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July 2024

Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Gust
Release Date: July 17, 2023


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PC Review - 'Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 14, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is re-imagined take on the classic RPG Adventure, and includes all-new graphics along with plenty of new elements to enhance the gaming experience.

Atelier is probably one of the longest-running RPG franchises on the market. Starting on the PSOne, it has continued to generate new entries and spin-offs for several decades, even as "bigger name" series have gone dark. The Atelier series was only introduced to Western audiences with the Atelier Iris games for the PS2, leaving the early games more of a mystery. Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is an updated version of the game that started it all, and it finally gives Western audiences a chance to see where so many of the tropes began.

Atelier Marie puts players in the shoes of the titular Marie, who is a member of the Salsburg Academy, home to the greatest alchemists of the age. Marie is also absolutely terrible at being an alchemist and constantly ranks at the bottom of the class. She is so terrible that she's given an assignment: She has five years to craft an item so incredible that it impresses her strict teacher, or else Marie will fail. She has to run her own atelier, make her own money, get her own supplies, and prove that she is capable of standing on her own without being an embarrassment to the prestigious academy.

The most important thing to note about Atelier Marie is that it's a remake of the very first game in the franchise, which has evolved a lot since then. I'm not just talking about the inevitable shift from the PSOne to modern consoles but also in core gameplay design. The more recent games are laid-back and low-stress, with an emphasis on hanging out, seeing events, and gradually working toward goals. There are more complex combat mechanics and alchemy mechanics. Atelier Marie is a lot more of a light simulation game. Many familiar elements are present, but the goal is less about relaxing and more about meeting a relatively strict deadline.

Atelier Marie basically gives players a few years to complete the ultimate objective, and it involves a much heavier investment of time. Pretty much everything in the game takes up time. Gathering uses up days, as does synthesis, and you even have a fatigue meter that builds up and requires you to rest. Unlike more recent offerings in the series, you can't do everything in the game and need to focus on specific goals. There are multiple endings that are determined by how you act. Beating a powerful foe may put Marie on the road to being an adventurer, while doubling down on research skills could put her in academia.

If this all sounds too stressful, the remake does offer a new Unlimited mode, where the time limit is basically turned off. Normally, I'd say this is a nice compromise, but so much of the gameplay is built around that time limit that without it, the game feels odd. It's a nice feature if you want to chill out and watch character events, but I don't think it's equal to playing the game as intended. I'd recommend trying the game in its default form before skipping to Unlimited. A big part of the reason for this is that without the confines of a time limit, Atelier Marie is very basic. If you've played any modern Atelier game, you basically get the same experience as Unlimited mode but with gameplay that's been designed around it.

Take synthesis, for example. It's absolutely bare-bones: put items in, get item out. There's a bit more to it than that, but it's tied to the timekeeping. Your ability to succeed in synthesis is determined by Marie's skill level and fatigue level. If your skill level is too low or fatigue too high, your synthesis can fail, wasting a boatload of time and resources. You can rest to lower fatigue, but that also takes up days, and sometimes it can be more worthwhile to take a risk. New synthesis recipes are unlocked by buying books and gathering knowledge, which means you need to making items and also devoting time to figuring out the most profitable items to make.

Likewise, combat is very much on the simple side. It's about as spartan as RPG combat can get. Your party and the opposing party take turns hitting each other until one goes down. The focus is on having the equipment and money to take on harder areas. Most allies need to be paid for their time (friendships can lower this cost), and the basic combat means that it's a lot more important to craft powerful equipment and attack items. There's a simple but enjoyable economy to the system; you invest in gear to get better resources, and that leads to making more money to get better gear so you can get better resources.

The area most like modern Atelier titles is probably hanging out with various characters. Both recruitable party members and various NPCs have their own subplots and storylines, and spending time with them gradually lets you learn more about them. Marie Remake even has new character events, but I'm not familiar enough with the original to tell you which ones are new. This is the part that most closely matches the chill and cozy nature of modern titles, as they fill the comfortable niche of having likable characters in pleasant encounters.

At the end of the day, Atelier Marie is aiming for nostalgia and it might not hit for an English-speaking audience that never experienced that particular nostalgia. Taken on its own merits, it's a fun simulation game but not particularly exceptional today. It scratches a similar itch to Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale, which  was based on the earlier Atelier titles. Beyond that, there isn't a whole ton to recommend it beyond the name. It isn't bad at all, but newcomers will probably feel that this is more akin to an indie title than an Atelier title. It's also pretty darn short, designed so that you can play through multiple times to get different endings or optimize your playthrough, but that also means if you're a one-and-done, it's going to be finished much quicker than other games in the franchise.

The graphics are rather charming. Everything is presented in a cute super-deformed art style that is intended to mimic the graphics of the original game. It's a nice variation from the visual style that the franchise has been using since the PS3 days, and it helps sell the nostalgic and rustic feel of the game. It means that everything is pretty simplistic in terms of animations, but it manages to feel old-school rather than cheap. The music, of course, is absolutely excellent. Atelier games have always had amazing soundtracks, and the tunes in Marie are incredibly good. It's easy to see why good music became synonymous with the series.

Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a nostalgic look into the beginnings of the long-running franchise. It's a simple game, but you can see the elements that would be carried on to later games and inspire other series. If you enjoy simple simulation titles, there's quite a bit to enjoy in Atelier Marie Remake, as the basic gameplay loop is addictive and well executed. However, that same simplicity may cause it to fall a bit flat to fans of the newer Atelier games, and it is a poor choice for a "beginner" entry. It's easy to see why this franchise managed to grab so many fans' attention, and if nothing else, this is a neat way to experience gaming history.

Score: 7.5/10

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