Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg

Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg

For 26 years, the Atelier series has delighted fans around the world with its comforting stories of charming alchemists working away in their little shops, synthesizing all kinds of wonders alongside their friends. While much of the series hasn’t come to the United States, we can finally bid welcome to Marlone—or “Marie,” as her friends call her. Gust has reworked the game top to bottom to celebrate the franchise‘s 26th anniversary. Is it worth the plunge?

Atelier Marie certainly doesn’t play like expected. Anyone coming in anticipating an RPG along the lines of its successors like Atelier Sophie or Atelier Ryza will be quite surprised; Atelier Marie has more in common with Gainax‘s Princess Maker games than anything else. Marie has five in-game years to prove her worth as an alchemist, so players must balance gathering ingredients with synthesizing items. Money isn’t just for buying ingredients; you also need it to buy alchemy tools or pay your bodyguards when you go off to dungeons to forage. And every fight with monsters takes up a single day. Oh, and visiting nearby forests and caves where you can find ingredients can take up to a week—one-way. Finding the very ingredients themselves? Each one takes a day off your calendar. And remember: if you’re taking party members with you, you’ll need to pay them for their services for each trip. And obviously, the stronger party members charge more, so you have even more incentive to get items to fulfill the requests in town to earn money to afford the wages of your stronger party members so you can safely explore the more-dangerous dungeons. And sure, you can use the items you synthesize in battle… but that’s an item that you could have given in for a quest at the tavern, and each one is single-use only. Is it worth spending days collecting resources just to splurge a Mega-Craft on a singular enemy?

But remember: that’s not what this game is about. Not entirely, anyway. Playing Atelier Marie almost requires you to rethink how you approach RPGs—partly because it’s almost not an RPG. You can go quite a bit without fighting. Oh sure, you will need to fight eventually, and there are even some tense encounters like the one against the bandits in the nearby cave or the fabled dragon in the kingdom. But remember: this isn’t an epic about a hero saving the land. This is a much more personal story than that—and besides, keeping your nose to the grindstone in the dungeons will make you miss the real meat of the game: Salburg itself.

Everything Marie does serves to either make her smarter, increase her renown, or get her closer to the people in her social circle—sometimes, even multiples of those at once. Talking to people in town informs you of places to go, things to see, and where to find them. Regularly visiting the library teaches Marie vital recipes for Synthesis and the location of key items. Working too hard in the Atelier drains Marie’s MP while also building her Fatigue, and she’ll need rest sooner or later.

And if you’re too tired to work, you’re too tired to enjoy what the town has to offer: mysterious voices calling out to you at night, random visits from your party members wherein you help them with their problems, festivals, and markets in town. Sometimes the tavern owner’s lovely daughter mans the tavern for him; you’ll know her long before you meet her from how everyone talks up her beauty. And, most importantly: you get to see a side of your party members that you usually wouldn’t get to. Traveling with them increases your rapport, and increasing your friendship enough lets you learn that Mu misses the warmth of her home down South or see Schwalbe’s tenderness towards children in need. You get to go on silly tests of courage with Schea or learn of Kugel’s regrets as a knight. The remake even gives you the Hall of Memories, where you can treat all of the cute characters like dolls and take photos of them being cute with each other.

Here, we can see the beginning of the Atelier franchise‘s tradition of solid character writing and cute skits that bring characters closer. And all of this would be missed by Marie burying her head in the books like she’s “supposed” to. It helps that the game has an “Unlimited” mode where, unlike the normal story, players can play the game at their leisure until they feel like they have synthesized something worthy of their professor. This mode does, however, render some in-game events inaccessible.

These in-game events are the highlight, though. It helps that, at almost every turn, there are all kinds of minigames popping up to illustrate the misadventures Marie gets herself into. Did you synthesize some cheese? Congratulations, now you have to wrangle it back from the mice that hide in your atelier’s walls. Did you happen upon a Golden Salmon in the mountains? Congratulations, now you have to deal with bears. Even the series’ trademark Punis, humble slimes with cute faces, can offer plenty of surprises if you should happen upon a Golden Puni.

And through it all, we have the character of Marie. She’s maybe a bit simpler a character than the Atelier series has given us lately, but from here, you can see how and why the Atelier series has lasted so long on the back of charming leads. She’s cute, driven, a klutz, but she’s the best friend anyone could ask for—and even if she’s the worst Alchemist in Salburg Academy, she’s the best alchemist in the Atelier. When folks need help, there’s nobody better to turn to. Much like Marie herself, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg can be clunky and might need you to be patient with its many peccadilloes. But also, it’s a sweet, cozy sim game that reinforces the notion that everyone has a place in the world, and even the people in the dusty corners can be important. Not everyone needs to be the hero of legend. Sometimes, all you need to be is yourself.

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