Besides the first Ryza game, Atelier Sophie remains my favourite entry in the series and an exceptionally well-done sequel is now upon us.
│ Nothing causes more disappointment than hype so at Video Chums, we avoid hyping games prior to playing them for ourselves. 🤩
When I first started playing Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream, I didn't quite know what to think of it. The story begins simply enough with Sophie and her doll-bodied pal Plachta exploring the world but then, they come across a rip in the time-space continuum. You might think I'm joking but I'm not. At this point, I didn't really have high hopes because I was expecting to play through a direct sequel with familiar faces such as Oskar and Monika but instead, Sophie is introduced to a whole new cast of characters. v1d30chumz 3-237-29-69
First, you have Alette who's a feisty little ninja lady and soon after you meet her, you'll be introduced to an alchemist named Plachta but it's not the one that Sophie's familiar with. Meanwhile, she's worried about her Plachta who hasn't been seen since Sophie woke up in this strange world. You'll also befriend a couple of handsome fellows in the form of Olias and Diebold as well as a woman who looks similar to Sophie. Could they be related? Sophie seems to think so. Well, I really should stop here before I ruin anything. 😅
The gameplay within Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream begins with you already levelled-up to a certain degree so it feels as if you're merely continuing from the first game and its gameplay is thankfully very familiar, too. As always, you'll juggle between completing quests, synthesizing items, adventuring, battling, foraging, and setting your party up; all while taking in delightful dialogue scenes among the bubbly cast. Speaking of which, although I was hesitant at first, this cast completely won me over the more I got to know them and there's a surprising amount of heart on display. From a goddess who understandably behaves like a child to a warming sense of welcome from strangers, it's definitely a wonderful escape from the harsh reality that we currently live in. 🥺
Oh, right; the gameplay! How about I discuss the battle system first? Combating enemies is handled seamlessly as the HUD merely pops in after you confront a monster in the field which makes battles quite engaging. The fighting itself is focused on teamwork where you can launch team attacks with allies, swap positions with them, and even take hits for others. This actually ties in well with the story themes and it makes for an exciting dynamic, too. Meanwhile, the vast array of skills and items that you can use to thwart your enemies makes each fight a satisfying strategic endeavour, especially because you can bring up info about what your foes are planning next.
Alchemy is as fruitful as ever and using it to craft better gear as well as materialize quest items is rewarding stuff. However, I can't help but feel that it's all too familiar and I wish more mechanics were thrown in to help Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream forge its own identity. This is a sequel, though, so they probably didn't want to stray far from what you'd expect. Anyway, setting up your party by equipping a weapon, armour piece, accessories, and 4 items for each character is enjoyable although the items will have to be recreated at your Atelier or restocked at Pirka's Emporium whenever they run out of uses. There are also Gather and Adventure tools to craft and equip as well as Bonus Skills to unlock with earned AP for stat boosts and I'm only scratching the surface. 😊
Another wonderful component of Atelier Sophie 2 is its exploration. For starters, the areas are enormous, elaborately designed, and usually feature an impressive amount of verticality. Simply running around the beautiful environments as you collect materials and battle monsters is a downright pleasure but there's an awesome puzzle-solving aspect, too. You see; you can change the weather at certain nodes which will flood lower areas thus making barrels and stuff float up that you can then jump on. After, you can explore the lower areas once you heat things up and watch the water go down. A lot of thought clearly went into crafting these huge and intricate areas and it certainly paid off big-time. My only complaint is that the visuals stutter from time to time but you get used to it after a while.
Even as a huge fan of the series, I'm still in disbelief how incredible of a game Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is. It's so jam-packed with outstanding gameplay and irresistible charm that it has single-handedly become the new gold standard for JRPGs.
- + Loads of fresh and familiar gameplay elements that blend together perfectly
- + Super-fun battles and sense of exploration
- + Touching story and phenomenal characters
- - Alchemy system is a bit dated and could use some novel mechanics
- - Occasional visual stutters