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access_time February 9, 2021 at 9:00 AM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy

I’ll be honest, I’ve never played a game in the Atelier series before. It’s always been something I’ve been aware of, but never took the time or chance to check out. Since the series is growing more comfortable in North America, I felt like it was time I change that. With 2019’s Atelier Ryza bringing some extra attention back to the franchise, it was only a matter of time before it would get a sequel. Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy continues off of that success, with developer Gust refining their features into one polished RPG package. As the first direct sequel in the longstanding series to keep its main protagonist, does lightning strike twice? Well we certainly think so.

Atelier Ryza 2 takes place three years after the first game, continuing the adventures of the alchemist Reisalin Stout, or as she’s better known, Ryza. After receiving a mysterious stone, Ryza gets an invite to leave her home of Kurken Island to explore some ruins in another region. What starts as a solo journey soon becomes a crusade with old friends and new. One of the most important new friends is Fi, a strange creature that’s evidently linked to the ruins. While uncovering an ancient legend, Ryza and her friends explore the multiple ruins to solve the riddles within. The main story does well to showcase how Ryza lights up the lives of those around her, and the side quests take things even further by developing bonds with everyone in the game. It’s a rather charming tale full of joy, sadness, and internal conflicts that warms the heart.

As an alchemist, Ryza can essentially make anything with the right ingredients. After settling into her very own atelier in the capitol city of Ashra-am Baird, she helps the people of the city with her alchemy. This ranges from creating demolition supplies all the way to making special plant nutrients for farming. It also goes into more interesting territory with items that do things like allow one to breathe underwater or even a potion that restores memories. Of course, she’ll also use it to aid her adventures, crafting tools, supplies, and tons of synthesis materials. The game is literally a buffet of ingredients, and you’ll constantly be collecting materials to make bigger and better items. This is a staple feature of the Atelier series, though the amount of options is a bit overwhelming.

With all the ingredients, you’ll be able to synthesize your items with varying results. There’s honestly a lot to consider, including quality, traits, effects and level. Most items will need roughly three items to craft, but they can be improved by adding more items to the material loops and leveling them up using element values. Creating items will grant you SP that will unlock branches on your skill tree, allowing access to recipes, abilities and more. Eventually, you’ll even be able to morph items into others through synthesizing, unlocking new recipes and boosting the quality. It’s really a deep system, and it goes even deeper with a lot of the other options like rebuilding.

Aside from synthesizing, you’ll also have the ability to reduce items into gems. After unlocking certain conditions, you’ll be able to use these gems to duplicate items, create essences, and even evolve items by combining them. You can even use gems to improve your characters by upgrading their core crystals, which allow them to use items in battle. Items themselves are incredibly important, and work much differently than they do in normal RPGs. One example is that items cannot be used outside of combat, including healing items. If you want to heal, you either have to fast travel back to Ashra-am Baird, or you have to heal in battles. To even use items in battle, you have to have Core Charge, which each item requires a certain level as well. It’s a different system that takes some adjustment, but it’s also refreshingly unique.

Battles in general are full of tons of systems, and for the most part, it works. You’ll enter battles by interacting with enemies on the field, whether by attacking them with a tool or by running into them. Once the battle commences, each character will have a wait time to act, allowing them to attack, run, or to use an item rush. They’ll also be able to defend at the press of a button, and timing it with the enemy attack will result in a perfect guard. As you attack, you’ll earn action points by striking repeatedly with the attack button. Action points will enable you to perform skills when you hold down the right shoulder button. The more action points you have, the more skills you can perform in a combo. As you perform these skills, you’ll build your tactics level, increasing the maximum action points at your disposal.

To make things more interesting, you’ll also be able to perform quick item actions as long as you have 10 action points. With this, you can use up to four items, even if it’s not your turn. Items themselves do have a ton of benefits, but they also come with a drawback, as using them will make you have to wait longer to act again. Eventually, you’ll be able to alleviate this with Shift Skills, allowing you to switch with a support character. Of course, there’s a cooldown for this, so you can’t just swap anytime you wish. Doing so does allow you to maintain combos though, especially with action orders from your teammates. Eventually, you’ll even unlock Fatal Drives and Core Drives, which are special attacks or abilities that use up your whole Tactics Level or most of your Core Charge.

The battles are fun and engaging, and they really tend to keep you on your toes. The game eases you into each system gradually, but eventually, you’ll have to master them all to succeed. At some point, bosses will start to really take you out, and you’ll have to effectively stun them and use items efficiently. If you’re not careful, even regular enemies can be a handful. Of course, part of this is the sequence of the battles. While you have a button for defending, you can’t defend while you’re in the middle of an attack. To make matters worse, you won’t always have enough time to react to an attack. This is especially the case if the attack is coming from an enemy you aren’t targeting. Overall, the battle system is a bit overly complex, but it still manages to work.

