Ryza is making a big change. She has bravely left her island home in search of a new adventure in the pursuit of Alchemy (and getting herself out of farming duty)! Enter Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy.
Developer: KOEI TECMO
Publisher: KOEI TECMO
Release Date: 25 Jan, 2021
The Atelier series is fast becoming one of my favourite franchises in the JRPG genre. My entry into the franchise started with Atelier Firis which I have used on occasion as a well-known, well-loved benchmark for other Atelier titles. I always prefer the interconnected world Atelier titles, such as Atelier Firis, rather than the world map navigation style, such as Atelier Sophie, although I do enjoy playing either style of Atelier title! The alchemy system which has taken on so many different styles throughout all the different Atelier titles I have played remains the focal point of the game. It will always be particularly interesting to see how Alchemy is handled in a new title. In the long run I’d be hard pressed to say which style I like best. I do still think Atelier Firis wins there, but the Atelier Ryza system is a very close second. Ryza has had three years to improve her alchemy skills although she does not seem to retain any knowledge of how to produce even basic goods with alchemy so she will have to relearn it once again. It makes sense that the game would not start you off with all the end game goods you earned in the first Atlier Ryza although it does feel a bit odd that she forgot how to make even basic items like the explosive craft. She also planned poorly for her adventure to the capital considering she also left behind her powerful weapons, armor, and items she had acquired in her previous adventures and instead brought along only her basic starting gear from before. Could it be she was just nostalgic for the simpler times before her first adventure?
As always, I will not be spoiling the story of the game because the Atelier series is very heavily story driven. Character interactions grab your attention, arouse curiosity and take up probably almost as much time as the actual gameplay. The story this time around does follow the previous Atelier Ryza title, however, knowledge of the previous game is not really needed to enjoy the sequel. Atelier Ryza 2 does reference the previous Atelier Ryza title quite a bit and does have characters returning from the previous game, however, it does a great job reintroducing them and reminiscing about events in the previous title. While naturally the game revolves around Ryza and her alchemy, the overall story line starts off quicker this time around than it did in her first adventure. This time around she is searching Ruins with her friends to solve ancient mysteries and discover long lost alchemy secrets. While exploring the ruins you meet an interesting little creature named Fi who becomes one of the bigger mysteries you have to solve. Fi has some kind of link to the various ruins and becomes quite important to Ryza’s quest to understand the ruins.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy much like its predecessors is JRPG with two primary focuses. The first being Alchemy, a common theme of the Atelier titles and the second is in typical JRPG style combat. With each of those being worthy of their own section I will move on to the auxiliary elements first. Atelier Ryza 2 utilizes the connected world system with fast travel access being available at any time. You can walk from zone to zone without ever really having to see the world map but you can also quickly and easily use fast travel to move back to any point you have already been. This can be very useful once your bags are full and you need to unload your regents, you are short on supplies and just need a few more items to finish your creation or if you need to perform a quick feat of alchemy in order to progress. While there is a fair amount of backtracking, the ability to fast travel and also the use of a mount helps cut down on the downtime between areas.
Questing in this game comes in two varieties, the standard story driven quests and the more optional side quests. The side quests are usually an NPC asking you to do some random task and then reporting it back to them once completed or can be picked up from the bulletin board. These side quests typically give you some cole and often times some gold coins, items, or SP (used to unlock things in your skill tree). The story quests however push the game along. Sometimes it is not entirely obvious what you need to do next although the game does a pretty decent job directing you with a little marker and clues in your logbook. One other little bit I should mention about the items given by NPCs either through doing quests for them or buying from their store are the decorations. You can in fact redecorate your atelier if you like, with some of the furnishings actually providing bonuses!
Harvesting involves finding a collectable resource node and utilizing the correct tool on it. The thing is, the correct tool could be one of several and depending on which tool you use will impact what items you harvest from the node. Using your staff on a tree will give you some item (such as an uni), a scythe on the same tree will give you bark and using an axe on the tree will give you wood. When you select your tool menu, it gives you a little preview of what items can be obtained depending on which tool you use. As you refine your tools and progress through your skill tree, additional different items can be attained from the same resource node. Items you collect have different stats and quality levels to them even if they are identical in every other way. The quality can impact your end product so it is usually best to use only the finest materials in alchemy that matters and use gem convert for the low-quality stuff. Let’s get to alchemy and gems.
The alchemy in Atelier Ryza 2 is similar to the alchemy in the first Atelier Ryza. Before getting into more detail about that, let’s discuss the concept of alchemy as it applies to this series. You simply take base components and process them and not something previously unknown or different. Be it plants, animals, minerals, etc. all of it combines in the cauldron to form something new. Atelier titles vary greatly on how the actual alchemy is performed. In some games it is simply just matching a recipe with whatever items you feel like that are in the correct category while others have you ensuring the shape, orientation, colour, placement, and even the cauldron is correct. Atelier Ryza used a circle chain system which blended basic alchemy of earlier games with the more challenging alchemy of more modern titles. Every alchemy circle has branches connected to it that lead to other circles. The correct category or specific items go into specific circles and the circle prior to it must be completed enough in order to unlock the next branch. These circles can have different attributes and some may even unlock new recipes. Recipes are something that are often learned differently depending on the Atelier title you are playing. An example is requiring you to find books or perform certain tasks to unlock the inspiration for the recipe. Atelier Ryza 2 retains finding recipes through quest progression but also has recipes which are unlockable while performing alchemy. As you branch out through the various circles you will find some of them are marked as recipe. Satisfying that circle’s requirements will unlock the recipe. It sounds a bit complicated but the game does an excellent job helping you find those recipes as well as informing you of where you can find the ingredients for it.
