Learn From The Past Or Perish
HIGH Fi is SO ADORBS!
LOW The base inventory limit is shockingly small.
WTF Would two years of farmwork really render alchemy skills that rusty?
A direct sequel wasn’t always a startling thing in the Atelier series. Iris got three games all to herself back on the PS2, after all. But for a decade, the franchise has followed a fairly strict formula — they make a trilogy of games, each on a specific theme, and each game in the trilogy will star a new protagonist with the previous stars appearing as support characters.
Not anymore! Now the current trilogy has one star — Reisalin “Ryza” Stout, a plucky young alchemist who longs to leave her provincial farm life and see what the world has to offer.
Had she been the protagonist under the old system, her arc would have been covered entirely within a single game, but now that she’s heading up three of them, everything needs to be stretched out a little further. So, where the first entry, Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout was about giving Ryza the motivation to leave home, this one is about giving her the opportunity to do so and letting her experience life in the capital for the first time.
Structurally, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & The Secret Fairy is incredibly similar to its predecessor — Ryza sets up an Atelier and starts helping out the locals before stumbling into an adventure. Last time it was looking into why her island was running out of fresh water, and this time she must discover the secret of an adorable fairy that hatches from a mysterious stone she’s hired to investigate. This cute creature leads her on a journey through the ancient ruins of a dead civilization, turning into an experience focused as much on archaeology as it is alchemy.
Ryza 2 handles its alchemy crafting system elegantly. It uses the same chart-based system as Ryza 1 did, showing players a constellation of ingredients that can be used to develop an item’s stats and abilities, tailoring them to fit a given situation or the details of a request.
Gathering ingredients to use for creating things is an open-world affair. Like the last few Atelier titles, time limits have been removed from the game, allowing the player to wander the world at their own pace. Many areas are locked away until they become relevant to the narrative, but right from the start there’s a surprisingly large amount of exploring the player can do, with only the increasing strength of monsters putting limits on things.
‘Elaborate’ gathering is back as well, with the player able to use five different tools to pick up ingredients, with different tools allowing the player to get an entirely different set of ingredients from the same sources. Thankfully, the player can equip all of the different tools at once this time, rather than being forced to decide what type of gathering they want to do before leaving the hideout, as they were in Ryza 1.
These are great tweaks, but the devs’ most impressive accomplishment is the way they’ve made crafting incredibly simple and accessible without removing the accomplishment from making a high-quality item. Because the rules for how to add items are so clear and simple to understand, players can see the impact of ingredient quality on their work, making the time put into the ‘gathering’ gameplay more meaningful.
The fast-paced combat of Atelier Ryza makes a return as well, and it’s even peppier than it was last time — the player controls one character while AI takes control of the other two, hammering away at foes, and it remains one of the most intuitive JRPG combat systems I’ve encountered.
In addition to damaging enemies, regular attacks earn action points which allow the player to execute special moves. Using special moves earns item points( so players can throw bombs or heal their party) and also raises a ‘tech’ meter. The tech meter increases the player’s maximum action points for the rest of the fight and unlocks an ultimate technique capable of wiping out anything but bosses in a single strike. JRPG style turn-based combat doesn’t get much better than this.
Least surprising of all, for me, at least, is the fact that the developers have again come up with an incredibly affecting storyline.
Ryza 2‘s cast is growing up, and gradually learning that their upbringing doesn’t define who they’re going to be. This is most notable in Lent’s narrative arc, as he struggles to remain an open and kind person while putting his violently abusive childhood behind him. Bos and Tao’s journey also has quite a bit of depth to it — back in their hometown they were (respectively) the rich-kid bully and his favorite victim, but in the Capital they’re just two rubes from the middle of nowhere and wind up becoming friends based on their shared history.
While the plot might not rise up to the level of the character work, it’s still an interesting trip. Fi, the adorable fairy, is so cute that players will be compelled to see his journey all the way to end, and the script does a great job of reinforcing the overarching themes of the series — specifically that the comfort of today is bought by the pain of yesterday, and that the sins of the past aren’t as distant as people would like to believe.
The Atelier series is the most consistently-excellent brand in the JRPG genre, and Atelier Ryza 2 is another big win for the developers, as each new iteration finds a way to keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. All the developers had to do this time was not drop the ball after the excellent Ryza 1, but by digging in and developing their wonderful cast, they’ve gone above and beyond in setting up a fascinating journey to come.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Gust and published by Tecmo-Koei. It is currently available on PS4/5. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 75 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol. As in the first game, drinking comes up in a largely negative context, and the suggestive themes are more playful than lascivious. This should be safe for even younger teens!
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played most of the game without audio and encountered no difficulties. All dialogue in the game is in Japanese, and there are English subtitles. Text cannot be resized. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, the game’s controls are not remappable. Players control movement with the left thumbstick, jumping, attacking and collecting with face buttons, and select tools with shoulder buttons.
Nothing relevant to this conversation, that's for sure! Because we're here to talk about (sorry, write and read about, respectively) GC_Danny, who's updating this profile for the first time in thirteen years!
So let's take a gander back at that time and see what's happened! In addition to writing hundreds of video game reviews, Dan produced a book that can be legally purchased by almost anyone! He also wrote two short films, two episodes of television, and two movies! Although, sadly, and through much fault of his own, the movies have yet to be released.
In addition to general game reviewing, he's also dabbled in more long-form work, writing some of the longest and most comprehensive game reviews of all time. Then there's his non-GameCritics blogging, where he's famous as the world's foremost expert on the TV show Criminal Minds, as well as the co-host of a weekly podcast - he's even working on a new videogame/critical experiment, which you can find out more about here!
If all that wasn't enough, just a few months ago he rebranded himself as 'The Hidden Object Guru', hoping to stake another claim of ultimate expertise, this time over a genre of casual games! Will he be successful? Only time will tell, but you're free to join the thrilling ride at his YouTube channel!