Game: Atelier Marie Remake: the Alchemist of Salburg
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows), PS4 & 5)
Developer | Publisher: Gust | KOEI TECMO EUROPE
Age Rating: US E10+ | EU 12+
Price: US $49.99 | UK £39.99 | EU € 49,99
Release Date: July 13th, 2023
Review 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 hear that the very first Atelier title, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, got a remake. I’ve seen the series evolve over the years, so it’s very interesting to see how this very first Atelier game, which was never released outside of Japan, plays. If you got acquainted with the later Atelier games, like Ryza or Sophie, you may be in for a surprise with this one!
Already bought the game? Our guide, which you can find here, might be helpful!
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. You have to bear in mind that this was the time when playing video games was gaining popularity, but the ones like Mario and Pokémon were the standard. One that revolved around synthesizing things and had a huge simulation content was rare. Going in a different direction with Atelier Marie was a bold move. 26 years and 24 main games later, you could say it paid off. Let’s see if the Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg stands the test of time! If you are interested in some more history concerning Atelier Marie, you can read it here.
Everything Revolves Around Quests
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 her alchemy studies. Her tutor, Professor 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, so she sets out to complete the task.
Her little Atelier is in the village of Salburg, a quaint little place that thrives because it is home to the Academy of Alchemy. At the heart of the village, however, is the Sky Tavern, where adventurers can pick up quests for fame and money. Here you can also buy rumours, which will give you access to areas to explore on the overworld map and gossip with the patrons.
Marie must try to fulfil the quests, but to do this, she needs recipes which she can find at the Academy and materials to synthesize. These materials can be gathered in the areas outside of Salburg, but to venture there alone is dangerous. After all, every area has its own monsters! Marie has to hire a maximum of two adventurers to lend a hand, which, of course, costs money. The temptation at first is to ask childhood friend Shae and fellow student Kreis to go with Marie, as they do it for free. But keep in mind that all of these adventurers play an important role in the game, as they will have special requests and lead to events taking place.
Time Ticks Away
From the start, playing Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a matter of balancing money, time and expertise in synthesizing. 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. This will mean you can keep on triggering events after you’ve passed the exam, whereas in Normal Mode, the game stops on the 1st of month 9 after five years.
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 it adds time management into the mix. Travelling to locations to gather materials and fight monsters to get stronger costs a set amount of days. The gathering itself costs time. Synthesizing an item costs time, too, as does regaining strength by sleeping. You have to manage time well, trying to get the materials you want in one go. Only synthesize what you need. But fear not; you get help.
Eventually, the Fairy Forest unlocks, and Fairies can be hired to gather materials and synthesize stuff. They are paid depending on their efficiency. Though this can be costly and you have to manage them wisely, it also helps immensely in making the items you need. Which in turn allows you to fulfil more requests and get more money.
Synthesis, Battles and Events
As in every Atelier game, you progress with a combination of Alchemy and battling monsters, though, in Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg, you will also find some mini-game. Nothing strenuous, things like navigating a labyrinth without being caught or sprinting against the wind while puni try to trip you up.
The synthesis system is fairly straightforward. No quality levels for the materials and no elements with which you have to place the materials on a grid. Instead, when you have the materials needed, you can make the item based on the recipe. Provided you can spare the number of days, have the MP available and the utensils needed.
The turn-based battles are simpler too. There are some bosses, and in Erfolg Tower, you can battle to your heart’s content, floor after floor. Every party member has one special move, aside from Marie, who eventually has two. You can equip items you made to each of them, and they can even share from the same stock. You can equip them with better weapons and armour, and of course, everyone levels up. Surprisingly, Marie levels up by doing synthesis too. In later games, the expertise in Alchemy is usually at a separate level. Here, they are combined.
Though Synthesis and Battles are staples of any Atelier game, events are what make Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg come alive. You can live through them with some of the villagers and the adventurers after increasing your friendship with them. Some are unexpected, a bit emotional or really made me laugh out loud. And beware, they are sometimes tied to a certain time frame which you can’t repair if you’ve missed it!
Visuals, Controls and Music
The controls on both the Switch and Steam work perfectly, and they’ve crammed quite a lot of info into the game. From a guide to check back on the excellent tutorial to specifics about the monsters, areas, and reference books for the recipes and items to make.
Instead of the 1997 graphics, the remake is entirely redone in a chibified theme. They use the original character designs as avatars. Personally, I love it, but I understand this might not be for everyone. It looks gorgeous, however, colourful, detailed and cute. Also, it’s the little details that make Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg such an adorable game. Marie’s childhood girlfriend Shae certainly isn’t the strongest adventurer to take along. But I love her move of slapping the enemy with her duster to inflict damage.
There’s a photo mode in the game to make all kinds of scenes yourself by adding scenery, items, characters and more, just the way you like it.
The music is nice enough, but as I love the soundtrack of later games, it now seemed a bit simpler. Simpler but catchy. With BGM accessible in the menu, you can also make changes.
Nowadays, we are used to the grand adventures of Ryza and company, and you can’t escape the fact that Atelier Marie is a more basic game. It focuses less on battles and exploration, and there might come a point in those five years of gameplay when you really miss new things to explore or items to make. What makes this game worth playing? Managing time and money, setting your Fairies to work as efficiently as possible and working with friends. It’s the events that add colour to the storyline and will keep you engaged to meet as many of the criteria as you can.
Gust did a great job bringing us the Atelier Marie Remake. It gives new life to a 26-year-old title, bringing a new kind of gameplay to the table for gamers used to the later Atelier games.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot