Title (JP): Ryza no Atelier 2: Ushinawareta Denshou to Himitsu no Yousei(ライザのアトリエ2 ～失われた伝承と秘密の妖精～)
Title (NA): Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Platform: PS4, Switch, PC (Steam), PS5 (DL only)
Publisher: Koei Tecmo Games (JP), Koei Tecmo America (NA)
Release date: 3 December 2020 (JP PS4/PS5/Switch), 26 January 2021 (NA, PC)
Due to the nature of this game being a sequel, this article contains spoilers for Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout
After the runaway hit of Atelier Ryza in 2019, which saw record sales for the series, it should come as no surprise that a sequel would be coming soon, and so scarcely a year after the game’s release came Atelier Ryza 2.
A direct sequel to Atelier Ryza, Atelier Ryza 2 is also the first game in the Atelier series to have a returning protagonist retaining their protagonist role: While sequels are nothing new to the series, they have traditionally had previous protagonists returning in supporting roles, and having one retain their role is something entirely new for the franchise.
Atelier Ryza 2 takes place three years after the end of the previous game. After her friends left Kurken island to pursue their dreams, Ryza remained behind, continuing her alchemic studies and also serving as a teacher to the younger children in the village.
One day, Ryza receives a letter from Tao, who is studying in the capital city of Ashra-am Baird, telling her about how ancient ruins around the city might have something to do with alchemy, and inviting her to come over. At the same time, she is asked to investigate a mysterious glowing stone. She takes the stone with her and heads to Ashra-am Baird, where she reunites with old friends, meets new ones, and also discovers that her stone is in fact an egg which hatches a mysterious creature that she names Fi.
Gameplay remains mostly unchanged from the first game’s: The realtime combat system, having tools change what materials are obtained from collection spots, and the grid-based synthesis system all return, with changes mostly being in the form of new features being added.
On the field, the biggest addition would be how the player can craft or obtain tools that affect exploration and movement such as a grappling hook to traverse crevices, the Air Drop item which appeared in previous Atelier games that allows Ryza to breathe and swim underwater, and a whistle to summon and ride a monster that can also dig up materials from collection points around the maps. Additionally, it is now possible to jump over smaller obstacles, greatly reducing the number of invisible walls around the world.
The battle system is mostly identical to the previous game’s, but has been further refined. The basic flow, in which characters use physical attacks to build up AP to use skills , and then use skills to build up CC to use items remains identical.
The addition of the skill chain system, however, now allows the player to use multiple skills in a row for as long as AP remains, and also increases the power of skills the longer a chain gets. Also, the tactical level now gradually increases automatically as characters perform actions, removing the need for the player to balance AP for skills and raising the level.
The way items work has also been revamped, with all characters being able to equip up to four items, and being able to use up to four items consecutively at one go (once per item equipped, given that they have enough CC). Characters can also equip a Core Drive, a special move that can be activated once per battle (per character) by using the right combination of items at one go.
With synthesis, the base system remains entirely unchanged, but the addition of the Essence system shakes things up considerably: When converting items to gems, the player now also obtains small amounts of a new material called “Mist”, which is used to create various types of Essences. which have huge effects on synthesis: An Essence can change the element of a node, add a higher level effect or trait to a node, or double all quality or elemental values in a session.
Also new is the Evolve Link system, in which the player can combine an existing item with another one, resulting in the first item gaining increased stats or traits from the second. In some cases, this can result in an entirely new item being created, with a new recipe being unlocked as well. Unfortunately, the Evolve Link system does not seem entirely well-implemented: Unlocking recipes through it can be an esoteric mess that will undoubtedly send most players looking for a list online, and adding stats and traits winds up as a very simplistic and shallow process.
Many recipes, as well as other upgrades to Ryza’s material collection and synthesis abilities, are now unlocked via spending SP (gained from synthesis or clearing sidequests and requests.) in a skill tree. There are multiple hard locks on progress in the tree that are only removed by progress in the story, however, so the player is never too overwhelmed with choice, and SP being abundant means that running dry never really becomes a problem.
It is generally recipes returning from the first game that are unlocked via the skill tree, however: Most recipes that are new to Ryza 2, on the other hand, and unlocked through the old system of going through certain nodes in existing recipes.
This unfortunately means that a problem that existed in the previous game returns: There is no way to tell what materials are needed for a new recipe unlocked via a node in an older recipe, and so the player will more often than not find that they require something to properly make the new recipe, and have to back out of the synthesis, make the something required, and then redo the process. As there are cases of recipes going through multiple layers of upgrades to new ones, this can become extremely annoying at times.
