I confess, I have only heard about the Atelier series from friends, despite the fact that the series has had a healthy release of games for the last 24 years. I went in blind and only knowing that it is part of the last few traditional JRPG series; yet found myself pleasantly surprised with how much fun I have playing the game. The developer, Gust, has shown their experience with how tight the gameplay is, while managing to insert modern day quality of life improvements to a genre that is slowly being more on real-time action than turn based.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is the much anticipated sequel to Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, set three years after that game concluded. We find Ryza setting off to the capital city of Ashra-am Baird to help with his investigation on some nearby ruins, due to an invitation by her friend; Bos Brunnen.There, she meets up with old and new friends, and discover the mystery of the ruins, as well as the enigmatic creature that becomes her companion; Fi.
While sometimes it feels like the story is often left on the backburner for a big chunk of the game,I admit that I find the light heartedness of it refreshing. There is a certain ‘fluff’ on how the story is told, which gives it a unique mood as a game compared to most JRPGs.
The highlight of this game are the five ruins you will explore throughout the game. The designs for each are not only unique, but have its own lovely gimmicks and lore with each. Of course, the open world you can explore is not slouch either with the game having plenty of biomes that give each area a unique feel.
You will do a lot of turn based battles in Atelier Ryza 2, but it is dynamic enough to be entertaining throughout. It’s an evolution of Final Fantasy’s classic Active Time Battle mechanic, but thanks to various quality of life improvements you rarely feel like your character is just waiting to react, and occasionally attack. You can swap to your party members at will,although they will automatically attack if you’re in control of another party member. This makes most battles fluid with enough control to not be exhausting, yet you can properly strategise ahead of time.
I admit, I was a bit lost when they first introduced the alchemy mechanic. Throughout the game you and your party members can collect materials to alchemise for potions, weapons, or to other materials. Thankfully this game also allows you to auto-craft those items, which I recommend if it is one’s first time with the game.
Visually the game is gorgeous. While it’s not pushing anything remarkable on the PS4, let alone the PS5, the aesthetic makes up for it. You and your party’s characters are brilliantly detailed. While it’s obvious that the same can’t be said about most NPC and world design, it’s enough to sell you on how the world looks and feels. The PS5 upgrade gives a nice upgrade to the game, where it’s not only at a higher resolution, but running at 60 FPS that not only reduces the image artifacts you see on the PS4 Pro, but also makes everything run as smooth as butter.
The sound design in the game however, is a mixed bag. While it’s unfortunate that the developers did not localise the voice acting in the game, one can argue that its core target market is happy with the Japanese voice acting anyway. Music is fine. While they were some tracks that were memorable, most of it was just standard JRPG fare.
I would heartily recommend Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy to any JRPG fan, especially after the torrid year 2020 was. Beautiful, relaxing, yet fun, the game just bought me joy for the last 2 weeks of reviewing it. At times like these, what else can you ask for from a game?