Has Gust struck gold with their remake of the original Atelier game? Find out in our Atelier Marie Remake review.
Developer Gust’s Atelier series has just hit 26 years old! To celebrate this moment they’ve released a remake of the first Atelier game, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg. This marks the first time the game is available in the western world and contains all the content from the improved and expanded Plus version from the PlayStation 1.
The series is published by KoeiTecmo and has a huge list of games in that period, they are well regarded for their designs and systems and this Remake looks to bring the original game into the modern era. So how does it stack up?
Atelier Marie Remake Review – Story
The Atelier games all follow a sort-of formula (much like an alchemic recipe). In this particular title players control Marlone, aka Marie, a failing student who is tasked with a special exam. This make or break test is for her to run Salburg’s Alchemist Atelier for 5 years and produce an item of sufficient quality. The overall plot is compelling and the characters really keep the interest at maximum throughout the playtime.
This is then capped off with one of seven different endings all with varying levels of success and each with a fun outcome to experience. The story takes around 6-7 hours to play through if the player makes use of the fast forward elements in the gameplay. As is usual with the series, the best possible ending to achieve requires making alchemy’s ultimate item, the Philosopher’s Stone, which is quite a feat to achieve.
Marie staring into her cauldron at the beginning of her task.
This game is a remake of the PlayStation One game and features everything that game had as well as some extra bits and pieces. It’s easy to understand how this game is a classic when taking into account how great the main character Marie is. Her attitude, mentality and willingness to help people makes her a fun and positive influence in the game’s world.
Many of the characters are interesting and their stories are told in bits and pieces as Marie builds a bond with them. Friendship levels, actual levels, alchemy progress and more contribute to these events taking place which helps get the player more involved in the world of Salburg and its residents.
One random encounter from a high friendship level, who doesn’t want to scoff potatoes.
The setting of the game has a fun mix of pseudo German and other European names, places and items that lends the game, and the overall series, a very unique identity. It’s part of what makes the setting feel unique and lends the story a foreign flair that helps keep the player interested. This also extends to side characters who often have travelled far and will tell their stories as their friendship level increases.
Atelier Marie Remake Review – Gameplay
The Atelier series has always operated on a time-limited system, aside from its recent entries which have relaxed this requirement somewhat. The main plot ensures the player has 5 years of in-game time to manage. This is a very important point, as this time limit is eaten up by almost every action a player can take, for example: Foraging for an item uses an in-game day, travelling takes time and battling also uses time.
It’s surprisingly easy to manage but time can run away very quickly if the player is not paying attention. This is then enhanced by the quest system, outside of the main plot, which contributes to all aspects of player progression. However, each quest has its own time constraints to meet and failure to meet them either results in less reward or a negative reputation reward.
Victory in battle has each character do a victory pose that matches their personality.
The general gameplay loop is extremely addictive, and makes this game hard to put down. When Marie wakes up on some days the player will get notifications or visits from characters that further progress plotlines and others nothing of note will happen leaving them to decide how to handle things.
Exploring town to chat and collect reference books or heading out of town to the local gathering areas offers many chance encounters and side content. Meeting the requirements of the teacher’s tests for example usually just requires completing tasks in a way that progresses the story and during review all of these tasks, except the first, were marked complete on arrival.
Combat is turn-based and is very simple. In many of the series games since the original Marie the combat has been added to and tweaked, so in this remake the game returns to a more simple system where each character has only one or two special attacks. This means companion choice can be driven by the current goal the player is chasing.
Fighting has that old school layout matching the PS1 version.
The enemies and player characters are arranged on a grid system but typically it functions more like an old final fantasy with a front and back line for positions. Beating enemies nets the player ingredients and experience points making it worthwhile to tackle enemies when exploring, but remember it uses a whole in-game day!
There are also background stats that the player needs to work towards, these are knowledge and reputation. Increasing these means Marie can work with different companion characters, gain more complex recipes and meet the goal and expectations of the people around her. Increasing knowledge is done by trying new recipes, finding books and collecting new ingredients where reputation is increased by completing quests on time and completing larger side activities.
It’s also important and interesting that taking companions out on trips also increases their friendship level which contributes to other optional story events the player can interact with thus increasing those background statistics. It’s a lot of fun balancing these things within the games system especially as they always result in more player rewards.