Despite the new features, however, synthesis still feels very streamlined and simplified compared to some older games’: You will not be creating equipment that converts damage taken into healing, for example.
Ryza 2’s story gives the characters and thus the player clear objectives- Investigating the ruins around the city- Making the flow of the game much clearer than the first game’s sometimes meandering course.
The ruins also result in the introduction of an entirely new system: Early in the game, Ryza gains the ability to see past events using a magic compass, and can use these to decipher ancient manuscripts (the titular “Lost Legends”) to figure out what happened in the past. This adds an interesting archaeological spin to exploration, and also forms a secondary narrative. Deciphering records is sometimes needed to unlock a recipe to progress in the story, but is otherwise optional, with the only gameplay reward being SP.
One minor inconvenience with the compass, however, is how it uses a separate map interface to display where memories are located. This is accessed by the same button as the regular map, but the game defaults to the compass map, which has a startup animation of Ryza taking out and opening the compass. As this animation plays every single time the map is opened, it starts to wear on the nerves, especially considering how the default map appears instantaneously. Furthermore, the game defaults to the compass map even once the player has collected every single memory in the area, or even the entire game, further exacerbating the annoyance.
Though not quite an issue on its own, it is very odd that the secondary narrative presented via the memories never really becomes relevant to the main story. It provides backstory and early foreshadowing for the major problem that shows itself near to the end of the game, but is never truly acknowledged by the characters who are ostensibly piecing it together.
The main story is quite straightforward, never really throwing any curveballs at the player, but is nevertheless quite interesting and engaging, moreso than the first game’s frequently directionless plot, and overall feels improved.
The characters, both new and old, are charming and likeable, and all of the party members- and a few non-party member NPCs- also have their own interesting events and side stories.
The story, especially in the latter half of the game, revolves around the titular “secret fairy”, Fi. As a cute animal mascot, Fi could easily have become a MacGuffin, but conversely becomes an endearing addition to the cast, remaining relevant to the story and having great interactions with the rest of the cast. One can draw distinct parallels with Stia of 2019’s Atelier Lulua, with Fi basically being Stia done right.
Fans of Empel and Lila, returning from the first game, however, should note that the two are not playable in Ryza 2, and also do not have their own side story events (though they do appear in other characters’). One might assume that they would be added as DLC characters later on, but at the time of this review’s writing, the season pass roadmap going up to March 2021 does not include new characters.
The game’s graphics are as impressive as Ryza 1’s, being steps ahead of other games in the series prior to it. New attention to detail can be seen in some areas as well, with shimmering puddles on the ground after it rains, and Ryza’s clothes now getting wet after taking a dip or getting rained on, not unlike the similar system in another Gust game, Blue Reflection.
Unfortunately, it is only Ryza’s default costume that can get wet: Other costumes and other characters do not have this alternate texture, which stands out when the player gets a cutscene in the open when it is raining, and everyone aside from Ryza appears to be completely dry.
Ryza 2’s soundtrack is also worth mentioning. This being a Gust game, the usual high quality is of course expected and still present, but it is still noteworthy how several tracks from the first game return as remixes, and really contribute to establishing Atelier Ryza’s own identity.
This reviewer lamented the length of the previous game, and was thus very pleased with how Ryza 2 has far more content to offer, with over 50 hours of playtime. Unfortunately, the base game does not have much to offer in postgame content; there seem to be plans to implement new areas with higher difficulty levels via (paid) DLC in February and March 2021, but at the point of time of this review being written, when on normal difficulty, there is basically nothing in the game challenging enough to require the player to make full use of the synthesis and battle systems.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is overall a fantastic RPG. Though many of the Atelier series’ unique traits are as streamlined as before, the game puts effort into many other aspects, turning into a more conventional RPG. While longtime Atelier fans might be skeptical of this shift in direction, it is without a doubt a positive change from the first game, and does deliver a high quality experience, and newer fans who enjoyed the previous game will certainly be pleased by it.
The Good: Loads of content, great writing, fantastic music, and refined gameplay make for a really great entry in the Atelier series.
The Bad: Spending 20 minutes advancing recipes to new ones only to have to exit and restart from scratch upon finding that a single item needed to complete the final step is missing.
Conclusion: Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy further improves on Ryza’s formula, making for a fantastic, if somewhat more conventional RPG.
This review was written based on the Japanese release of the game, and may not reflect changes made to versions released in other regions.