Atelier Ryza 3 Interview: Junzo Hosoi and Shinichi Abiko On The Upcoming JRPG Sequel

Atelier Ryza 3 was an expected but nevertheless exciting announcement from this year’s Tokyo Games Show. Gust has developed a reputation for releasing its cute anime girl JRPGs in trilogies over the years, and the thicc thighs capable of saving lives are no different. Those things have definitely grown again, and our heroine is in dire need of a larger jacket before she hurts someone. Obvious fan service aside, these games are fun, charming, and so damn comfy.

To celebrate the recent announcement, I once again caught up with producer and head of Gust Shinzo Hosoi and director Shinichi Abiko to talk about this new entry and how it plans to push the series’ formula forward and bring us an entry with ambition unlike anything we’ve seen before. Get ready for open environments, older characters, and even more saccharine cuteness when the game arrives on PS4, PS5, PC, and Nintendo Switch in early 2023.

TheGamer: Atelier Ryza 3 is following in the footsteps of its predecessor and will no doubt be familiar to fans of the character. Was the plan always to tell her story with a trilogy?

Junzo Hosoi: Yes, from the start of the planning process we did intend on having a single protagonist for the three games in the series, and we wanted to create a series where we could follow the same protagonist through the series. At the time, we did notice that there were many series, such as Harry Potter, where you have the same protagonist throughout numerous iterations of the series, so I think this was something that helped influence us. Up until now the Atelier series has been created in trilogies with different protagonists, so we really wanted to focus on and show the full development of a character. In order to do that, having the same character through three games was important as it allowed us to focus on that growth and develop their story. We did think that would be something that would be a big plus for the players.

We know that there is some divisiveness around this, but because this is a series that has been running for a long time there are some players that might have been finding it a little boring after a while, so I thought this would be something that allows us to try something new and give something different to the players. At the same time though, the Atelier series is something that we have created together with the fans, so if we find that the fans aren’t interested in this it wouldn’t be something we would pursue. We have found that, so far, this has been something that has been working!

TG: The first two games used a similar selection of battle and exploration mechanics, so much so that returning to them almost feels comforting. How will Atelier Ryza 3 set itself apart from the titles that came before it?

JH: As the title suggests, the ‘keys’ become the base of the game system, though obviously things that were very popular in the first two games have been carried over into this game and have been further adjusted. In terms of new things, one of the new things that players will find is the field – we have changed this to an open field, all the maps are now tied together seamlessly, so I think players will find that a big change. In terms of battles and synthesis, the keys will play a key role in both of these and will become essential to the system. With the use of keys, we have been able to make the systems a lot stronger and I think players will find them a much more enjoyable experience.

TG: In the announcement you mention the introduction of an ‘open field’ with seamless transitions. Could you expand on exactly how this works in the game itself?

JH: We have taken the size of the maps up until now and we have put them together so that players won’t feel loading times as they move between the maps, making it feel like one big map. We do have maps that were created from the start to be very large, so because of the scale of these areas, the loading times won’t play a role in that – which is a new type of map for the games.

TG: Has the introduction of more open environments introduced any new challenges to the development team? I imagine making sure the mixture of battles, alchemy, and gathering stay fresh despite the increased scale was a fun obstacle to overcome.

JH: The open field itself was a big challenge and something completely new! It is something that we have never done before. In Atelier Firis we tried to do something like this, but this time we took a brand-new look at it to do something entirely new and challenging for us. Another challenge was that we have had the fields and there have been different ways to explore, but with this open field we had to find ways for players to explore it. With a bigger field there are more things that players will be able to discover through exploration, so in addition to that the characters would need different actions. We had to re-look at a lot of aspects of the game to incorporate it.

TG: Exactly how much freedom will the player have compared to past games? Atelier Ryza 2 had relatively large dungeons and areas to explore, but we were always walking down a set path we couldn’t really deviate from. Has that changed?

JH: In Atelier Ryza 3 there is a main story that is clearly set, so in that sense it does have similarities to the previous game. With the open field and the announcement of four different regions in the game, each area has a different feel and story to them so players can learn about the backbone behind them, giving them a choice as to how they approach these regions. A lot of players look forward to having more details about the individual characters' stories, so we do go deeper into each of their stories too. There are a lot of different in-game events that players can enjoy!

TG: Atelier Ryza has been a huge sales success around the world. Has this given you the opportunity to expand your horizons as a studio when it comes to the franchise and potentially taking it to new and exciting places?

JH: I have been allowed to do a lot of different things up until now anyway! Though, with the sales going well, the company has allowed us to take on a lot of different challenges. In terms of RPG games, I think this is something that the company and the team want to be able to do a lot more of and challenge ourselves in.

TG: Will we witness any changes to existing mechanics and characters? One of Atelier Ryza 2’s highlights was witnessing the passage of time and how so many of our favourite characters had grown older and wiser since we last saw them all.

JH: Compared to Atelier Ryza 2, this game takes place a year after that title so the characters haven’t really changed as much as they had between the first two titles. The characters do take their experiences from their previous adventures and apply it to their various adventures in this game though! With Atelier Ryza 3, this really is a game that is the last adventure for Ryza before she becomes an adult, so in that sense you will be able to see a big growth from her throughout the game. I think that everyone will enjoy seeing that!

TG: The Atelier franchise has always revolved around dungeons, workshops, quests, and towns in a formula that fans adore, but it has grown rather predictable in some ways. With each new game is there always a desire to shake things up and try new ideas?

Shinichi Abiko: I became the director starting from the Secret series, and I have played a lot of the Atelier games in the past. Personally, I am someone that feels that I want to change the formula. One of the things that we have been able to do this time is lose the number of times you can use certain items. With the battles, instead of the traditional turn based style, we’ve made it a little more action based too. I think these are some of the new things that we have been able to do. We are keeping some of the formulaic elements that fans are familiar with and enjoy, but we are looking to add additional essences to the formula that can really add to it and enhance it.

JH: I’m one of those people that want to make changes and spice things up, especially since we are now at our 24th entry in the series. We are in favour of shaking things up!

TG: JRPGs so often revolve around saving the world or dealing with an evil threat that puts our heroes up against impossible odds. For the most part, Atelier has always felt like a refreshing distraction from these sorts of stories. How does it feel to know that fans come to your games for something comforting and outside of the norm?

JH: I have always felt the same way about the series. I do need to note that this is the last chapter for Ryza, so I think this time players might feel more sadness in this story! When creating the series, we wanted to tell a story like ‘Stand by Me’ or ‘Stranger Things’ (though in recent series of Stranger Things they are saving the world), so that is the feeling we were going for with this series – you have this secret and you share it with your friends.

TG: I have to ask about the life-sized statues of Ryza that were released. Were you surprised that people actually bought them, and was it surreal to see a character you helped bring to life depicted in such a way?

JH: We were definitely surprised all around! We were surprised that people bought them, that they were actually made, of their size and of their quality! At this year’s TGS, we will have all three of those statues on display, so if you can come to the show you will be able to see it. If you can’t come, I am sure that many people will take photos of them for you to enjoy.

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