Continuing with the trend of quick releases, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy comes just a year after the previous Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, and is a first for the main series with the two games sharing a protagonist. Ahead of its launch day, we spent a while continuing our adventure with Ryza on the PC version of the soon-to-release sequel.
In Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy, the player once again takes control of the titular Reisalin "Ryza" Stout, three years after the events of the original game. Prompted by her friend Tao, one of the main playable characters from the original, Ryza journeys to the Royal Capital of Ashra-am Baird, setting up an Atelier there as a base of operations from which she explores ancient ruins whilst seeking the truth behind the mystery of the Lost Legends.
Along the way she reunites with all of her previous companions, although only the main three (Tao, Klaudia, and Lent) are playable, with Empel and Lila from Atelier Ryza being side-lined. In their place, there are a few extras: the titular secret fairy Fii, the rich girl Patricia, the treasure hunter Clifford, and the mysterious Serri. The new additions to the cast are welcome and fit in naturally with the original cast.
The alchemy in Atelier Ryza 2 is its key gameplay mechanic, as it is in every other title in the series. You'll spend most of the game gathering materials and synthesising them, sometimes straight into useful items like tools, weapons, or consumables, but often you'll synthesise these raw materials into compounds, which you'll then synthesise into items, resulting in better inherited traits and higher quality.
Synthesising itself is similar in process to the original game and is known as Linkage Synthesis. Each Material Loop has to be filled with material of a certain type, for example one type is sand, with certain bonuses being granted if they're also material of the right element: These four elements are Fire, Wind, Ice, and Lightning, and picking the right materials is key to creating the best items. One of the new areas in Atelier Ryza 2 is the "Essence" feature, allowing you to alter an item's elemental trait during synthesis, resulting in the final item taking on very different qualities.
Like the original Atelier Ryza but unlike any other title in the series, Atelier Ryza 2 uses a real-time, turn-based battle system. You only control one character at a time out of a party of three, but can freely switch between them during battle. Basic attacks generate Action Points (AP) for your entire team, which is spent on skills, with each use of a skill generating Core Charge (CC) separate for each character, allowing them to use consumable items.
Consumable items in this game last forever, essentially, and sort of function like spells once synthesised, as you generate CC in combat to use them and they don't disappear afterwards. Items are best used strategically, particularly with the Quick Item and Item Rush actions. Quick Item allows you to use an item immediately, even when you're waiting for your turn to arrive, so you could use it to finish an enemy or heal an ally quickly. Item Rush allows you to use multiple items one after the other as long as you have the CC for it. Great item usage is rewarded in this game, and when coupled with the fact that you made those items as well, it makes for an incredibly satisfying game experience.
Story-wise, Atelier Ryza 2 doesn't take too many risks, although like the original it takes a few darker turns towards its conclusion. The plot progresses quite slowly, as Ryza and the party discover more about the 'Lost Legends' whilst exploring the ruins.
In between plot beats you'll run into an abundance of cutscenes in the Capital: these are the slice-of-life scenes that Atelier is known for, mostly focusing on developing each playable character's personalities, along with some side characters as well. There's a lot of these cutscenes, and after finishing the first set of ruins I could barely move around the Capital without triggering one. Although they're a bit of an acquired taste, I found them quite charming by the end.
The ruins Ryza and her friends explore have some interesting mechanics: you have to find Memory Vestiges, Ruin Fragments, and Ruin Crystals, which you match up in the Exploration Journal, earning SP so Ryza can expand her skill tree as well as learning more about the Lost Legends. Overall, they were the game's low point, with each ruin's fairly dark exterior being dull compared to the incredible vividness of the outside world, and the process of using the Exploration Journal becoming quite tedious by the end.
That outside world is where the game's beauty is on full show, as the environments that Ryza explores are rich and varied. Ryza explores these areas in new ways too, as in Atelier Ryza 2 you can swim, climb, use a grappling hook, and even ride monsters. Particular highlights are the Windmuhle Valley, the Klares Farming District, and Star Guardian Lake, with all these areas being particularly enhanced during dusk or night. Although these areas look incredible, it is worth noting that this is mainly due to the excellent use of colour, as texture resolutions seem relatively low for a 2021 title, even on PC.
Light bloom was also excessive in some areas, which can be turned off on the PC version but may be a problem on console. On the other hand, character models are immaculate, with similarly excellent use of colour across characters' clothing in particular, with their hair and faces also being well-crafted.
Alongside the charming graphics is a perfectly fitting soundtrack. The music whilst exploring amplifies the sense of fantasy adventure I got from the title, and the battle themes for bosses and for normal encounters were exhilarating all the same. The tracks that played during the previously mentioned slice-of-life scenes were great in those cheery situations as well.
Overall, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a title I would certainly recommend. It doesn't tread unfamiliar ground necessarily, but it is nonetheless an improvement over the original Atelier Ryza, which is one of the best Atelier titles ever released.