2019's Atelier Ryza is one of the greatest JRPGs that I've ever played and it now has a direct sequel which is unique for the franchise so let's see what Ryza's up to now that she moved to the big city.
As I said, I absolutely loved Atelier Ryza and couldn't wait to play this sequel. Thankfully, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy offers familiar yet fine-tuned gameplay and a familiar cast of characters albeit with plenty of fresh faces. The story begins when Ryza moves to the bustling city of Ashra-am Baird where she meets up with a now-grown-up Tao who she doesn't even recognize at first. After that, she's introduced to Patricia, the daughter of a wealthy family who provide a room for her to stay in which just so happens to have an alchemy cauldron in it. The thing is, she can stay there for free as long as she's productive and helps the city folk with their needs. While she's at it, she'll explore the surrounding mysterious ruins to uncover artifacts and piece together the tales of old.
This new setting is simply brilliant as it provides a perfect driving force for both the gameplay loop and the story. I found myself having a blast while juggling completing quests, exploring environments, toppling tough bosses, synthesizing items, setting up my party, piecing together ancient legends, unlocking nodes on the massive skill tree, and much more. In fact, there's so much to do that it could make your head spin. Throw in multiple currencies such as Cole, gold coins, skill points, and gems and the complex synthesis system which returns from the first game and you're left with one involving and rewarding adventure. Plus, the fact that you can scale cliffs, swim, swing across chasms with ropes, and utilize all sorts of gathering tools to amass a wealth of materials makes traversing the lands a joy.
It must be said that the music in Atelier Ryza 2 is up there with the best in the genre as it's full of delightful piano melodies and orchestral pieces that elevate the atmosphere to new heights. Meanwhile, the graphics are outstanding. Sure, they're not realistic but the level of fidelity when it comes to portraying a pitch-perfect charming and whimsical game world is phenomenal. From little details like how Ryza's clothes get wet in the rain to substantial aesthetics like how every area looks different at varying times of the day; you're bound to love taking in all the sights and sounds. That being said, I sincerely wish that there was an English voice option. The fact that they stopped that at some point in the series then never went back still makes me a bit annoyed. Thankfully, the character art is as lovely as ever.
Finally, allow me to discuss some aspects about Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy that don't quite live up to its predecessor. That's right; although this is an excellent game, I much prefer the first Atelier Ryza for various reasons. First of all, I found the cast of characters, story, and setting of the original to be much more heartfelt as it was all about young friends working together to create lovely summer memories through their adventures, teamwork, and conversations. Atelier Ryza 2 is still undoubtedly charming but it's more of a standard fish out of water story with plenty of mystery sprinkled in than it is about friendship which I personally feel is a step back.
Last but not least, I don't think I've ever got lost in an Atelier game as much as I did in Atelier Ryza 2. This is due to many reasons but the gist of it is; if you plan on turning off your game and picking it up later, be sure to write down what you were doing because it's very easy to forget and become completely lost. For example, one character needed an item and the only clue I could find in the menus was something about a supplement drink so I tried everything only to realise that they wanted some fish oil. Another time, I needed a rope and had no idea how to make it or where to find it. After exhausting nearly everything, I realised that my Emerald Band adventuring tool doubles as a rope. Meanwhile, the environments have plenty of verticality so using the flat simplistic maps is often a test of patience and the menus have lots of inconsistent names and can be downright perplexing. Perhaps a lot of this is due to translation? I don't know.
Although I still prefer the original, Atelier Ryza 2 is a wonderful experience that fans of the first game will love. It may be a confusing journey at times but the amount of wonder and charm throughout make persevering consistently feel rewarding.
- + Fantastic new setting with plenty of large and intricate areas to explore
- + Constant stream of fun things to do
- + Absolutely lovely music and graphics
- - Although charming, it doesn't have nearly as much heart as its predecessor
- - Maps and menus can be quite confusing