Despite being newer to the series, I feel confident in saying that the Atelier games are a good representation of what modern JRPGs have become. As a person who grew up playing the classic entries of this genre, though, I’m not yet sure how I feel about the changes of modern entries. However, it was certainly fun to compare the differences when trekking through Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy.
For those who are new to the Atelier games, they are a series of JRPGs that became popular due to their colorful cast of characters and the in-game crafting system called Alchemy, letting players collect materials and use them to craft whatever they need for their adventures. It is an additive, yet interesting step in the otherwise basic JRPG formula.
Atelier Ryza 2 is a direct sequel to the first game, following Ryza as she navigates her new life in the city of Ashra-am Baird. Ryza’s initial motivation for leaving her small town behind was her desire to become a better alchemist, as well as a request from a Mr. Moritz to investigate a mysterious jewel he has in his possession. A timely invitation from her friend Tao solidifies Ryza’s decision to embark on a new adventure.
The story felt like it was going to be very reminiscent of most JRPGs, with the goal being to explore ruins and make friends along the way. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much it picked up during the time I played, especially once Ryza encounters a mysterious creature who appears to be connected to the relics within the ruins.
One of the things that stood out to me about the story was that it went out of its way to explain the reasoning for why each party member wanted to join me on my journey. It made their addition to the group feel more natural, and I often found myself remembering their individual motivations as the story progressed.
I was actually really excited about the ruin exploration plotline, as most of said ruins come with their own puzzles to solve in order to progress through the map, a few demanding the use of the game’s popular alchemy system. There is also an added level to the exploration process due to a compass that Ryza discovers in the first ruin she visits with Tao. This compass allows her to learn more about the history of the ruins by finding hidden “clues” in the form of glow spots. These “glow spots” are really memories that you’re meant to put together to form a timeline of past events.
At first it was fun to go around the different areas touching the glow spots to complete the compass, but after a while it began to feel rather tedious. There isn’t anything particularly innovative about the way you collect these “memories.” The first ruin just had me running back and forth to 15 different spots while holding down a specific button in order to collect its clues. This mechanic would benefit a lot from some additional puzzles or gimmicks. I really hope to see a bit more done with it in the final product, or even in future content.
In terms of actual gameplay, my experience was mostly positive. It was fun to try out each character’s individual skills, and I was a big fan of the weakness exploitation mechanic in battle. However, I couldn’t help but feel like some battles took forever, even when I had two-to-three members in my party. This is likely due to the fact that the game’s combat system is turn-based and, while it does have some real-time elements, I was usually left waiting for it to be my turn to attack. Engaging enemies stopped feeling fun after a while, and I resorted to running around them to save time.
Atelier Ryza 2 is a perfect example of Forrest Gump’s famous saying, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” The game offers so much to do outside of progressing the story, that it was enough of a motivator to keep me going when I felt bogged down by ruin exploration.
The more time I spent exploring the town and its surrounding areas, the more popups I got for new activities and game features. In fact, I can’t recall a single time when I teleported back from exploring a ruin and wasn’t met with a town event featuring familiar characters.
The board requests sponsored by Ashra-am Baird’s tavern were also a big part of my playthrough. Not only were they easy to complete, but they also tended to match with where I was in the story, so it made sense to constantly max out the number of requests I could take on since I’d be around those materials and monsters anyway.
Other honorable mentions for favorite in-game past times were Atelier decoration and Photo Mode. I got really engrossed in finding ways to make my atelier more reflective of me! I was also quite enamored with the game’s stunning environments, so a ton of time was spent posing Ryza in different places and snapping pictures of her.
I was actually surprised at how many things I could do given that this was a preview build I was playing. It makes me excited for what will be added in the future, especially since Gust already announced that there will be a season pass for the game.
Lastly, I’d like to talk about Atelier Ryza 2’s quality of life features. There are a few things that definitely made my playthrough more enjoyable and deserve to be highlighted.
For example, as soon as I teleport back to my atelier after exploring, all of the materials that I collected were automatically deposited into storage. I was given the option to check them before depositing them, but materials are so abundant that it was just nice to be able to store them quickly. One thing I did notice about material collection is that my bag tended to get full really quickly. I would love to see an expanded inventory in the future to help with this issue.
My other favorite quality of life features were the map given to me by the tavern’s waitress, which allowed me to teleport back to any location I had previously visited, and the auto-craft button when doing alchemy. It was great to not have to sift through all of my materials whenever I wanted to craft something, especially as a newcomer to the Atelier series’ alchemy system.
Overall, I enjoyed what I played of Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy so far. The cast was interesting, the gameplay was engaging, and the various side activities kept me busy! This preview felt a lot more polished than I expected, so I am really looking forward to the full release.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is set for release on December 3rd, 2020 in Japan and January 26, 2021 in North America. It will be available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. If you’re a fan of Alchemy RPGs, or just JRPGs in general be sure to be on the lookout for this one!
Review copy provided by Koei Tecmo Games for Steam. Screenshots courtesy of Koei Tecmo Games.