Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg Review

Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg by developer GUST and publisher Koei Tecmo AmericaSony PlayStation 5 review or preview written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

I've been playing the Atelier series for a long time now. Having started all the way back with Atelier Iris on the PlayStation 2, each new entry into the series has been met with wonder as to what would come out of it. Well at least for me it has! So while Atelier Iris was probably a start of the series for a lot of us in North America, finally being able to play the first entry in the series with a remake of Atelier Marie is a treat to see just how far the series has come, and how much has stayed the same. 

So with that thought in mind, I realize that the love and hate relationship with one of the Atelier series' features wasn't Atelier Rorona's fault. It went much further back. The feature in question is the time limit imposed on the adventure and that everything you do takes up some of that precious time easily leading you to the end of the adventure.

For this adventure, Atelier Marie has two game modes which affect the time limit. The first of the two modes is the Normal mode which is how the experience was designed. Given a graduation exam which is to be passed at the end of the five in-game years, when the time is up, the game will come to an end. Unlimited mode however can be played past said graduation exam and can be ended at any point in time. It is noted however that some events will not occur in this more casual of the two modes.

Having played on Normal as the experience was intended, I found myself stressing out about the clock in the beginning. Like a lot of entries in the series, Marlone, or Marie for short, is a beginner in the arts of alchemy. Actually… Marie is REALLY bad at it which acts as the premise of the adventure. More or less booted from the actual academy, Marie has been given an Atelier of her own in order to figure out alchemy in a different setting. This is what leads to the five years and the final exam.

So to meet the requirements of the final exam, Marie is going to be given a fair amount of tasks while also being given a lot of freedom. Do you stay in the Atelier for a few days and experiment with the materials on hand? Or do you go out on an adventure into the surrounding areas for new materials? Do you head over to the tavern to pick up requests for materials and items? Or do you simply sleep the day away? Each of these decisions will easily subtract time from the clock and while five years sounds like a long time, it really isn’t.

Starting from the top of this list of actions, simply leaving the Atelier will cost you one day. From there however, walking around town, or quick traveling, will simply be a part of that day. Accepting requests at the tavern is a great way to earn money and Marie will need this to pay for alchemic recipe books and tools from the academy. Money will also be used to pay for rumors which can lead to new areas as well as hire adventurers to head out to these locations as Marie on her own won’t last long. At least not in the beginning.

Over the course of the adventure, as you leave town you’ll have access to a variety of areas with increasing difficulty ratings and travel times. The difficulty ratings really only relate to the enemies and monsters that you’ll face, but thankfully, if you don’t want to fight them, you can generally run around them as you collect the materials that you need. If you do want to fight though, Atelier Marie plays host to a simple JRPG battle system. Characters can attack, defend, or use items or abilities against their total magic points. 

Characters on the field of battle can also be placed in one of three rows. The middle row will keep that character’s stats status quo. Bringing them to the back line will increase their defense by 20% but reduce their attack by 20%. Bring them to the front line and this reverses where they are now, much more powerful but can take less of a hit. It works rather well for when it’s needed and while combat is not generally the main focus, the available boss fights were a nice challenge.

Speaking of challenges though, a neat touch are the minigames that can occur while exploring or performing alchemy. In one case, you’ll be controlling Marie in a side scrolling jumper to reach a tree and collect ripe apples with puni of different colors and actions will try to get in your way. In another case you’ll be running through a maze to steal a golden salmon back from bears. There's a whack a puni where you have to run left and right to hit them with a hammer. You have to be careful as the puni can both stack up and there are also bombs falling into the mix which will explode if you hit them or too much time goes by. 

Moving into the possible alchemy minigames, cheese can be stolen after performing alchemy. You have to chase the rat and again while you do have three minutes, if you can do it in under one you'll get an additional portion of cheese. Reverse to synthesizing cheese, by creating Time Slates you instead of chasing after a rat have to run away from night hags. If you can collect all the panels present in under a minute however you can receive an extra time slate. All of these minigames have a three minute time limit and are actually rather rare to pop up as I believe the only ones that I did more than once were the alchemy based ones. Regardless, they were a good distraction from the main adventure when they did happen.

Moving back into the adventure after the minigames, where things get back to another level of tricky is that if an area is six days away, that’s a total travel time of twelve days and you haven’t even done anything in that area yet. Going into battle all counts as one day but as you collect materials, each time that you collect anything, that’s a day off of the calendar easily costing you an entire month. Travel time isn’t such a bad thing until you consider that certain events will not wait for you. If an event is slated for the 25th of the month, if you come back on the 26th, you missed it. 

Thankfully multiple events are annual so you could always catch it next year, but odds are, you may miss it then as well! So travel time does get a bit tricky and even costly as mentioned above. You need to hire help to go with you. Some people will actually join you for free, but most of the battle hardened ones will cost a pretty penny and sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of breaking the piggy bank.

Once you’re back in town from all the adventuring with plenty of materials from either nature or monsters, you’ll have the option to synthesize items. I mean that’s the point of the series isn’t it? This, like leaving town, is going to be a major time sink and easily cross days off of your calendar as some items can take up to fifteen days to complete. So it’s a good thing that on top of being able to hire adventurers to help in the field, you can hire fairies to both help in the field and within the atelier. 

Unlike adventurers who you have to pay on the return to town, fairies are paid monthly salaries. These salaries range in the abilities to do stuff. Some will perform the same tasks as Marie anywhere between two to seven times slower, while some will be on par or even perform tasks faster. The monthly cost of fairies that are either on par or faster is much higher, but, if you’re performing alchemy and they are performing alchemy, you can get a lot done in a much shorter amount of time. The other benefit as you hire fairies is that you can send them out to the various areas that you’ve uncovered in order to gather materials. Hire enough help and by the end of the game? You don’t even have to leave your atelier if you don’t want to in order to concentrate on completing all your alchemic recipes.

This reduces the stress of the clock and honestly by year 4? I was ready to speed to the end of the adventure. I had done everything that I could save to make one recipe as the items required were out of reach meaning I couldn’t complete that one last entry. Playing on normal, getting to the end of the five years and passing the exam was almost bittersweet as I wanted to get that item made as it was important to someone who I had adventures with. Once that clock strikes for the final time though, you are treated to an epilogue which then allows you to save your clear game data to start it all over again.

Atelier Marie isn’t very long and part of this was to be expected as this is a much older title being remade for today. With the latest Atelier Ryza being 40+ hours, Atelier Marie Remake was around 10+ hours and I didn’t mind as it easily allows for multiple playthroughs. With plenty of different party members that can be hired to help out with your adventures, as these friendships increase they’ll unlock different character events as you play through the years. 

Overall I was quite happy with Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg. While certain elements showed their age against newer entries in the series, this was to be expected as THIS is what came first and I’m happy to have had the chance to experience it. 

Score: 8 / 10

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