Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg Review

Release Date
July 13, 2023
Developed By
Published By
Koei Tecmo
PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam

Over the past twenty-six years, the Atelier series has provided a delightful mix of laid-back exploring, item crafting, and entertaining character interactions. While most Atelier games have been released in the West, the first few games have remained exclusive to Japan. Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a unique opportunity to delve into the series’ 1997 origins. Although we have not experienced the original release, we can still safely say this remake fares marvelously compared to recent Atelier titles and as a JRPG in its own right. 

The game features a laid-back tale that eschews RPG tropes about saving the world. At its core, the game is a familiar underdog story featuring Marlone, or Marie for short. With her grades rock bottom at the academy, Marie now has the special task of running an alchemy workshop and crafting an item to graduate in five years. To do so, she has to make friends, fulfill requests, and become an accomplished alchemist.

Atelier Marie is a JRPG with simulation elements. These may seem familiar to those who have played older releases like the Atelier Arland games, the Atelier Dusk trilogy, or the spin-off Atelier Annie. The game sticks to the familiar cycle of recruiting adventurers, gathering on the field, and crafting back at the workshop. However, everything is tied to a calendar in which requests rotate periodically, and events occur on specific dates. Each half year has a “main task” like recruiting a certain number of characters, and these tasks organically and gradually introduce different aspects of the game without being particularly challenging.

Another simulation-like feature is completing requests to make money to pay teammates after each journey. Players can even hire fairies who automatically gather and craft items. While these elements are relatively straightforward, they may be a bit of a shock for newer Atelier players. Fortunately, Atelier Marie Remake helps newcomers get on their feet with a comprehensive help section. Marie Remake allows players to select the original five-year time limit or a brand new Unlimited Mode that breaks that limit, which is great for accessibility.

One of the remake’s most striking features is its visual presentation, which pulls from the original game’s simple anime-inspired sensibilities with newly redrawn art. It features chibi-proportioned 3D models on the overworld with moving 2D art during cutscenes. Both styles feature many lively expressions, but some 3D animations are a tad stiff. 

Furthermore, each gathering area is impressively loaded with foliage and intricate detail. Although these areas may feel relatively small, revisiting them is delightful especially as they have seasonal changes. Players can also access a comprehensive Photo Mode in any area. The Hall of Memories provides even more photo opportunities as players can freely place props and swap wallpaper and flooring. However, the customization interface is slightly more clunky than players might expect. 

The Atelier series’ music is consistently excellent, and Atelier Marie Remake features both the original soundtrack and a newly arranged Remake soundtrack. The original’s synth instrument quality has a lot of bouncy charm alongside a late ’90s-era simplicity. On the other hand, the remake soundtrack is generally “softer” and creates more of a laid-back feeling. Both have merits, and it is well worth switching back and forth.

Combat is traditional, simple, and brisk as actions are mapped to face buttons rather than menus. However, pressing Circle to attack and Cross to confirm can initially feel weird. Players can also enable speed-up options and auto-battling to accelerate turns even further. Like other Atelier games, Marie Remake also focuses on item use. Items initially feel underpowered, but the game rewards putting time into synthesis. Crafted items can really score some substantial multi-target damage. In this game, anybody can equip items, but the caveat is that players will need to equip each character individually. Fortunately, item load-outs can be conveniently copied across characters.

The alchemy system is also similarly basic. Unlike later games involving grids, nodes, and granular item traits, Marie needs the right items to synthesize any known recipe. However, Marie becomes fatigued with each synthesis, so she needs to rest periodically. The game also gives recipes in bulk, which consistently gives players something to craft.

The Atelier series always involves building friendships with various characters, and this game is no exception. Marie Remake‘s roster includes knights, adventurers, and a rival student. Although this line-up is archetypal by today’s standards, everyone is likable. At first, these characters are total strangers, but story events gradually unfold as players boost friendship levels. These include touching stories about perseverance such as becoming an adventurer despite parental wishes. Unlocking these scenes can take some work as players need to rotate characters regularly to build friendship levels, but doing so is worthwhile.

In general, the game’s pacing can feel slightly overwhelming at first. The game provides the opportunity to meet many new characters rather quickly in the first few hours, and the game also features more playable characters than later Atelier games. Similarly, players can unlock multiple new gathering areas right away, which can cause the pacing to feel front-loaded.

Furthermore, the flow can feel haphazard. Minigames unexpectedly appear, and Marie has to succeed to keep her items. Even though these are amusing enough diversions, they can feel disjointed from the rest of the game. Upon returning to the workshop, players receive a barrage of status updates, which can feel slightly excessive. Teammates may suddenly knock on Marie’s door with item requests, which can feel random. Friendship cutscenes play irregularly as with most Atelier games, so the “story” beats may feel inconsistently paced. 

However, the gathering, crafting, and battling flow feels great overall. There is generally plenty of leeway for completing “main” quests and the optional tavern requests. Making decisions within the in-game calendar feels engaging. After a bit of practice, players will better understand how to time item syntheses and travel. While the game fundamentally involves undergoing the same exploring and crafting loop, it provides a consistent feeling of progression. Players can raise character levels, unlock buffs by reaching thresholds, and build friendship and reputation levels. 

The quality of life features feel fantastic, too. When taking a request, players can see how many ingredients they have. The bottom corner of the screen shows what Marie needs to synthesize to fulfill the next request. Furthermore, the item synthesis list displays icons on top of required items and those currently crafted by fairies. The game will also warn players if item synthesis will expend too many days and result in missing a calendar event. The ultimate feature is pressing the d-pad to quickly load the most recent save, which is incredibly transformative.

Reviewing Atelier Marie Remake is interesting due to its origins as a late ‘90s JRPG, but it does a marvelous job of blending older sensibilities with current technology. It provides an accessible experience that moves briskly and feels great to play. Atelier Marie Remake is a fantastic choice for those seeking a laid-back JRPG with some simulation elements. We truly hope other Japan-exclusive Atelier games like Atelier Elie receive remakes in the future, too. 

Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg Review
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg Review
Atelier Marie Remake is a fantastic way to experience the long-running Atelier series' origins. The brisk navigation, detailed presentation, quality of life features, and consistent feeling of progress create a meaningful roleplaying experience.
Brisk navigation and combat
Charmingly ornate visual presentation
Entertaining dialogue
Abundant quality of life features
Pacing is somewhat inconsistent
Events can feel disjointed and haphazard