You heard some chatter floating in the ether — “Atelier Ryza.” Perhaps you heard about Ryza’s infamous thighs or maybe you heard that the JRPG is about alchemy or crafting.
And you’re wondering: Is Atelier Ryza actually any good?
Here is the short answer:
Atelier Ryza (2020) is an excellent game in the Atelier series that does everything well. Gust doesn’t take many risks with Ryza. It’s a back-to-basics title, which makes it a fantastic first game for an Atelier newcomer. Ryza is great for its straightforward story, game mechanics, and the game’s status as the first in a new Atelier sub-series.
For the long answer, read below. I give my more detailed and nuanced thoughts on the title.
The History of Atelier Ryza Hype
Atelier Ryza was released in 2020 to the most success I have ever seen for an Atelier game. For years, I was consuming every Atelier game I could find on the PlayStation Vita, feeling like I was alone in liking the series.
Nobody I knew ever heard of the Atelier series for years. Not anyone who chatted with me on my Twitch channel heard of the series, for example.
But then Atelier Ryza came along.
For the first time, I was meeting people who heard of Atelier Ryza. Not the Atelier Series — just Ryza. Then, for the first time in modern Atelier history, Atelier Ryza gets a direct sequel where the main protagonist reclaims her role.
Atelier Ryza sold half a million copies and is the best-selling game of the Atelier series so far. With over 20 Atelier games in the series, this is significant.
After learning about the game’s popularity, I picked up Atelier Ryza and played it to the end.
The Elephant in the Room: Ryza’s Thighs
There! I said it. Ryza has thick thighs and little shorts that look so tight that they might rip — and it makes people lose their minds.
Atelier games are known for their anime style and their female-centered cast. Yes, Atelier games are designed for “the male gaze.” The games all have revealing costumes and detailed physics as the female characters move and bounce.
You can also buy extra outfits. Like swimsuits!
For a lot of people, this makes or breaks Atelier games. I admit that it’s awkward for me to stream these games to my Twitch community, where all of us don’t feel like we’re the “target demographic.”
But I have to speculate:
Ryza’s fame in Western countries may have to do with the fact that she’s “thicc.”
Most Atelier protagonists look like young girls — sometimes very young. The girls in Atelier Lydie and Suelle (2019) are bound to make Western audiences feel uncomfortable.
In Steam reviews, I’ve read polarizing comments from being unable to look or needing to change Ryza’s outfit in order to progress — to “Ryza’s thighs saved my life.” To each his own.
Why Atelier Ryza is the Best Game for Beginners
I didn’t get to Atelier Ryza right away. After playing ambitious titles like Atelier Firis with its open world, I was initially disappointed by Atelier Ryza’s simplicity. The world is scaled down significantly. The town feels small. I’ve felt dazzled before by Atelier games, and from the opening scenes of Ryza, I felt that I was not going to feel impressed.
But once I settled into the game, I got to feel Atelier Ryza as a game, and it felt comfortable. I realized that the story itself was even telling me that this game is smaller. The story centered around a tranquil, little island town that had stayed the same for generations. The story quickly becomes a “save the world” plot. As Ryza puts it, she wants to “protect their little lives.”
And it’s true — the world does feel little. The characters of the village act like narrow-minded creatures of habit. Ryza’s parents are farmers and do only what they know.
The themes in the story fit perfectly with the game mechanics themselves. Atelier Ryza as a game is littler than other games and it does what it knows — but it does them well, and it makes this an excellent title for beginners.
Atelier Ryza is a “little world” with little characters and a little story. The crafting is tightly done. The island vibes are relaxed. It’s a perfect late-night wind-down game.
Game Mechanics in Atelier Ryza
After getting into the crafting in this game, I admit, I got attached to it.
Atelier Ryza has one of the most satisfying crafting systems of any Atelier game. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent at my cauldron, not furthering the plot.
Here are some mechanics in Atelier Ryza:
- The battle system: The real-time battle system works well enough; you don’t have to control your other party members if you don’t want to, making Atelier’s JRPG battles short and snappy. This battle system is a matter of personal preference. I prefer turn-based over real time, and I like to control all of my characters.
- The crafting system: The crafting system uses a graph system. This is unlike Atelier Sophie, which uses a grid mini-game system that looked like fitting together tetris pieces. The Ryza graph system is one of my favorite crafting systems because it doesn’t give me infinite options and doesn’t get too complex. I felt that I was fully able to grasp the system and make meaningful choices without burning all my brain fuel.
- The exploration: The worlds aren’t that large, but the game does a good job of making the world more nuanced with unlockable areas using items. You have the option to have battles with powerful enemies, adding an extra challenge and more rare items.
- Item gathering: I love how item gathering was handled in this game. No low-level item went to waste, since I was able to transform those items into energy that I could then use to re-synthesize items.
Is Atelier Ryza the First Atelier Game You Should Play?
Are you thinking of playing Atelier Ryza? You certainly can, and I recommend it.
But honestly, you play one Atelier game and you’ve played them all. The games are all of similar quality. If you decide to start with another title, you may not notice much difference.
I’ve been playing Atelier Sophie 2 (2022) on my Twitch channel, and I can tell you — we’re having fun and it doesn’t matter that it’s a more complex title that is the fourth game in an Atelier sub-series.
While I say that Atelier Ryza is great for beginners, it’s also true that all Atelier games are beginner-friendly — even sequels. The “beginner-friendly” label is given because Atelier Ryza is a simpler title among Atelier games.
If you don’t know where to start with Atelier games, absolutely feel free to drop in one of my streams. We can explore Atelier games together.