. The weapon shop has nice improvements in weapons and armour, but your party expects you to pick up the bill. Overall, living in Salburg as an alchemist is pricey.
So, Marie needs an income. She gets this by picking up quests at the Sky Tavern, where people post their requests on the notice board. Sometimes, characters around town will give her special assignments, too, with a nice reward. Aside from coins, Marie’s reputation will rise too. The Sky Tavern is also a source of gossip, too (for which you must pay), leading you to special places and monsters to slay.
The Time Crunch
You have a choice when starting up Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg: you can play the game with a time limit of five years or play in the unlimited mode for a more relaxing experience.
I remember that, the time crunch! In the first Atelier games, this was a thing too. Not exactly a ticking clock looming over your head, but the five years is in-game time. And everything you do costs time. Leaving your Atelier to go into the town of Salburg costs one day. Travelling to other areas to get ingredients costs several days, depending on where you go. And synthesizing costs time, too, depending on what you make and how many of the items you make. No more tinkering away synthesizing what you want; you’d spend too much time on it. This makes the management part of the game that much more interesting.
In For a Treat
As this is a preview of the full game, I won’t go too deep into all the specifics. But I can tell you that Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a different game from the Ryza series that was the first acquaintance with Atelier games for many players. But this remake has its own charm, from the chibi characters to the emphasis on time and money management and only synthesizing what you really need.
I think we are in for a treat, with extras added to the gameplay that we normally don’t see in an Atelier game! And if you go for the unlimited mode, it can be a relaxing experience too.