Just two years after her first game, Reisalin "Ryza" Stout is back with Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. This time, she’s on an adventure from her home of Kurken Island and has travelled to Asha-Am-Baird to investigate mysteries surrounding some ruins while reuniting with some familiar faces.
Atelier Ryza 2 hits the ground running, straight into the thick of things with its mystery heavy plot and into the dungeon exploration the series is loved for. It’s not strictly necessary to have played Ryza’s first outing to make sense of this offering, but certainly those who have will get a kick out of seeing returning characters and referenced events.
New features are welcome additions to the series. Ryza is now able to interact with surroundings in a lot more ways, including swimming underwater, swinging across gaps, and climbing walls. It makes the whole experience feel a lot more fluid and intuitive, and adds an extra layer to dungeons, often presenting them as puzzles Ryza needs to traverse to reach certain points in dungeons. It’s great to see the environments as interactive, rather than just background images, and makes the JRPG elements feel a lot more polished.
Exploring dungeons will ultimately lead to Ryza having to use the Compass of Recollection to gather the memories of those who have come before, collecting clues to solve the dungeon’s mystery. It’s a really fun and unique aspect of the game, as once you’ve collected them, you then have to match the clues to a description to fill out a stamp book, which then tells you the story of that dungeon and how it relates to the wider plot of the game.
Controlling one character out of a party, battles are conducted in real time, waiting for a bar to fill before the character can take an action. Having crafted certain items, it’s possible you could end up giving yourself a time penalty on use, having to wait longer for your next turn. Combat feels fluid, if a little chaotic when multiple enemies are in the fray. It’s harder to tell what’s going on due to the UI being so busy, in turn making it more difficult to see when you should be timing dodges. Combat is a tactical affair, as supporting party members will shout out criteria that will award them with a bonus action. These could be anything from "Use a magic attack!" to "lower the enemy's stats!". Timing is key; those opportunities won’t stick around forever, and having a character pop up immediately after you’ve just attacked can often mean you’ve missed that chance, which feels like a real blow in a pinch.
Once the party hits enough members to have support, you’ll also be able to switch the fourth character with the active party member. Switching the character gives them a bonus attack on their entry into battle, and they start with their time bar full, meaning they’re ready to attack again straight away. A great thing if used correctly, but there are also plenty of chances for cursing if you hit the wrong button and use it at an inopportune time.
The game does feel like it hits a huge difficulty spike partway through, with enemies in dungeons suddenly 10+ levels higher than the party and much more formidable than their predecessors. Grinding levels can feel like a bit of a chore, but also presents a great opportunity to get supplies for alchemy and get your tactics in order. There are party tasks to complete for each character — do X move a number or times, or defeat Y number of a certain enemy, for example — which on completion will grant the characters with a new move or passive boost to benefit them in battle.
Obviously as an alchemist, Ryza spends a lot of her time learning new recipes for alchemy and synthesising them in her titular atelier. The recipes can be a bit overwhelming, with the ability to add in bonus ingredients to boost stats or give certain perks to the items you're crafting. Of course, the option is there to have the recipe auto-complete itself and take any of the guesswork out of the crafting stages, which may be more preferable to newcomers. Completing and modifying recipes leads to unlocking new ones, and sometimes this can feel never-ending. There's such an array of items you can create, but this means there's an item for pretty much every eventuality in battle.
It did feel at times like the game could be more helpful in guiding you to where you could find certain items needed for synthesis. The atelier will tell you which ingredients are needed for certain recipes, but unless you’ve discovered those items before, the guidebook won’t tell you where they are. This can lead to a lot of wasted time revisiting old dungeons to try to find what you need to progress the plot, as some recipes are required to be completed before you can go ahead. It’s more than a little frustrating, especially when it turns out it could be bought in a shop, but this aspect feels glossed over (our only hint would be to make sure you’re upgrading the shops).
At a certain point the plot did seem to stall, with more side stories from supporting characters being offered up than progressing the main narrative. While it’s fun to see all of these things and learn more about your companions, when you’re really deep into the game's compelling mystery, the last thing you want is stalling.
Atelier Ryza 2 is a great addition to the Atelier series, bound to please long-time fans and hook in newcomers. Featuring a colourful cast of characters, an interesting mystery to unfold, and fun crafting features, it’s a joy to sink hour upon hour into. While it does have its shortcomings, they are easily forgiven by how entrancing the rest of the game is.