There aren’t many franchises that celebrate their 25th anniversary while still actively releasing new games. There are even fewer who celebrate by completely remaking the first game in said series. However, Gust decided to return to where it all began by completely remaking Atelier Marie from the ground up. This also serves as the first time the game is officially available in English. While there have been a handful of fan translations, having an officially localized and easily accessible version on modern platforms ensures this is the best version of the game for Atelier fans old and new.
Atelier Marie Remake is just as the name states: a remake of the original game. It serves as a return to basics, for better or worse. Atelier games usually fall into two styles: simulation and adventure. The former style focuses on time and material management, while the latter highlights exploration and storytelling. Atelier games that focus more on the sim aspects include games such as Atelier Rorona: The Alchemist of Arland, Atelier Escha & Logy: The Alchemists of the Dusk Sky, and Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Book. The more adventure-focused games include the Atelier Iris series, Atelier Lulua: The Scion of Arland, and the recently released Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream and Atelier Ryza games. Atelier Marie fits quite snugly into the simulation side of the series.
Despite initially opening on dark lords, heroes, swords, and war, Atelier Marie operates outside of the usual RPG story. Though rumblings of another conflict between kingdoms happen in the background, Atelier Marie centers on the titular Marie and the royal city of Salburg. Bits and pieces of the story exist through rumors learned from townspeople and small events that shed a little light on the state of the kingdom. Marie, however, has no interest in any of the world’s problems and politics. She simply wants to craft items, make money, and live a carefree life. Yet, it’d be difficult to do so were she to ruin her future by getting expelled from the royal academy.
Our heroine Marie is a lazy airhead with a good heart. While she somehow managed to get into the royal academy, she’s been unable to keep up with her classmates and holds the record for the lowest grades since the school’s inception. Unfortunately for Marie, further failure will see her expelled and reflect poorly on the academy—making her a household name for all the wrong reasons. Although her professor Ingrid may have a scary face and a harsh tone, she sees the potential in Marie and decides to change up her learning environment. Before long, Marie’s given her own atelier, some operating funds, and a strict list of short-term goals to achieve with the aim of producing a wondrous item within five years to graduate.
Across those five years, much of the player’s time is split between the royal city of Salburg—which acts as a home base—and gathering locations across the kingdom. The general loop consists of hearing rumors of new lands or items, heading out on an expedition with some hired guards and/or friends, and gathering to your heart’s content. Thankfully, the remake sports numerous modern features to help new and old players get into the groove of being an alchemist. Professor Ingrid will offer quarterly tasks that nudge the player along, while the new guide and story menus help keep track of important character, town, and world events.
Atelier Marie Remake‘s battle system is a little disappointing if you’re expecting the usual Gust mechanical insanity. Battles are quite basic, with three party members on a 3×3 grid and the ability to stand in the front or the back line. Members up front do more damage and take more damage, while those in the back deal less and take less. For a mage like Marie—who can also throw items—popping her in the back and striking from afar is the best option. Like some modern Atelier titles, anyone in Atelier Marie Remake can use items, but they must be equipped first.
Synthesis in this entry is also incredibly basic, as Atelier Marie Remake (and the original) are more about time management. Every recipe takes at least a day to craft, and various utensils can help cut the time down. Early on, players will gain access to the Fairy Forest to hire fairies for crafting items and exploring to gather materials. The complexity of this system lies in management of said fairies. Do you assign them to create all your base materials for an expensive item, or do you send them out to gather components you may need a ton of? Do you send your best fairy who works at your speed but costs a lot, or do you send the cheapest one possible and forget they exist due to their near-zero cost?
Between the crafting and gathering comes the addition of minigames. While minigames were in the original release, the new take on them leads to a little break that is both challenging and fun. When crafting cheese, rats might break into the atelier and steal it away, forcing Marie to hunt them down in a maze that somehow exists within her workshop. Catching golden salmon introduces a chance for bears to steal your fish and lock it away in a chest for Marie to find while finding golden apples pits the protagonist against a strong wind and rolling Punis. As the minigames offer a chance to double a rare item, they’re also quite useful when they do pop up.
The remake sports an incredibly charming and adorable visual style that perfectly interprets the original game’s sprites. The super-deformed chibi character models have a joyous sense of whimsy to them, and when paired with the exaggerated movements and expressions, the art style is overwhelmingly cute and heartwarming. Despite the developers’ initial struggle with converting enemies to the chibi art style, Gust succeeded in capturing the fun and charm of every foe—even the bloodthirsty dragons and disgruntled wolves.
However, the gathering areas benefited most from the remake treatment. In the original game, these were just a screen with an auto-gathering mechanic, yet in Atelier Marie Remake, they’re full-fledged and fleshed-out 3D environments with their own personality. The town of Salburg is also fully rendered and rife with citizens wandering about their daily lives, giving the hub a busy and lively feeling. For a game all about time management, the seasons are also quite important. They change the availability of items. My favorite touch in the game is the seasonal changes, leading familiar lands to be covered in lush greens in spring, bright sunny yellows in summer, dreary and calming oranges in fall, and icy whites as snow dots the land in winter.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Gust game without a fantastic soundtrack. While the music in Atelier Marie Remake is charming and whimsical, it certainly lacks the epic flair of recent Atelier titles. The soundtrack is a new arrangement of the original songs, yet the original tracks are also available for players to freely access. Every song is warm with a positive vibe, ensuring the game’s overall feeling is fluffy and delightful. Additionally, while the voice acting is fairly sparse, it’s well done and adds a breath of life to the characters. As usual, the blacksmith Hagel steals the show with his wonderfully gruff yet high-pitched voice.
For those who never played the first game, the largest complaint is likely how simple and basic the game is. Alchemy essentially equates to discovering recipes that require a checklist of materials. While there is a chance for failure due to fatigue and lack of utensils, there is no real challenge whatsoever when it comes to crafting items other than needing the required materials. Combat is also incredibly basic, with only a handful of skills and items. Players coming off the recently released Atelier Ryza 3: Alchemist of the End & the Secret Key may find themselves a bit shocked at the lack of myriad interweaving systems.
New fans who started with the adventure-style Atelier games may find themselves intimidated by having a time limit in this game. Players have the option of playing in an ‘endless’ mode that strips away the time limit, ensuring there’s a low-pressure, no-stress environment to play in. That said, the five-year deadline is incredibly lenient. Even first-time players may find themselves with a year or so to spare. The endless mode does remove a few time-sensitive events, so those seeking to craft every item and see every scene may want to do so on subsequent playthroughs. As the game is quite short, replays can be a breeze.
Atelier Marie Remake should be approached in the same way one would approach the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series. It’s a look back at where everything began with some modern touches rather than an evolution of the series. The game relies on its charm and simplicity, and given its nature as a simulation game, it leans heavily on the time management aspect. The remake serves as the perfect way to take a look into the past while adding a bevy of quality-of-life updates along with a modern UI. Personally, I hope this is just the first step in bringing the last few un-localized mainline titles to the West, and I eagerly await an announcement of an Atelier Elie remake.