The Atelier series is a niche game within a niche genre, although JRPGs have become so popular in the last couple of years that it would be inaccurate to call these games niche. What I’m trying to say is that Atelier games are unique even for the JRPG genre due to the alchemy system that it heavily relies on.
For those of us who adore playing this type of game, studios like Gust are a treasure to behold. These guys have been pumping out Atelier games like there’s no tomorrow. On paper, that might seem overkill, but as a fan of the series, I’m content to be able to play one Atelier game per year.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy continues the story of Reisalin Stout (aka Ryza) and her friends in a different location. Ryza’s circle of friends is no longer confined within the premises of Kurken Island. The sequel to Atelier Ryza has a standalone story, which means you don’t have to have played the original to understand what’s happening in Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy.
However, since half the game focuses on the relationship between the characters, I would strongly recommend playing the first Atelier Ryza game if you want to really understand the chit-chat between story missions.
Story-wise, Atelier Ryza 2 takes place three years after the events of the previous game. Ryza responds to one member of her group’s letter asking her to come to the royal capital, Ashra-am Baird, to research some ruins that might be related to alchemy.
Over more than a dozen hours Ryza reunites with many of the friends she grew up with on Kurken Island, the same people who fought beside her to prevent an ancient evil to re-emerge into the world. Those who played the original game will be pleased to know that Tao, Klaudia, and Lent are back together, but Empel and Lila make an appearance as well.
Some of these characters join your party and you can play with them, while others are just there as NPCs. In Atelier Ryza 2, you can have three people in the party and the fourth one as support. The rest will go to the so-called Reserve where they won’t be able to help during combat.
The combat in Atelier Ryza 2 is not much different than what we got in the first game. It’s a turn-based system that flows in real-time, which means that while those involved in combat will act once per turn, time doesn’t stop and you’ll have to pay attention to the “Wait Time” bar. You can do all sorts of nasty things to the monsters you fight against if you time everything right. The first enemies don’t require too much preparation and you can do away with just mashing buttons, but by the time you start fighting bosses, you’ll most likely have learned the basic rules of the combat system.
Although I find combat one of the most satisfying parts of the game, the alchemy system is what this series is all about. Just like in every other Atelier game, you’ll have to gather resources throughout the world and combine them to craft an impressive list of items. Some of the recipes can only be unlocked using SP (skill points), which are usually rewarded when you craft items using alchemy or complete main quest and side missions. But the bulk of the recipes are hidden behind … other recipes.
While you can craft an item using certain resources, you can also unlock a new item within that recipe if you have the required ingredients. It’s the same principle that made Atelier Ryza’s alchemy system so fun to play with. But alchemy is not just about creating new items from the ingredients that you gather, it’s much more complex than that, and I can understand why many people will hate that.
However, it’s not until halfway through the game that you’ll get access to more advanced techniques that will tremendously help you make alchemy a trivial task. Soon enough, you’ll be able to duplicate the items so that you won’t have to spend resources to craft them again, as well as evolve items, a much more complex gameplay feature.
Alchemy is what can make the game trivial if you have troubles with defeating bosses or certain enemies. It allows you to craft high-level weapons, armors, and accessories that will make your characters pretty much invincible. The alchemy system is not easy to pick up if you haven’t played an Atelier game before, but once you understand its potential, you’ll know what to craft how to use the items.
Although alchemy can be boring for some, it’s probably the main reason fans of the Atelier series love these games. Being able to craft very powerful items gives you a sense of satisfaction that few other aspects of the game offers.
I’d should also like to mention that Atelier 2 introduces some sort of puzzle system that makes things a bit more interesting. Those who played the first game know already that the main story focuses on Ryza and her friends exploring some ruins on Kurken Island. This time around, you’ll be exploring several ruins locations where you will have to uncover secrets long forgotten. There memories and vestiges deep within these ruins that you’ll have to collect in order to piece together fragments of a jigsaw puzzle.
Basically, you’ll be dungeon-crawling through these ruins trying to learn what’s their connection with alchemy and why they’re suddenly waking up while Ryza is around. It’s a much more compelling part of the game than the story, but I believe that they support each other.
Anyone who played more than one Atelier game knows that these titles are not about the story. Atelier Ryza 2 definitely doesn’t suck when it comes to narrative, but it’s not what keeps you hooked. I have to give props to the devs for trying, but some of the dialogues, even though they reek of “fan service,” are very dumb. Despite that, I did manage to find joy in what feels like a deja vu adventure.
- Satisfying combat
- Easy to pick up, yet hard to master alchemy system
- Dungeon-crawling spices up gameplay
- New exploration features
- Generic story
- Fetch quests are only there for achievements and they’re boring
- Some dialogues are very dumb
There’s no doubt about it, Ryza 2 is the most refined experience you can get playing an Atelier game as long as you’re not expecting a top-notch story. Aside from the lighthearted tone, nothing stands out when it comes to Atelier Ryza 2’s story; it’s as generic as it can be and there’s nothing wrong with that.