Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg Re-makePS5/4, Nintendo Switch, PC ¦ RPG
We live in a time of gaming that seems obsessed by a current trend, one that’s quite divisive, that of the re-make.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, Hollywood has been cashing in on it for a number of years now, struggling to produce anything of any originality. It’s a lazy gimmick, in films at least, but now developers have embraced it. The question is, is it a good thing?
This RPG was first released in Japan on the PlayStation in 1997. It then made further appearances on consoles such as the Sega Saturn and the Dreamcast, as well as spawning a further 23 titles in the franchise, as well as a number of spin-offs.
But with the original never officially releasing outside of Japan, this re-make may well be the first look for many of the series.
Attending the prestigious Royal Academy of magic in Salburg is Marlone, known as Marie to her friends. Unfortunately for her, she’s flunking lessons left, right, and centre, and is close to being kicked out.
Her instructor, Ingrid, is not best pleased with her, but believes that she does have the ability in there somewhere. So she decides to give Marie a chance, by setting her up in her magic workshop – an Atelier - where she can not only focus on creating potions, but also help out the community. It’s her last chance to prove to Ingrid that she has what it takes to bring magic to life.
So this is a game that is the perfect example for having remakes in gaming. Obviously the fact that it wasn’t released initially outside of its home land is a big draw. It also looks great, with a lot of character in the visuals and sound department.
It’s a game that looks like it would fall under the category of being somewhat on the cosy side, but that is soon put to the test from the off; you have two options when starting, to play the classic timed mode, where you have a set number of days to complete the game, or a more open-ended version, that will allow you to simply continue playing.
We decided to go with the timed mode, in an attempt to get a sense of what playing the original must have been like.
Now of course as soon as you introduce a limited time aspect to any game, you put a certain amount of pressure on yourself – hence, you say goodbye to cosy times.
It’s a tricksy mode too, as it doesn’t fully explain the mechanics of it from the off, if it did, we may have changed our minds. So the game runs on a day cycle, which is fair enough. What we didn’t realise however was that when your character begins to make various potions, they don’t just take hours to produce, rather days. But you don’t just lose days, you can also lose the ability to attend certain events, such as a sale in the shop, which you missed the opportunity to visit, due to lengthy potions. You do kind of get into the swing of things though, learning something about time management along the way.
Your main hub is the town itself, which is incredibly small, with like no more than five destinations to visit. But it’s here that you come across some characters, who you can hire – up to two others – to join you on various quests.
They have their own abilities, with one of them being far more powerful than you. In fact, after a few levelling ups between you and your party, you soon realise that it’s actually you that’s the weakest link, not having any real powers of note, and this doesn’t change within the game.
And even though there is a weapon and outfit shop, run by a gentleman who has the most amusing storyline you follow, it has truly limited stock, usually with a choice of just two items to choose from.
So off you pop, out into the world, which again, isn’t exactly huge, where you come across creatures that you must defeat in turn-based fights. These are useful because items they drop after battle will help as ingredients in the potions you cook up.
It’s all very basic stuff, but then you have to realise that the base game is over 26 years old, with the basic mechanics remaining the same. That said, if you’re a regular player of RPG’s, it is very playable. And what it lacks in scale, it makes up with in personality, as the world is undeniably charming and colourful.
It throws a few surprises along the way too, one we didn’t fully appreciate it. At one point, one of our party just simply vanished, without a trace. Even after completing the game, we are still completely unaware as to what exactly happened to her; it wasn’t just that we had built a relationship with her, is more the fact that we had spent considerable time in levelling her up, only to have to replace her with someone new and start the whole levelling up process once again. For some reason, she even has a home in town, but you can never visit it, which does feel like the developers rubbing salt into the wounds.
Although the scale of the world is on the small side, it still manages to be quite a comforting experience. Yes it’s a paradise for those who enjoy grinding, but there’s also the alchemy side of it which is pretty entertaining.
And to our surprise, even though we’re far from being experts in the RPG genre, we did manage to complete the game, and within the time constraints. Overall it’s not terribly long, but there’s something quite satisfying about that, where you don’t have to hand over half your adult life to completing a game. Also, the game does offer other endings that you can play through, so there is the opportunity of replayability if you so wish.
Considering we were completely unaware of this long-running franchise, our dip into the remake of the first of the series was a pleasing one. Yes we would have liked more of it, but we guess that’s what the other entries in the franchise are for. But as an introduction to it, Atelier Marie had us under her spell.