Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & The Secret Key interview: Junzo Hosoi on Ryza's latest adventure

Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & The Secret Key is the latest entry in the Atelier series, and the last entry in the Ryza trilogy - which has become the most successful Atelier arc in the series' history. With Ryza 3 having taken a longer development time, and taking a much more ambitious approach to its world design, there's a lot of questions players might have about the upcoming adventure. Thankfully, Koei Tecmo gave us just the opportunity to answer these questions and more!

Before the official reveal of the game, we had the chance to field some questions to the game's Producer - and the Head of Gust - Junzo Hosoi. If you're curious about our previous interview with him back around Atelier Sophie 2's launch earlier this year, you can find that here.

Q. One of the most interesting aspects of Atelier Ryza 2 , was seeing how the gameplay intersected with how Ryza had matured as an Alchemist, such as with how you would explore ruins to discover bits and pieces about the people who had once lived there, before then analyzing everything you’d learned to figure out their societies - with another year under her belt, can players expect any similar gameplay/narrative systems that take advantage of Ryza’s continued mastery of alchemy in Ryza 3 ?

Junzo Hosoi: The story in Ryza 3 takes a pretty deep dive into the history of alchemy and alchemists, so I think the growth of Ryza as an alchemist is much more strongly portrayed. And of course, we are preparing in-game mechanisms such as glossaries and adjust how things are shown on screen so that people new to the series can jump right in, so they don't need to worry.

Q. In a similar vein, Ryza 2 ’s dungeons were perhaps the best part of the adventure with how much scope they afforded, and how they would actively change as the players progressed through them via the use of alchemy. Will this style of dungeon return with Ryza 3 ?

Junzo Hosoi: Similar to previous games, the use of alchemy for field strategies plays a very important role. Not only will it be necessary for defeating powerful monsters and bosses that appear in dungeons, but it has an important role when it comes to the "secret keys" and exploration. We have prepared scenarios that delve into each region, so alchemy will also play an active role.

Q. Earlier this year Gust explained that if there was enough fan demand we might see Atelier release on Xbox in the future. While I’m not sure if you’re able to share what platforms the game will be coming to at this time, is there any chance that Xbox owners might be able to experience Ryza’s journey for themselves in the future?

Junzo Hosoi: It's not impossible. But, at this time there are no plans. However, I personally love Master Chief, so if there is a chance, we'd like to release it on Xbox.

Q.  Ryza 2 introduced a rather drastic change to how Quality is calculated during alchemy, in which instead of Quality being an average of each item used during Synthesis, instead it could never actually drop upon an item being added to the mixture. While I personally found the change welcome, I can also understand how some older Atelier fans might have been discouraged by it. What was the thought process that led to the change, and is it being retained for Ryza 3 ?

Junzo Hosoi: When we began work on the Secret series, we aimed to create it to become something that people playing the Atelier series for the first time would find it easy to understand. If we had continued along as before, then the approach of "looping the quality traits to prepare the highest quality ingredient" that players had been doing in past titles would require new players to understand a complicated process, which in turn if they don’t understand it they won't be able to surpass a certain standard of quality of ingredients for synthesis. So instead, we changed it to make it easier to understand by phrasing it such that "if you add a lot of items, the quality will increase. The better the ingredients, the higher the quality." In that aspect, Ryza 3 has not changed.

Q. A silly, but overall charming, addition that Ryza 2 added was rain - and how it would not only just drench the characters while out and about, but would also leave noticeable puddles for a period even after a downpour had subsided. Are there any plans to expand upon the weather system with Ryza 3 ?

Junzo Hosoi: Although it's not weather, we have added the appearance of dirt or getting dirty. For example, when Ryza crawls through narrow paths or an intense battle has ended, those outcomes are shown.

Q. Traversal upgrades in Ryza 2 were one of the greatest changes versus the first game - allowing Ryza to swim, even underwater, added a lot of depth to the areas that players could explore - and opened up a whole new world of materials you could gather. Have Gust developed any other unique ways for players to explore the world with Ryza 3 , and if so - is there anything specific you want to point out to fans?

Junzo Hosoi: For this game, we have increased the number of animals players can ride from one to three. Each of them have unique effects, and obtaining them will expand the exploration area. We have also added systems where players can experience even more various situations.

Q. While the gap between Ryza 1 and Ryza 2 ’s release was around a year - even during the height of COVID-19 - it stands out that Ryza 3 has had a noticeably longer turnaround. How long has the game been in development - and has the larger gap between releases allowed the team any additional liberties while developing the title?

Junzo Hosoi: I think this game had a longer development period than most Atelier games, but it is because we spent a lot of time laying the groundwork for it. Since we were going to continue telling Ryza's adventure, we had to think about what kind of location we would need to enable players to feel the vastness of the world, what kind of characters would be suitable and fit in with the existing roster of friends and how to add them in, etc. Aside from that, we were re-examining things regarding the system, so we ended up taking more time than usual for development. And even though it's not quite an additional liberty, at Gust our mindset is that enjoying life is what enables us to develop games, so we made sure to create a development environment where the staff is able to take time off.

Q. While the Atelier series has always had stories, it personally feels like Ryza 1 and 2 have had a much larger emphasis on the plot than some of the series’ prior entries. Has that been a deliberate decision - and if so, can players expect that to continue with Ryza 3 ?

Junzo Hosoi: The concept of the Secret series is to have an atmosphere and storyline unlike previous Atelier games, so the story and plot that is at the core of this series is what takes a lot of time. For Ryza 3, it follows the same path, and I think we have prepared a story that is fitting for Ryza's final adventure.

Q. Finally - is there anything else you want to convey to fans as they wait for the game’s release? Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions!

Junzo Hosoi: The Ryza games have been played by many of you, and we have received a lot of feedback about them. This game is created in response to that feedback. This is the most challenging title of the series, so I hope many of you will play the game and feel the passion of the development team!

And thank you for always supporting the Atelier series and Gust. I'll be thrilled if you can continue to support us!