Atelier Ryza has become something of a phenomenon for Gust. Though it isn’t even a year old, it has already passed over 350,000 copies sold and on its way to being the best-selling Atelier game. It’s getting all sorts of crossovers and merchandise. Reisalin and her friends are stars. To find out more about the directions the game took and choices Gust made, Siliconera caught up with Producer Junzo Hosoi, who has worked as a producer on games like Atelier Lulua and Blue Reflection, for an Atelier Ryza interview.
Jenni Lada, Siliconera: Atelier Ryza has developed quite the fanbase worldwide. When did Gust first realize this installment would be different than others and how do you feel about this heroine’s popularity?
Junzo Hosoi, Gust: Right from the announcement, I felt that Atelier Ryza attracted the attention of more gamers than ever before. We were worried if we could maintain this attention until launch, but many gamers continued to support us up to and even after the game’s release, and we received a lot of positive feedback and sales.
When it came to creating Ryza’s default and DLC costumes, how did you decide which directions to take and outfits to go with?
Hosoi: Since summer is one of the themes of this game, we created costumes suited for that season. Also, when it comes to Ryza, we were careful to blend the two features of her being the daughter of the farmer and an alchemist.
Regarding the DLC costumes, we created them using the concept of costumes to enjoy summer and leisure.
There is a whole new synthesis system in Atelier Ryza, which acts a bit more like unlocking nodes on a potential item’s skill tree. What inspired this change in direction and how do you feel it represents Ryza as a character?
Hosoi: The inspiration behind using a graphical (visual) synthesis system was that we got the impression that as the series continued, it became more difficult for new players to understand it, so starting with the Atelier Mysterious series, we changed the direction to a synthesis system that is graphical and fun.
In this game, from the beginning we decided to push it further. It is a system where players can enjoy seeing how the materials are connected graphically, but not a system that represents Ryza herself, rather it’s a way to express visually the synthesis system as we see it.
Which character in Atelier Ryza do you feel is the most revolutionary and usual for an Atelier series so far?
Hosoi: I think that in this game, these are the most ‘usual’ or conventional characters in the Atelier series. On the other hand, the relationships between the characters and how they are drawn collectively is quite different from previous series, so this was a revolutionary move on our part.
This is slightly off topic, but I think that the concept of “instilling Japanese culture into a fantasy world to create something unique” is a revolutionary point.
With Atelier Ryza, it feels like all four of the younger characters receive quite a bit of attention and development, even though Ryza is the "star." What made you decide to go in that direction and how did you make sure every character’s coming of age story had their moment?
Hosoi: I had been thinking for a long time about themes that can be covered because it is an Atelier game, and I came to the conclusion that Atelier games are not about expansive and overreaching themes, but are best suited for themes that are grounded. And at the beginning of production, we decided to create a story where boys and girls overcome various difficult situations while not relying on their parents or adults in their town, creating a summer memory with their friends that becomes the treasure of a lifetime.
Also, I personally like works that use the coming of age theme, so that was also a factor in deciding this direction.
To make sure each character had their moment, they each had something that troubled them, but because they had each other, they were able to resolve their issue and it would lead to their self-approval.
The human villains in Atelier Ryza aren’t initially as clear as others, and even the people who we might initially see as antagonists grow over the course of the game. Could you explain how this influenced the creation and development of a character like Boz?
Hosoi: The setting of this game takes place on an island, and because of its location, the community has an insular part to it. Due to this, there are a lot of one-sided views, and we think that being able to understand the point of view of others is very important, so we wanted to show characters being able to understand others.
And so, the characters that appear in the game come to understand Ryza and her friends, which then leads to these characters understanding themselves, and as a result are able to develop as characters. It is the same for Ryza and her friends. And Bos is a character that appears in order to properly convey these points.
Atelier Ryza abandons character-specific endings and instead has a single ending and character-centric DLC episodes. How did Gust decide to pursue this path and why did the studio choose this direction?
Hosoi: We didn’t use character-specific endings this time, since it is the first game in the new series and we wanted to go in-depth into the world and show a story where Ryza and her friends all work towards the same goal. In the DLC, we wanted to delve deeper into the characters so we created DLC that is character-centric.
What did you learn from Atelier Ryza, and how do you think that will influence future Atelier games?
Hosoi: An extraordinary number of gamers played this game, and we are very grateful for this. The thing I learned the most from this game is that you need to keep challenging yourself.
In this game, we considered everything from scratch, from the theme to the production concept to the visual concept. Even within the company, there were various opinions about the scenario concept and use of the single season of summer.
But because we took on these challenges, I feel that as a result many gamers played this game.
And so, we will continue to create games without forgetting to always challenge things with a positive attitude.
Atelier Ryza is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.