As for outside of battle, you’ll be able to explore the lands to gather ingredients and find new areas. New features to Atelier Ryza 2 include the ability to climb walls to new heights, squeeze through small crevices and entrances, and even dive underwater. You’ll even be able to swing from a special rope to reach other paths or hidden locations. There’s a ton of expansive areas to explore, all with unique environments and treasures to find. You’ll uncover plenty of side quests and character events as you explore these areas as well. The game even takes things a step further by adding additional quests to the cafe, where you can earn reputation with with citizens.

Side quests in general add a lot of features over the course of the game. A farmer named Cassandra will grant you quests that eventually provide farmland to plant seeds for materials. The merchant Romy will allow you to sell items of different categories to develop the quality and inventory of all the other merchants. You’ll even unlock the ability to refine equipment at Dennis’ workshop as you do quests for him. Overall, you want to do good for the citizens, and in return, they’ll provide more for you. Usually, finishing these quests will grant you a nice illustration and an everlasting bond with the character.

As for the ruins in Atelier Ryza 2, those will have their own setup for exploration. The ruins will have players solve multiple riddles in their research list. Once you fulfill all the research, your compass will allow you to collect Ruin Fragments and Memory Vestiges. Collecting these clues will allow you to decipher the mysteries in your exploration diary, and unlock more answers. Not only will this grant you large amounts of SP, but you’ll also get new recipes unlocked on your skill tree. Solving these riddles mostly comes down to plugging the right memory in the legend, but it can be pretty fun to get everything figured out. While most of them are optional, there are a couple instances where you’ll need to decipher a full ruin fragment to proceed in the plot.

Ruins themselves are also pretty formulaic, providing similar patterns. It mostly boils down to having three areas to find clues in, finding the area where alchemy needs to be used, and then returning to the atelier to produce the required item to move on to the boss. It’s interesting too, because many of the key items provide optional material loops. While it might be enticing to increase their quality, there’s no reason in doing so. Either way, the game always finds a way to bring alchemy back into the mix. It essentially encourages you to constantly gather materials, though of course, you do have a limit. Ryza can only 200 items at a time in her basket. Once it’s full, you have to return to the atelier to drop off your items. Even your atelier container has a limit. Thankfully, there’s several ways to dispose of unneeded materials.

Graphically, the game uses colorful anime visuals with quite a lot of detail. While the game is certainly pretty, there are still some performance issues, especially when weather and fog effects kick in. Even on the PlayStation 5, there’s a noticeable drop in the frame rate whenever you’re in a foggy location. The lighting also causes a lot of bloom in certain areas. It’s also worth noting the rather solid character design, even if some of the characters have very detailed proportions. Ryza herself even maintains one of the iconic features of her design, and the game makes sure you notice. The game tends to draw additional attention to her physique in certain moments, mainly when crawling or during rainy weather. The camera zoom is also conveniently placed. It’s definitely for fan service, and likely one of the main reasons Atelier Ryza was so popular to begin with.

Of course, outside of Ryza’s character design, her personality shines through. This is mostly thanks to Yuri Noguchi’s fantastic performance, returning from the first game to bring a lot of energy to the role. All the voice work in Atelier Ryza 2 is in Japanese with subtitles, but they’re all splendid performances. All the characters manage to hit the right emotions when needed, and it gives each cutscene the right mood. Even with Fi, who only says their name, is lovable thanks to Misaki Watada’s performance. It feels reminiscent of Vin Diesel’s Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, conveying multiple emotions with a single word.

The music of the game is fully of energy as well, offering a diverse selection of tracks. The battle music is bubbly and adventurous while the night music is soft and calm. It really feels like the music to match a tropical setting in most cases, which is a lot of fun. Boss fight music grows to be more intense, showcasing that your foe is powerful and shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are a couple moments where the music doesn’t match the mood, but other than that, it’s right on beat. Even after playing for 60 hours, doing all the side quests, I’m still not tired of the music. I’m done either, as I still have some post-game cleanup to do, including one more extremely powerful boss.

Overall, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy surprised me a lot. The combat system is incredibly deep and fun, if not a bit too busy and complex. Exploring ruins, while a bit linear, also offers an entertaining scavenger hunt for clues. Finally, the alchemy takes center stage by giving players a plethora of materials to utilize. While performance could be better, it doesn’t hurt the experience enough to ruin it. It’s a lot to take in, but Atelier Ryza 2 manages to succeed more than it falters. Even with the fan service, it’s hard to hate this game. With a heartwarming story and an emotionally powerful ending, this is an enjoyable RPG experience from start to finish.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10

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