Gust is always changing how alchemy works in Atelier games. The synthesis system is in flux, with different means of piecing things together appearing almost every time. Sometimes, you’ll have more puzzling moments. The Mysterious series has entries with grids and ingredients having different colors and shapes to fill boxes. The Arland trilogy tended to have you picking items from lists. Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout changes up everything in the best sort of way, and the result is an entry where it is easier to become an invested alchemist.
Atelier Ryza is the first game to use the Linkage Synthesis system. While this means you are still picking items from a list, it also means that you are going through a series of what essentially feel like skill trees to help Ryza create items. When you pick a recipe, you see a series of nodes connected to one another. Initially, the first cell is open and requires a specific item. Additional notes unlock depending on the type and qualities of ingredients you add to the concoction. Each one adds a new sort of element or quality to a recipe, letting us see how each item is formed. By reaching acquiring certain materials, filling in certain element requirements and improving Ryza’s skill level, new nodes open up. So yes, you are still selecting items from a list. However, more thought is going into what you pop into each node.
Especially since Linkage Synthesis is how Ryza will acquire many of her recipes. Past Atelier games offered different ways to increase the lead character’s repertoire. In most games, you find recipe books. These can be given to your avatar or purchased from shops. In some, like Atelier Firis, finding certain materials could help inspire new recipes. Ryza learns by doing. Each recipe you know might also have other recipes hidden within it. It is only by carefully filling in the cells in a tree that you can cause a recipe to change and create a different product.
This ends up turning Atelier Ryza into more of a puzzle. When a recipe has more than one option, you’ll see notes in the list that show items that could be created and the key ingredient needed to make that happen. If you see red, you’re deficient in some way. (Typically, it is because Ryza hasn’t encountered that item yet.) Even if you do have that item, getting to that special recipe isn’t guaranteed. You can only add so many items to a synthesis and you need to hit certain thresholds to trigger the recipe change. As a result, you could see a possible new item teasing you for hours before you finally get the sorts of materials that help you reach and achieve that new goal.
The result is an alchemy system that feels more natural. Throughout Atelier Ryza, her mentor Empel tells her that she needs to rely on her innate talents and common sense to create things. Becoming an alchemist requires creativity, and we get to see Ryza think things through with this new system. We’re helping her discover new ingredients in the field, then seeing firsthand how that changes things once she gets back to her cauldron. When she makes a discovery, it’s like we’re seeing it. Maybe we’ll even understand then how different ores, say a water-related one, could change a normal sort of bomb into something elemental.
It all comes down to common sense. Atelier Ryza makes alchemy feel more practical. It’s always seemed like a sort of magic, since the games does have its lead characters creating an entirely new item after dumping plenty of somewhat-related items into a big pot. Here, it becomes easier to understand. As we go through the game, we get to learn how things work and combine. We see how recipes build off of one another. It makes working out new recipes an engaging challenge, as it drives people forward to find new things and reach new areas that could bring Ryza closer to realizing her dream.