Atelier games of recent years typically exist in trilogies that are set in the same world. The last entry to get a numbered sequel was Atelier Iris, but even then, all three of those games had different characters. Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is unusual, in that it’s quite literally a direct sequel to the last game, which is no doubt thanks to the record-breaking sales of that title. To be clear, I got a lot of enjoyment out of that game, and most of what I loved is back in force. But due to the short development cycles of these games, that means that what I loved is quite literally back, to the point that feeling some déjà vu is inevitable. This is still a good crafting RPG, but fans of the last one might feel that the returns have diminished somewhat.
Atelier Ryza 2 picks up three years following the conclusion of the first game. The entire main cast has departed Kurken for the mainland: Tao and Bos are studying in the capital; Klaudia is managing her father’s business in the capital; Lent is adventuring dourly around the capital; Empel and Lila are also hanging around the capital. Only Ryza herself has stayed behind to operate as her town’s alchemist. Bos’ father gives her a strange stone because he doesn’t know what it does. But she’s still bored, as she apparently became a master alchemist and then decided to do nothing with herself. She remembers that Tao sent her a letter inviting her to come to visit and look at ruins near the capital because they might have something to do with alchemy. Maybe.
It’s a truly weak setup that belies a big problem with the narrative. Ryza had a complete arc in the first game. Now she’s an expert, and the story doesn’t quite know what to do with her. Naturally, she immediately gets on a boat to the capital before running into the first game’s entire main cast one after the other. The plotting here just feels slapped together and a bit contrived. It turns out that the stone Bos’ dad gave her is an egg for a cute mascot that, wouldn’t you know it, happens to be related to the very ruins Ryza randomly decided to look into. Of course, the ruins around the capital all tie into a big mystery where the past is unveiled. However, the plot takes way too long to actually go anywhere this time. There are also some new major characters, including a laughably designed treasure hunter whose main personality trait is that he can’t help but state that he’s a treasure hunter. He also looks like he got his wardrobe from rolling around on the floor of a lost and found area at an anime convention.
Same old song and dance
As you can see, I have a great many issues with Atelier Ryza 2‘s narrative. It also doesn’t help that there are dozens upon dozens of event scenes filled with excessively dull dialogue that goes nowhere as the characters robotically stand around and flap their gums. To be clear, I was pretty okay with this stuff last time around — it just feels phoned in this time. The basic gist of this game’s structure is that there are several ruins around the capital that Ryza and company need to explore. In order to do so, you’ll need to collect clues, gather ingredients, craft items, and beat the crap out of a handful of palette-swapped monsters.
The combat and crafting in the previous game were alluring (and they still are, too!), but they feel more or less identical here. Despite having figured out how to craft all those difficult items by the end of the last game, Ryza needs to relearn how to make even the simplest things. Atelier Ryza 2 lampshades this by going, “there wasn’t room on the boat!” Later, though, it shows that Ryza somehow brought the item duplication cauldrons with her, so that’s clearly not true. It’s so weird to start the game and have her back at square one when she’s already an expert. And it’s worse because most of the things you’re crafting are exactly the same as the ones in the last game. We’re talking the same ingredients, the same alchemy system, and the same recipes.
The unshakable familiarity continues with the combat — albeit for one change, which makes it a little more confusing. Atelier Ryza 2 takes place in a totally different location, but you’ll see a lot of the same enemies as before. A lot of the game’s content feels copied and pasted. However, the combat, while identical, does differ in how it utilizes space. The first game had the characters and foes in their own rows, while they’re spread out all over the area this time. This actually makes it harder to tell what’s going on, especially since your two AI-controlled companions will automatically not focus on the same enemy as you. You need to manually make them focus on each target every time. And because the battles take place in a much wider area, this is more confusing than it needs to be.
Into the ruins
To be fair, Atelier Ryza 2 has some new aspects worth noting. The first of a few major additions are the ruins themselves. They’re basically dungeons that have a set of tasks to accomplish when you first enter them. Namely, you’ll need to fight certain enemies, gather certain ingredients, and find certain items in chests. Once you do that, memories will unlock that are scattered all over, which you can find with Ryza’s compass. These come in a yellow and blue form, with the blue ones functioning as areas and the yellow ones being text items that you need to match to open slots in your adventure diary. Completely filling sections of the diary will grant you new bits of lore and unlock skill points (SP) in your skill tree.
The skill tree is another major addition in Atelier Ryza 2. Filling in diary sections and completing areas in your adventure diary will grant Ryza skill points and unlock new nodes on the tree. You’ll use this to add new recipes, increase the effectiveness of your gathering, and even increase the limits of your alchemy. You can now raise the quality of your items to over 999. I honestly love the crafting in this series, and it’s even better in Atelier Ryza 2. It’s still annoying that you’re making the same stuff you made in the last game most of the time, but the expanded nature of the alchemy means you can dig in even deeper.
Finally, there’s now a quest board in the capital’s café that has random quests. These mostly net you money and, surprisingly, skill points. They typically require you to gather materials or make a few items. However, the pool is fairly small, so you’ll see the same few requests over and over again. I wish it was a truly random system, drawing from all of Atelier Ryza 2‘s ingredients and recipes. Alas. At any rate, you’re going to need a lot of SP for the skill tree, so it’s necessary to focus on the board. It’s satisfying to fill in the tree, at least, and there’s a lot to unlock. Oh, and Ryza can now dive underwater in certain instances and ride a big animal, but that’s mostly useless.
Only if you loved the last one
Atelier Ryza 2 has a worse story and duller character moments than its predecessor. It rehashes too much of the original’s alchemy and combat mechanics. Anyone who played through the first game recently will no doubt feel a healthy amount of “been here, done that” going through much of what it has to offer. But… it’s still a good game. The active-time-battle combat system is still flashy, and chaining combos together is satisfying and responsive. And I still enjoy gathering buttloads of material and then spending a ton of time trying to craft the best items I can. This game’s port is also infinitely better, as there are now graphical options. It still looks like a PlayStation 3 game, but hey — progress is progress.
There are some ridiculous difficulty spikes in regards to some of the bosses. I had to drop the difficulty to easy on occasion, as I was getting massacred in just a few hits despite having just crafted the best armor I could. But the experience is mostly smooth and I had a good time. As long as you’re aware that you’re going to re-experience a lot of what the first game had to offer, it’s worth playing. Just don’t be afraid to fast-forward through the tiresome dialogue. There’s so much of it.