It’s not been that long since Gust released the most recent game in the long-running Atelier series. With Atelier Ryza 3 still fresh in people’s minds, Atelier Marie Remake is now ready to take the series back to where it all began.
Until now, Western Atelier fans needed to rely on fan translations to experience the origins of the series. Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg originally released in 1997 for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. It later got a slightly improved re-release for Dreamcast and PS2, although this also never left Japan. However, the game is now coming to the West in the form of a remake, now with a chibi art style similar to the Switch remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.
The premise for Atelier Marie is a simple one. You play as Marlone, aka Marie, who is a student at the esteemed alchemy academy in Salburg. The problem is, she has the worst test scores in the history of the school. Marie now has five years to prove herself as an alchemist, and it’s your job to help her.
Much like other Atelier games, the game revolves around gathering materials and crafting items for quests. However, this system is notably more barebones than in the more recent titles. While the Atelier Ryza games featured bustling towns full of NPCs handing out quests, Atelier Marie has a single tavern in a town consisting only of places required for your needs.
It’s not surprising, of course. This is a remake of a much older title that’s been iterated on countless times, and so it feels stripped back as a result. However, it might feel a bit disappointing to newer fans of the series whose experience is with those larger, more complex titles.
Crafting is similarly simple, as you just need to gather ingredients, head to your atelier, then combine them. Unlike later titles which featured materials with varying traits, the most complex Atelier Marie gets is asking you to buy additional tools to improve crafting. And those are one-off purchases, not something you need to consider each time you craft.
Where the game does get complex is through time management. Marie has five years to prove herself, and different actions advance your time towards that inevitable goal. Returning to the atelier costs a day, and each gathering location in the overworld requires a certain number of days to travel to and from.
This is where the biggest change for the remake comes in. In the original, gathering spots were static screens that handed you random materials for each day you chose to spend there. In the remake, they’re now full maps you can explore, and items are visible. However, picking up these items also spends your days with each haul, and this is where things get surreal.
The original mechanic likely gave the impression that Marie and her friends were scavenging and coming up with a haul of items from a long day of searching. In the remake, it inexplicably feels like it takes Marie a whole day to pick up a single bundle of loose branches.
Clearly the change was made to remove randomness from the equation, but the replacement feels awkward early on. Sure, it’s easier to find exactly what you need, but each day gives you a smaller material reward, and it disincentivises exploring the new maps too much so you don’t eat up all your days. Hopefully this is something that can be adjusted for the final release, perhaps advancing a day for every three or four materials you collect, instead of just one. Or maybe it could be based on how many steps you take while walking around the map. In its current form, it feels both mechanically and narratively nonsensical.
That said, Atelier Marie definitely has some old school charm so far. Its simple barebones structure makes it easy to dip in and out of and feels like a game that will thrive on the Switch. I just hope that some of its weirder issues can be ironed out by the final release.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg releases on July 13, 2023. It’s releasing for the PC, PS4, PS5 and Nintendo Switch.