Over the twenty four year history of the Atelier franchise the games have seen a change in lead character with nearly every release. Instead, any characters either serve as long running NPC references to past trilogies or as side-characters and extra party members if they happen to be in the same series but that all changed with the most recent entries in the Atelier series. Two years ago Koei Tecmo and Gust happened to strike gold with its lead character Reisalin Stout, better known as Ryza. This explosive popularity has seen Ryza retaining for a new adventure in Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy, marking the first time a lead character has returned to lead the story once more in what is once again a highly satisfying RPG that captures nearly every aspect of the Atelier series while still leaving things mostly approachable for newcomers.
Three years have passed since Ryza and her friends managed to resolve the issues plaguing their hometown Kurken Island and, for the most part, everyone has moved on to either grow stronger through training, pursue a higher level of education, continue their own objectives, or further their family business. Everyone except for Ryza, who has spent the past three years doing her best to study alchemy but not making much in the way of progress outside of teaching other children in her hometown about alchemy. This all changes when she is invited to travel to the capital city of Asha-am Baird to join up with her friend Tao to investigate a new set of ruins that he has uncovered. Combine this with the fact that Ryza has been entrusted with a certain egg-looking rock by the local rich family and all of the ingredients for Ryza’s next big adventure are ready to go.
Despite being the first direct sequel in the franchise, Gust has made a noteworthy effort to try and make sure that newcomers who may not have played the original won’t feel too out of place here. There is enough reasoning to explain why Ryza and some of her returning allies have become a bit weaker in combat and alchemy over the years, especially in Ryza’s case as she now is dealing with entirely new ingredients, and while there are references to events that happened in the first game and certain returning characters, newcomers won’t be too in the dark here.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy is something of a slow starting game but not quite as bad as usual for an Atelier game as players are expected to at least know something about Ryza and her allies allowing for new characters to be introduced and added to the group dynamic at a quicker pace. This also allows players to see Ryza and her group come to grip with the various differences that come from living in a major city compared to the small island that they recently called home as this new bustling town is filled with those needing their help and wanting to assist them as well.
At their cores, the Atelier games have mostly been lighter games that eventually can take a more dire turn and once again that is true for Atelier Ryza 2. Character development and interaction is one of the major drawing points for the game and, considering the story now sees Ryza actually on a mission rather than simply wandering in hope of adventure of, gives us a chance to see the character in a whole new light and watch as she and her friends continue to grow and develop. Of course, it helps that Ryza herself continues to serve as one of the best protagonists in the entire series thanks to her upbeat personality and the way she interacts with the rest of the cast, including the addition of a certain mascot character this time around.
It is also rather noteworthy that the world-building isn’t pushed to the backburner this time around either as one of the key elements that players will quickly be introduced to is a compass that will reveal memories scattered throughout the many ruins that players will need to explore. These memory fragments, when combined properly, reveal information about the world itself and the history of the ancient civilization that players are now exploring the ruins of. While uncovering all of these pieces of information isn’t necessary most of the time, it is incredibly interesting as it also serves as a way to solve various mysteries and questions that players may have once had about the world in Atelier Ryza. It also helps that solving these riddles also generally rewards players with SP or extra synthesis recipes at the same time.
Gust has taken the time to make a number of modifications and improvements to nearly every key aspect of Atelier Ryza 2 as exploration, combat, and item synthesis have all been given a few changes in one way or another. The biggest change for exploration is the fact that the entire game is now linked together in a way that players can easily travel from point A to point B on foot should they choose rather than using any form of quick travel. Of course, quick travel to previously visited places and back to Ryza’s Atelier is eventually unlocked but this ability to openly explore a number of large maps is quite a boon to the game.
This is especially true as Ryza’s country-girl upbringing has made her all the more willing to get a bit dangerous exploring the world. Ryza can now climb certain walls, travel across ledges, crawl through holes, and eventually dive into ponds and swim below water or use a whip to reach previously unreachable areas. These are minor improvements but noticeable considering the fact that not only have past games only allowed a simple jump button but also since players are now encouraged to heavily explore areas for items to gather as well as the aforementioned memories that are hidden all throughout the game’s various ruins that also serve as dungeons.