Atelier Marie Remake Review – Visuals
The world of Atelier Marie is a great looker, with a small caveat. Characters are lovingly recreated 3d versions of the PlayStation original character sprites and they’re amazingly expressive. The animation work is smooth on the 3d models giving the game an air of solidness and polish. In a change from the rest of the series the 2d art for the characters is also animated!
This means all the characters show their personalities during dialogue exchanges in a way that is quite refreshing. This 2d art is faithful to the original but has been tweaked to be more in line with recent games with thinner line art and more pastel colours. It’s gorgeous to look at.
The explorable areas are quite small in this title and don’t feature a controllable camera. The smaller scale can feel quite jarring in comparison to the newer games but the detail packed into the environments bring them to life. There is also a lot of post processing at play, this is where the slight caveat comes in, most of the postprocessing looks great but there is a depth of field blur that is very aggressive and can actually interfere with exploring town but is something the player will adjust to over time and can be ignored after some exposure.
One other element that stands out is the user interface design, each window is thematically matched with the original but all the artwork is refreshed and higher resolution. Each window is well laid out and the battles have a new very simplified interface. Each face button has a set function so it’s very easy to smash through battles without having to think hard about the actions and instead planning for what effect will best work with an enemy. This simplicity in design is a huge enhancer to the experience.
Atelier Marie Remake Review – Audio
The Atelier series music has been beautiful for a long time thanks to its fantastic instrumentation. The use of woodwind and accordions among other instruments lends it a flair that not many JRPGs have. The soundtrack is utterly joyful, penned by composers Toshiharu Yamanishi and Daisuke Achiwa; it effortlessly fits the setting and enhances the story moments. Two of the best tracks are:
Let’s Go For a Walk in the Sun
No matter what mood it’s trying to convey, the music hits the tone perfectly, even if some tracks can become a little repetitive over the game’s length. For curious players it is also possible to turn off the remastered soundtrack and return to the “Bloomps and blomps” of the original PlayStation version.
The voice overs are equally great with plenty of emotion and a nice match for the original version of the game. Every character who has a main role is voiced pretty much fully and it really helps the story come to life. From Marie’s concerned mentor to bandits she confronts everyone, sounds in character and usually has something interesting, if cliché to say. Sound effects are equally well used and satisfying. Collecting ingredients, doing alchemy or levelling up all sound great and offer a hit of serotonin to the player.
Atelier Marie Remake Review – What Else?
If players purchase the deluxe edition it comes with the original PlayStation game. This is the first time the game has been localised and released in the west. It’s great that not only does the west get the remake, but the original too! (When purchasing the Deluxe Edition…) In terms of in-game extras the game is loaded with soundtracks from almost all Gust games and the player can set tunes individually for almost every facet of the game. So players who have a favourite soundtrack from the series can disperse their favourite tracks throughout Atelier Marie.
The title screen of the original game as it appears in the Remake.
In terms of replayability the game has 7 different endings as mentioned before, meeting the requirements for each means that players have an automatic incentive to play the new game plus and aim for some different story moments. It’s great to see so much agency given to the player when playing the story. For anyone who doesn’t gel with the time-limited nature of the game they can also access infinite mode which doesn’t end after the 5 year time limit and instead lets players end the game when they’re ready after year 6.
Atelier Marie Remake Review – Conclusion
Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg Remake is a fantastic game, it faithfully recaptures the original in a modern style while offering players a fine tuned gameplay experience without sacrificing its identity. The new soundtrack is excellent and the game takes a super streamlined approach with the well established formula of the series. This title may just be the best game in the series with its perfectly pitched length and tremendously addictive gameplay loop.
So, why should you play the Atelier Marie Remake?
- You prefer a shorter experience
- Updated presentation is excellent
- Marie and her friends are fun to be around
- Alchemy is satisfying
- Turn based combat is always fun.
But why shouldn’t you play Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg Remake?
- Turn based combat is not enjoyed by everyone
- You’re not fond of Chibi character designs
- Massive depth blur may be offputting
A review code on Nintendo Switch was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of our Atelier Marie Remake review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our review for Atelier Sophie 2 and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about all things Atelier!