The Atelier series has been running for almost 24 years solid; largely to critical acclaim. With the newly released Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy being the 22nd game in the franchise; does the long-running franchise still hold its quality, and how does it treat newcomers?
Published by Koei Tecmo and developed by Gust Studios; Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy launched on January 26th, 2021 in North America and January 29th, 2021 in Europe. For this review, the game is being played on the Nintendo Switch by a newcomer to the game genre & Atelier franchise alike.
As this is a new release and a game primarily focused on its story & characters; most of the screenshots used are taken from the first several hours of gameplay to avoid any potential spoilers. Anything shared has been purposefully inserted to ensure players understand the points made without any risk of ruined surprises.
The story follows Ryza 3 years after the events of the first game. Her life has gone back to normal since her previous adventures, as she attempts to continue her study on alchemy; even becoming a teacher of sorts. However, when a magical item finds its way to her; she decides to venture to the capital city, Ashra-am Baird.
In the city, she eventually reunites with her old & new friends, such as Klaudia, Lent, Tao & Patricia; and eventually the mysterious fairy known as Fi. While personally, the characters aren’t necessarily worth writing home about, and even less dialogue-wise; they do service the story for an enjoyable enough experience.
Atelier Ryza 2’s story does a lot with growing its characters as they grow into their adult selves. Whilst there are some really good character moments throughout the main story, with a neat mystery to be discovered with ancient artefacts; I often found the character’s side stories underwhelming and a waste of time.
Unfortunately, the spoken dialogue is all in Japanese with no language options; so most of the story head to be read while tapping A constantly. Additionally, the dialogue itself is pretty awful a lot of the time, which greatly impacted my enjoyment of the game. That said, I do see fans of the series and game format enjoying it for what it is.
Dialogue & Cutscenes Issues
As a story-based game, it is expected to have quite a bit of dialogue trees and cutscenes; but unfortunately, it’s horrendously intrusive on the actual gameplay itself. Where I am always down for a great story to drive a game forward, Atelier Ryza 2 takes its leaps and bounds too far and had me pretty bored at times.
As previously stated, the majority of dialogue has to be manually read and then continued with the press of “A”. While this works in many games, Atelier Ryza 2 forces it in the middle of gameplay segments way too often; not to mention plaguing it with awfully long cutscenes.
A far too common occurrence is when the game gives you full control from a cutscene, lets you walk forward for 10 seconds; only to throws you back into a cutscene or dialogue tree. It feels like the game doesn’t respect the player to discover things by themselves by pointing out every little detail through dialogue as well.
While the actual gameplay itself is surprisingly enjoyable, the intrusive cutscenes & dialogue trees make for a tedious experience. It doesn’t help that there are no language options to at least further enjoy the dialogue and cutscenes. This is my biggest issue with the game.
Core Gameplay & Combat
Atelier Ryza 2 is more of an open-world game, which will have the player running across medium to large-sized areas often. There are a multitude of different activities to do, including fighting (cute) monsters, gathering materials, speaking to townsfolk, and more!
Apparently, features that the first Atelier Ryza game lacked are introduced naturally. Movement is very simple, and new swimming and climbing mechanics add a nice variety to the traversal of the world. Especially when collecting materials to do traditional alchemy!
The combat is more dynamic than a typical turned-based system when Ryza is with companions! Being able to use a specific attack, switch to another character to block an attack, and then switch to a third character to do a special attack feels great and natural!
Taking on more than one enemy (or bigger enemies) is even more fun & a chaotic experience. Once the character’s abilities are further upgraded, you’ll have more resources to use in battles as well; which continues to keep gameplay interesting through the end.
Alchemy & Crafting
The thing about Ryza is that she is an alchemist, so of course, alchemy and crafting are going to be major aspects of the gameplay. While it is clear that the new Synthesis system is designed to make simple material loops; it can still be a bit confusing.
