Looking for a colorful, cheerful JRPG to enjoy while we're all stuck at home? Then look no further than Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy, the latest in Gust Co's long-running series which combines traditional RPG mechanics with a major focus on item crafting. You can explore a beautiful world, collect alchemy ingredients, and maybe even solve a mystery or two along the way!
After officially becoming an alchemist in 2019's Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout, Reisalin "Ryza" Stout enjoys a peaceful life crafting items for the people of her native Kurken Island. However, Ryza still dreams of adventure, so she eagerly responds when her archaeologist friend Tao asks her to come to the capital city and help him investigate some strange ruins. With the help of their friends and an unidentified flying creature named Fi, Ryza and Tao uncover secrets about the ancient history of their country, including treasures and alchemical recipes long thought lost to time.
As an alchemist adventurer with a quest to complete and an entire city to help, you'll never run out of things to do!
An Atelier Starting Point?
The Atelier franchise is quite long-running. The first game, Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, was released in 1997. The series did not come to the West for nearly a decade; the first game to receive an official English translation was Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana, which came to North America in 2005. Since then, all games in the main series have been consistently translated, although the series has not taken off in the West to the extent that it has in Japan.
Atelier games are separated into sub-series, usually trilogies, with each featuring a completely new setting and cast of characters but similar crafting-focused gameplay. The Ryza sub-series is generally considered to be a pretty good entry point into the franchise, because its focus on adventure makes it more similar to a traditional JRPG than the average Atelier game. But what about Ryza 2?
Well, of course, it is a sequel, so the game does assume that you have some familiarity with the characters. A number of party members are returning characters from the previous game, and references to the group's first adventure are frequent. However, I found it surprisingly newbie-friendly for a sequel, which is definitely a major plus. The plot is primarily stand-alone, with a brand new setting focused around the capital city of Ashra-am Baird rather than Kurken Island. While I would definitely recommend playing Atelier Ryza, since it is also a quite fun game, you could start with Ryza 2 and not feel as lost as you might expect with a sequel.
Just a Bit Too Much of a Good Thing
The core of every Atelier game is its mechanics, in particular the robust item crafting system. Ryza travels around the world gathering ingredients, which she then combines into any number of items using the alchemical recipes she knows. Alchemy is used to create everything from weapons and armor to use in combat, plot-relevant items used to explore ancient ruins, and goods to deliver to people around town who use the Quest Board to make requests of Ryza.
The alchemy system itself is pretty solid, with a number of quality-of-life improvements from the previous game to make it less clunky. Ryza now learns recipes and other benefits through a skill tree, which is refreshing as it keeps everything centralized rather than having it be discovered all over the world. One "element" - pun fully intended - of alchemy which was criticized in Ryza was the Element system. Items had an affinity for Fire, Lightning, Wind or Ice, and some recipes became stronger if you used ingredients of a particular element. However, it could sometimes be difficult to find or fuse enough ingredients of the needed element. Ryza 2 adds an Essence system which allows Ryza to change the elements of ingredients if needed, which makes it much easier to make lots of powerful items.
One issue I did find, though, is simply that this game has so many mechanics. The alchemy system is complex enough on its own, with the skill tree, item fusion, item reduction, and the aforementioned Essence system to contend with. There's ingredient gathering, of course, which requires a variety of tools such as an axe, bug net and fishing pole. While gathering ingredients in the world, Ryza can also use a grappling-hook like rope to swing around and breathe underwater thanks to Air Drops. There's a combat system with real-time elements, action and item points, and a tactical system based on completing characters' in-battle requests. Then there's quests, which Ryza must complete in order to improve her reputation around town. Some quests are multi-part, and progress the character arcs of various party members and NPCs. Ryza is also charged with helping the town's merchants develop their stores by selling them various items she gathers and makes. Finally, she can earn items and themes to decorate her atelier, as well as raise a pet Puni (a jelly-like creature) who can fetch her ingredients of varying quality depending on how well it is fed.
It's a lot, right? There were several times during the game when I felt overwhelmed due to the sheer amount of mechanics. It's a lot of information to keep track of, and it's a frustrating feeling when you're well into the mid-game plotwise but you're still discovering new quirks of alchemy and having tutorials pop up on your screen for brand new mechanics. As a result, I didn't feel like I had a good handle on the game and all its various parts until I was nearly at the end.
However, this abundance of mechanics definitely does not make the game unplayable, and will probably even appeal to players who like having lots of different things to do. Plus, as Ryza 2 does away with the strict time management / schedule element of earlier Atelier games, you have plenty of time to play around and experiment.
Atelier Ryza & Friends
After having spent most of this review talking about the gameplay, I do have to spare a moment to discuss the characters and world of Atelier Ryza 2. It is an incredibly colorful game, designed in a bright, cheery anime style. The world is larger than ever before, with plenty of areas to explore. Even the monsters you fight are downright adorable, ranging from the aforementioned Puni to fluffy sheep and floating fairies. It's an extremely pleasant and comforting game to play which will definitely cheer you up if you're having a bad day.
If you played the first game, seeing the growth the returning characters have experienced is also quite fun. Everyone is a lot more mature and has learned a lot during the time since their first adventure, and it was really enjoyable getting re-acquainted with them. Who knew Tao, the shy, nerdy kid of the party in the first Ryza, would grow into a surprisingly confident archaeologist with multiple young ladies vying for his attention? I also really liked the new characters, especially Clifford, the surprisingly awkward treasure hunter with the rather...bizarre...sense of fashion.
One criticism which the first Atelier Ryza received was that its main plot was too short and not very deep, and that it lacked the character interactions which had made the previous titles in the series so engaging. The sequel fixed this problem and then some. The main story is much more in-depth, as it focused around exploring a number of ruins, each with their own unique history and legend. Character interactions and moments are everywhere - each party member and several NPCs have a quest chain based around Ryza helping them with their problems and improving her relationship with them. The lack of strict time management elements also mean that the player can alternate between focusing on ruin exploration and character quests at your preferred pace.
Overall, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy is a thoroughly pleasant game and an excellent entry in a rather unique JRPG franchise. Atelier fans will definitely enjoy it, but newbies to the series are encouraged to try it out as well. While the sheer number of mechanics may feel overwhelming at first, the result is an elaborate game with so much to do - but no real pressure to do them all if you don't want to. An alchemical journey focused around exploring the natural world and creating cool items is a great choice for any gamer stuck in quarantine who finds themselves missing the great outdoors and looking for an adventure!
TechRaptor reviewed Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends and the Secret Fairy on PlayStation 4 using a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.
- Vastly Improved and Complex Alchemy System
- Wide, Expansive World to Explore
- Engaging Cast of Characters
- Large Amount of Story and Character Content
- Huge Number of Mechanics Sometimes Gets Overwhelming
- Early Game is Overloaded With Tutorials