Gems are also back to help you improve your previous alchemical creations. Breaking down unwanted items yields you gems. These gems can allow you to re-alchemize items you have already produced with alchemy in order to enhance the item beyond the limitations of your alchemy skills all the way up to your alchemy level itself. This can let you upgrade a previous item rather than rebuilding it entirely. It’s a great way to push your quality level up just that little smidge more than you need for it to qualify for your side quest as well. Alchemy actually gets quite a bit more complicated with various other refinement options available besides just gems, but that goes a bit beyond the scope of this section. Alchemy is definitely kept fresh and interesting in Atelier Ryza 2!
Combat in Atelier Ryza 2 is very similar to that of Atelier Ryza 1. Combat while an important part of an Atelier title isn’t exactly the main draw to the series in general. This time around you have your team out in the field battling anything that looks at you funny however you really only control one character at a time. The rest of your party is on autopilot. You can switch which character you are controlling quite quickly and easily although the non-stop active battle system does not wait for you to make up your mind on who you want to control. If you stop to think about things for too long the world passes you by. This leads to multiple characters attacking at once including the enemies. It is actually a pretty fun system this time around over the more traditional turn-based system. The tactics level, action points and core charges drive your actions. The tactics level limits how many action points you can collect, the higher the tactics level the more points you can store. The action points controls your ability to use skills in battle beyond your basic attack/flee/defend/items. The more action points you have, the longer the ability chain you can use. The other two characters you are not currently controlling will cry out periodically asking you to perform a certain kind of attack and if you do, you are rewarded with them unleashing a powerful supporting move. Items are handled a little differently than they were in Atelier Ryza 1 and other previous titles. Similar to Atelier Ryza 1, your items do not deplete in battle, however, they do take core charges. Core charges are gained as you use your action points to perform abilities. You can use multiple items at once assuming you have the core charges to do so. Any core charge not used after all the enemies are defeated are converted and banked in order to allow you to continue to use items outside of battle. Tactics level, action points and core charges do not carry over between battles however, so maxing out tactics level in one battle will not impact your next battle. Same with finishing a battle with remaining action points or core charges, you will start over in the next battle.
Atelier Ryza 2 is visually very similar to Atelier Ryza 1 which itself was one of the best looking Atelier titles to date. One thing I don’t recall from Atelier Ryza 1 that I definitely noticed in Atelier Ryza 2 is the fact that clothing is now impacted by the rain. Ryza’s undershirt shines through her wet white blouse which adds an extra layer of realism to the characters. While sure there are more real life realistic looking titles out there, the anime style graphics in Atelier Ryza 2 are certainly worthy of praise.
Gone are the days were the Atelier series was dubbed in English I suppose. Atelier Ryza is Japanese only, with subtitles available to translate what is being said. They even went so far as putting translations for the random comments made by your party members out in the field. While I would prefer them to speak in a way I could understand clearly, I once again found myself forgetting that I could not understand Japanese and followed along the story without being cognisant of reading the story. The voice acting is once again well done with each of the characters feeling very expressive. Even Fi, who only says Fi, had a wide range of expressiveness. When a character that can only say its name is able to show emotions that you clearly understand, you know the game is doing something right! The soundtrack is once again wonderful and very easy to listen to in the background as you explore the game. Even the repeated sound effects never really wear thin. Overall audio is once again a strong point for the Atelier series.
Controls and User Interface
The controls in this game work very well on the gamepad. I did give it a try with just the keyboard and mouse but I found myself preferring the gamepad as the keyboard layout was a bit cumbersome. It can be rebound though so you could tailor it to suit your needs easy enough. There are no complex button strokes you need to enter to do anything in this game. It even displays on screen the correct button to press at any given time. Similar to the previous game, I did stumble quite a bit trying to navigate the menus and finding the actual page I wanted. Even after finishing the game, I was still messing up the buttons. That I will take as on me though, although some of the menus were a bit hidden.
The user interface is well laid out and maps tend to show you anything of interest that the area might hold. The compass once it is active, will help you find the ruin fragments scattered around the area so you should never be too stumped on where the next one will be. The alchemy system while it looks like a challenge to begin with is actually quite intuitive. One nice feature is that if you are mass producing items, you can let the game auto-select your materials based on your instruction of high-quality results or low quality. Of course, if you want to ensure the item you make has the correct attributes you will need to manually build it, but otherwise this time saving feature is a welcome addition.
So, should you pick up Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy? If you played and enjoyed the previous Atelier Ryza, then you certainly should pick up this one. It enhances the systems that Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout had already refined and does not really make any missteps in doing so. In my previous review, I said that Atelier Ryza almost feels like it could be the definitive Atelier title that future and past games could be compared to. I feel that statement holds true, the first Atelier Ryza almost felt perfect for an Atelier title and Atelier Ryza 2 has improved upon that. It is a bit complicated in terms of combat and alchemy so people who are brand new to the series might feel a bit lost but the game does a good job trying to explain it to you. Once you get into it though, the game plays quite intuitively and despite the fact there is quite a bit of revisiting areas, and a fair amount of walking, it does not feel like a chore. Honestly, the only gripe I can think of is the solving of ruin mysteries using clues and fragments, there are just so many fragments to slot it can be a bit time consuming. Your efforts are rewarded though so it is worth it in the end. I will give Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy a Save!