Of course, coming from somebody who hasn’t played a game like Atelier Ryza 2; a bit of confusion is to be expected. However, the organization of the skill-tree and the implementation of the Synthesis system had me confused for my entire playtime. It was genuinely a mess to follow and I admittedly had to look up specific walkthroughs several times.
The primary issue is how busy the screen is, there are so many options with hardly a clear direction; so it can be easy to get lost. In this game, using the crafting system to upgrade skill-trees is quite important to progress, so it is unfortunate that the system is such a mess. Especially since it can affect gameplay in fun ways when done properly.
Items crafted such as bombs or new abilities can help diversify the gameplay experience; so it is a shame that it is such a hassle to get a hold of. Thankfully the gathering of materials is as simple as approaching a bush, rock, or other item and pressing a button.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a very colourful and magical-looking game, full of hope and beauty. It achieves this look through the faithful 3D representation of the anime art-style; which makes the game less graphically demanding yet pleasant to look at.
The world and dungeons are largely different and feature unique design & aesthetic choices to stand out from one another. There are many times where the sheer art style, lighting, and scope made my draw drop; especially considering I played the majority of the game on the portable Switch.
For the most part, characters are quite detailed and utilizing unnatural shapes & colours, to stand out. I point this out because the game has a very vibrant colour scheme, and without these smart design choices characters risk blending in.
My only critiques are that the shadings & outlines can sometimes become jagged and distracting. This only occurs when in portable mode, and you have to pay close attention to notice it, but many screenshots throughout the review feature the issue. It’s small but worth bringing up in the end.
Music & Audio
The music and the audio of Atelier Ryza 2 are both wonderful and distracting, making for an unbalanced yet overall good experience. Firstly the voice acting is pretty on par with what little other experience I have with Japanese media; I believed the actors so it definitely gets a pass here.
The majority of the game’s general audio is really good as well. The diegetic sounds of the world help flesh out each particular area; be it a dense city or a mysterious dungeon. The sounds of weapons slashing & explosives igniting during combat are very impressive and helped distinguish what attacks were occurring and when.
A lot of the time the music is mesmerizing, beautiful, and at times intense & epic. The universe of Atelier Ryza 2 is brought to life with light motifs that will often break into quick guitars during an action set piece and then soften to a mellow hum when exploring the world. It was always engaging for the gameplay elements.
The problem comes when general sound balancing, or rather the lack thereof. The biggest issue is when the music competes against voices, making it really difficult to concentrate during important moments. Additionally, a lot of diegetic sounds are a lot quieter than action set pieces; meaning you’ll be constantly turning the audio up and down between these moments.
While it didn’t exactly win me over to this style of game, Atelier Ryza 2 is a game of many great qualities that fans will adore. Admittedly a few of my issues due to personal taste; but overall I did enjoy my time with the game and I am glad I had a chance to play it! The game is a very solid experience, especially for those who specifically dig these types of games.
My biggest issue with the game was the ridiculous amount of cutscenes and dialogue segments, and how intrusive they were. While there is a really good story told, I felt that it lacked time-sensitive execution that unfortunately had me bored way too often. Especially without an option to change the language of the dialogue.
That said, Atelier Ryza 2′s dynamic turned-based gameplay was far more enjoyable than I expected. So much so that I would sometimes go out and fight 3-4 monsters in a row before continuing the main story. There is a ton of fun to be had and I wish the experience were more condensed so that combat would be more natural and focused.
From the perspective of a gamer who often shares little interest in these types of games; Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a flawed but enjoyable introduction to a new genre of games. While I enjoyed trying something new and out of my comfort zone, it’s clear that fans of the series and genre will love this a lot more than me; and I feel it earns a solid 77%!
We were provided a game code for Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy for review purposes; but this has no effect on the authenticity of the praise or criticism the game received. For the review, I played Atelier Ryza 2 on the Nintendo Switch.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is now available on the Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, and PlayStation 4/5 for $59.99! For information regarding the game, be sure to visit the official website here!
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