Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is the first direct sequel in the Atelier series and aims to reignite fans’ love affair with Reisalin (Ryza) and her crew of adventurers.
New fans to the Atelier series will be amazed to learn that it has been around for 24 years with its mystical lore spanning 22 different games.
Even though the first few games weren’t released outside of Japan, the majority have come over to the West allowing the series to become a global franchise and a huge name among JRPG fans.
Each game focuses on a different group of heroes, but they tend to follow the same loop of crafting/synthesising items to be used in turn based battles.
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout was a pretty big deal in 2019, praised for its amazing story and new take on old mechanics. It’s safe to say that a lot of people have been eagerly waiting for this sequel.
Atelier Ryza 2 is set three years after the events of the first game and picks up with Ryza as she continues with her alchemy studies on Kurken Island. She has come a long way and now teaches the children on the island. But her peace is interrupted as she receives a letter telling her about ruins that may be related to alchemy and the discovery of a mysterious glowing stone. Ryza happily sets off on her new adventure starting at the royal capital, Ashra-am Baird.
Fans will also be happy to hear that Ryza will be reunited with all her friends from the first game and it’s interesting to see how each character has developed over the three year gap. Lent has lost his cheerful attitude from the first game after his long journey, Tao has matured a lot, becoming more courageous than he was before and Klaudia is a lot more independent.
Each of the characters have really grown, gaining new traits that really lend themselves well to the overall story. Fans will relish discovering all the new features and skills they bring to the adventure.
Atelier Ryza 2 also introduces a bunch of new characters into the story such as Fi, Patricia and Clifford. Not only are they be great additions in battle but they each bring their own unique story elements.
Overall the story in Atelier Ryza 2 is very well written. It’s easy for JPRGs to fall into familiar anime tropes of storytelling, but I feel there is a lot of depth within this adventure, with the development of the existing characters being a standout feature.
Visually Atelier Ryza 2 is a nice looking game, mixing an anime aesthetic with developer Gust’s signature art style. The main beauty for me lies within the battle animations which boast slick camera angles for each move and brazen cinematics for each character’s Fatal Drive. Character models including the NPCs have original quirky designs that you could only find in an JRPG. Each of the core characters ooze personality but the NPCs are lifeless with their facial expressions barely changing at all.
Enemy designs really vary, with the bosses looking fantastic and menacing which adds to players’ sense of satisfaction once they are defeated, but the majority of the creatures you will fight just look too cute and cuddly for my liking. I just personally felt bad giving the Blue Puni or Flower Pixies beatdowns when they look like they just want to give me a hug.
The world of Atelier Ryza 2 is rather hit and miss. Each ruin looks amazing, showing off a dramatically different designs filled with so much personality, and players will just want to spend their time exploring. However, other than the ruins, most of the areas look really bland and lack creativity, with a lot of the sorts of areas players would have seen in other JRPGs. Saying that, Atelier Ryza 2 is mostly a lovely looking game that runs smoothly on the Switch in both modes.
Atelier Ryza 2 has great background music that suits every different location and battles without getting too repetitive, with the opening theme music being a nice touch.
The game only comes with Japanese voice acting which may infuriate some as it’s getting a worldwide release and not every wants to constantly read subtitles. I don’t think this is a deal breaker but clearly this should have been worked into the game with its diverse audience.
Gameplay is split into three main parts: exploration, battle and synthesising. Each of these were present in the previous game but have been greatly improved. Exploration is a major part of the game and although the map will show players where they have to go to progress the story, there are loads of secret areas to access throughout the game.
Ryza comes with loads of new actions that include diving underwater, wall climbing, crawling through tight gaps and she even can craft a magical hook to reach new heights. But what is most exciting is the ability to ride monsters. They not only let you traverse vast lands but can also find hidden digging spots for new items.
These new actions just add an extra layer of depth to Atelier Ryza. Players won’t just have new actions to aid them but will also be forced to think how they can use each action to reach somewhere new.
Another new feature is Ryza’s ability to see past events using a magical compass that will help her find and decipher ancient manuscripts- the Lost Legends – adding an extra archaeological element to the overall exploration. Exploring the world in Atelier Ryza 2 is great and although it may not be an open world game, each area is pretty big with loads of areas only accessible if you progress further, and there is even a fast travel option.
There are a few issues with the general map lacking detail, such as what buildings are within the towns or not being able to see other mini areas on the mini map, as well as the constant cutscene that plays whenever you open the compass map.
Synthesising returns and works similar to the first game but with a few new additions to make the process feel less convoluted. In the first Atelier Ryza the Synthesis system used specific items to unlock different branches and material loops during item creation, but now players can change the elemental trait of each item using the Essence feature, allowing the final item to gain brand new qualities.
The new Evolve Link system will allow players to combine an existing item with another, which will result in the first item gaining new stats from the second item or giving birth to a totally new item to be used.
These new systems have been implemented well and will offer a lot of customisation. However though the new workings may feel less complicated than in the first game but I still think players will have a hard time mastering it to get the best out of their items and recipes.
One of the stand out features is the battle experience, which is intense to say the least, and there is a lot to take in this time around but it’s still a blast.
Unlike the traditional turn-based system in most JRPGs, Atelier Ryza 2 gives players a real time experience with each character being allowed to attack after their wait time reaches zero, but players should remember that enemies can still attack if their wait time is over while you are selecting your moves, so vigilance is key.
Essentially players will want to chain together normal attacks into combos to build up their AP, which allows your characters to use their skills and even create a combo with them.
Depending on how much AP is available players can launch multiple skills in a row and, if strategised correctly, pull off continuous Skill chains that will increase in power the longer the chain lasts for. Skills will help increase the CC which will allow your characters to use multiple items in succession.
A great addition is that the Tactical level will now increase automatically as characters perform attacks, this just means that players can focus using all their AP on skills rather than both.
Party members will also give Action Orders to other members. If the orders are followed then the character who gave the order will follow that attack with a powerful skill attack. Characters will also have special moves which include a Fatal Drive and a Core Drive which both deal large amounts of damage during an epic cinematic.
There are a few defensive options like a Perfect Guard which will also raise your AP, reduce your damage and stop the build-up of the Stun Gauge. Battles may seem daunting at first with all the additions that players will learn but with the accessible game mechanics it will simply come down to timing.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a great follow up to the first game. The much needed tweaks within the gameplay really shine and improve the overall experience.
The game is bursting with an abundance of content that will take even the completionist a long time to finish.
The only major gripe is that a lot of the systems may be pretty daunting and complex and can take a while to get to grips with even for JRPG fans, with a lot of trial and error during synthesising which can make the process exhausting.
However Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a great early entry for 2021 and an unmissable gem for JRPG fans.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is out on the 29th January on PlayStation 4 (with a free upgrade for PlayStation 5), Nintendo Switch and PC