Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy Review – A Charming Adventure
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy channels some of the best attributes of JRPGs without falling victim to its worst tropes.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is the sequel to the original Atelier Ryza, which chronicled a secret adventure the titular alchemist embarked on with her friends on Kurken Island. Three years later Ryza receives a letter from her friends, summoning her to the royal capital Ashra-am Baird in order to learn even more alchemic secrets. This marks the start of a grand new adventure.
The call to action is simple and straightforward. However, the mysteries that unfold, namely ruins around the capital and a certain creature encountered later on, keep a healthy interest in the story until the end. Not to mention, it’s always a pleasure taking a break from heavily dramatic plots that make up a vast majority of JRPGs to work through much lighter fare. Ryza 2 is driven almost solely by its characters rather than the plot, meaning the focus always remains on their journeys and character arcs. Luckily for players, the main cast is more than strong enough to carry the game.
Their personalities operate under well-worn JRPG tropes yet possess enough depth to justify the investment in their arcs. It’s a sequel, it doesn’t spoon feed you any information. Rather, it assumes you know the conclusion to their stories and goes from there. You have a healthy mix of familiar faces and newcomers, a welcome adjustment to ensure the second game stands out.
Each party member has their own combat abilities and roles that players must explore and define themselves. Some are as you expect (Ryza being an alchemist means she has a mix up of physicals and magic), while others are surprisingly unique (the heavy hitter of the team wielding a giant sword is a young rich girl named Patty who wears a frilly dress to battle).
Atelier Ryza 2 is a hybrid of action and traditional JRPG with party member turns denoted by a gauge that approaches a sword symbol in the center. Enemy turns are also shown this way, making it easy to plan ahead what moves and actions you need to take. You can also switch between party members, which can be used to build up basic attack and Skill combos.
Basic attacks and combos are executed with the attack button, and each successful attack nets Action Points (AP). Party members will automatically use attacks on their turn which also builds AP. Blocking attacks to minimize damage is another AP gathering strategy. And, by executing a perfect guard (which nearly negates damage and staggers the enemy) you net even more AP.
Once enough AP is saved, you can unleash special Skills that deal more damage or have other effects. Once enough Skills are used, your Tactics Level goes up. Tactics Levels grant special benefits such as raising the combo count for normal attacks, increases AP regain, and extra Skill effects. Skills can also be chained after normal attacks, which deal even greater damage to foes. You can even chain Skills into other Skills if you have the AP for it, and later on, can chain the same Skill multiple times.
There are many other small mechanics that you uncover throughout the game, which add even more depth to the experience. Some of these include positive and negative status effects and the Stun Gauge, with the latter denoting a counter on an enemy that decreases as you damage it. If it reaches 0, they become stunned which delays their turn and makes them take extra damage. Continuing to damage them in this state causes their Wait Time to freeze until the effects eventually disappear.
You also have Action Orders given by other party members which, when responded to, results in them supporting you with powerful Order Skills. And thanks to the fact that even weak monsters can power each other up when attacking in groups, even a low-level encounter can require your full attention.
The battle system is incredibly flexible and dynamic, in which precise timing and your own skill refinement is greatly rewarded. Players master various mechanics to increase damage output, keep enemies from acting as much as possible, and control the overall flow of battle. Because players need to constantly maintain this flow in combat, battles rarely ever get dull.
Of course, the trademark of Atelier Ryza, and of the series at large, is the alchemy system. Ryza is a talented alchemist who can collect ingredients from both the field and monsters to create items, equipment, and weapons. Once you’ve collected enough ingredients, you return to your Atelier (your base of operations) and use the alchemy cauldron to synthesize items.
A detail I particularly enjoyed was that even a task as mundane as gathering materials is made interesting due to the party’s interactions with each other. They note facts, relay anecdotes, and reveal personal feelings with each other. In these moments, you glimpse into their world in which they’ve known each other for years. It’s fun to dig into the history that comes with that. It’s a great touch that humanizes the game even more and makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
Imperative to alchemy is the Skill Tree, which gives you access to recipes Ryza learned in her hometown as well as other useful skills. SP is used to unlock said skills, gained by synthesizing items and exploring ruins. Once you learn a skill you need to also acquire a recipe to use that skill, and then you add the necessary materials into Material Loops. If an ingredient has an additional trait, that trait will be added to the final result as long as the Loops are at the proper corresponding level.
Material Loops used for the process also possess their own elemental property (fire, ice, lightning, or wind). This is important because ingredients with the same element as the Loop will increase the final product’s power, otherwise known as its Elemental Value. This also can have many other positive benefits.
There’s a lot to learn and apply with the alchemy system but it’s well balanced with tons of flexibility and depth. Not to mention how it manages to capture the excitement of discovering new recipes and getting to use newly harvested materials for the first time. My only gripe is that I wish you could fuse without having to find the recipes first. I would love the opportunity to just cut loose and experiment all day. But requiring one first does keep players from discovering powerful and potentially game-breaking fusions early on so it’s an acceptable trade off.
One of the main boasts of the first Atelier Ryza is that the graphics engine was rebuilt from scratch for what was then current-gen consoles. And it shows. The graphics are absolutely breathtaking — vibrant, colorful, and bright — thanks to the well-rendered sunlight that shines down on the world. Other than a few low res textures scattered around, it’s an incredible feast for the eyes. This graphical leap covers the well-detailed character models and smooth animation as well, and even NPCs benefit from the visual bump.
Complementing the graphics is the great art direction. Each character looks very distinctive. While their outfits maybe a little busy at times, it only adds to their charm. The graphical enhancements extend to battle effects as well, with some flashy Skill animation (one of my favorites being when Patty activates her fire sword skill) on full display.
The soundtrack is excellent, with some seriously catchy tunes that make the gameplay experience even more enjoyable. Sound design, however, is a little hit or miss. Some sound effects on the field are either way too muted or seem almost comical. Battles, however, are another story as the sound design here shines. The more subtle sounds such as blocking an attack or striking with basic combos are satisfying enough, while Skills deliver on the more bombastic sounds.
There are also some nice extras included in the game such as a photo mode, atelier decoration, and bonus costumes for the party members. Even better is that photo mode is available right from the beginning, unlike in the previous title. And on the field, Ryza herself can explore the environment in new ways such as scaling small cliffs, swimming, and even riding monsters.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a fantastic JRPG. Whether you’re a returning fan or a first-time player, it’s an excellent jumping-off point into the franchise. As a first-time series player myself, Ryza 2 was quite a pleasant surprise and one that I find myself continuously drawn into.