As usual players will be able to gather various items by harvesting them from spots located in fields, from monsters they have defeated, and of course through a number of tools that they have crafted with some gathering spots providing different materials depending on the tool used. Item synthesis has mostly been untouched as it still uses the simple to learn but potentially deep Material Loop mechanics that allow for players to craft basic versions of items as well as highly modified versions should they choose. The shortcut of auto-adding materials for high-quality production remains an option as well making things a bit easier for newcomers, a nice touch that is also welcome when making some standard ingredients that will be used in another recipe.
There are some additions in the form of “Essence Refinement” that allows players to gain essence from synthesis and combat that can later be added to items or change their properties but the other change makes a bit more sense considering Ryza already knows most of the ins-and-outs of alchemy and this is through a skill tree. Players will use SP gained from synthesizing items, completing ruin missions, and more to unlock various recipes that Ryza can then craft and improve her gathering capabilities. This allows for some interesting character building as players can choose to unlock certain tools far earlier than necessary or find themselves missing out on a basic recipe depending on how they’ve spent Ryza’s SP.
Back in the field players will find that combat with the various creatures is once again a faster paced affair as the game has continued with its hybrid active battle system that allows for players to only control one of their, up to three, party members at a time to deal out normal attacks and perform “perfect guards” to earn “AP” that can be used to unleash powerful skills or use items out of the turn order. Combat moves incredibly fast thanks to this system, especially with players being able to string together large combo chains with their party triggering follow-up attacks depending on the skills the player uses. It is worth noting that while the mechanic that makes item use a trivial thing as they are basically never treated as consumables now, it is actually easier to simply string together skills rather than use offensive items which is something of a shame as items, and their use being limited to alchemists, was one of the better points of the Atelier series.
Outside of all these systems players will also find plenty of other smaller elements that they can delve into that are both entirely optional and fun to partake in as well. Players can craft and purchase items that are simply used to decorate Ryza’s atelier, sell specific items to shops in an effort to upgrade the various stalls and the items that they sell, raise their reputation with various groups in the city by completing small tasks, and more. This gives players plenty of ways to explore and take advantage of everything Atelier Ryza 2 has to offer even if it means straying off the core path for hours on end harvesting the best ingredients possible.
Visuals & Audio
By creating larger, more open areas for players to explore Gust has really went all out in trying to create unique looking areas for players to explore, ranging from colorful and vibrant forests to desolate mountain ranges. Even the capital city of Asha-am Baird is the biggest and most detailed one in the franchise so far giving players plenty to see even if most of it is never actually used. The core character models are once again highly detailed and gorgeous looking and, of course, Ryza’s character model is given special attention thanks to her signature assets as well as the addition of water having an effect on character clothing. It is a bit unfortunate that while combat can be rather flashy with plenty of great looking attacks and special skills the overall enemy variety is a bit lacking and once again features far too many palette swapped foes.
Once again Koei Tecmo has chosen to speed up the release of the game in the West by only providing a Japanese voice track with Atelier Ryza 2. This isn’t too much of an issue considering the original game also lacked an English dub so fans should already be quite familiar with the cast of characters here and their voice cast, it would be nice to see the return of that option. The soundtrack is once again a mix of nice and calming music that is great to explore or synthesize items to as well as some faster tracks that work great during combat.
Gust took something of a risk here by breaking the mold of using a new protagonist for every Atelier game but that risk has paid off as not only has it allowed for players to experience a more interesting storyline with actual lore but also one that allows everyone to enjoy the adventures of Ryza and her friends once again. The development team has made a number of improvements across the board to combat and exploration, making what was already an exciting but accessible game even better. Sure, it may be another step away from what was once a turn-based RPG that required more complex thinking at times when it came to item synthesis but those looking to experiencing an upbeat adventure with a lovable protagonist need look no further than Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy.
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