With no less than half a million copies of Atelier Ryza shipped worldwide, I managed to give a critical size to the latest from that series. But great success does not come without great responsibility. The first having departed from many totems of the franchise, I was entitled to expect a certain number of investments to fill the gaps. but, It is not the case.
The first thing that I hope very much by starting Atelier Ryza 2 is to finally be rid of the hopelessly candid atmosphere of the first game. Unfortunately, it's worse. I begin Ryza's new adventure when she receives a mysterious black egg. Left to perfect her alchemist skills in the capital, she thus attends the birth of a mysterious little creature called Fy. In parallel, Ryza reunites with Tao, his childhood friend. A model student in the history of antiquity, he gathered all the rumors and legends of the surroundings. The call of adventure is felt and the two rush into the ruins and other lost civilizations of the region.
What first shocks in Atelier Ryza 2 are the glaring lack of object in the narration. After browsing the first dungeons out of "curiosity", I quickly get the vague impression that Ryza and his companions are doing all this to get out and feed the mascot. I know it's a good excuse in case of confinement, but still ... Joking aside, let's just say that the plot does not fly higher than the very kawaii Fy, clearly there to please a certain ( new) hearing. If this one would undoubtedly constitute a very good Pokémon, it is an absolute defect for Atelier. A (too) large number of scenes consist only of showing the critter being mothered by Ryza and his friends. It's so simplistic and redundant that it gets annoying very quickly, especially since the game does not hesitate to over-dramatize trivial and inconsistent issues.
The worst part is that not only does the mascot take aberrant airtime, but in addition, the other characters really do not raise the level. So yeah, there are a lot more character events than last year, but they're pretty bad. Almost all of Atelier Ryza 2's narrative, as well as an overwhelming majority of the secondary scenes, revolve around commonplaces about the beauty of friendship or the value of trust while allowing oneself in addition to distressing rose water scenes. All events are for example devoted to her admiration for Tao. The character is only used for that! Have I ordered a Workshop or a visual novel aimed at a female audience? The relationships with other characters remain cold or non-existent. Klaudia, aside from reminding Ryza fifteen times how difficult their years apart have been, hardly exists. I don't even know why she is now fighting with a bow ...
The climax is reached with Seri, Lila's compatriot Oren: when the game is over, we don't know where she comes from, who she is or where she is going. This character is literally just a 3D modeled design. The designer Toridamono is talented, his characters are magnificent, but here we are talking about a video game and not an art book. I observe once again that despite the popularity of Toridamono, the developer has ordered very few illustrations for the game.
Atelier was the game in which drunk heroines tell anything, the men debate the color of pigeons, the secondary characters drown under the paperwork and grumble, the heroes have food competitions, alchemists who s 'shout, witches in big hats messing around from morning to night ... it all has a name: Japanese fantasy. Look at any recognized J-RPG: none will spout the same tearful or moralizing themes throughout the game, it will always reserve sideways full of humor, the unexpected, atypical characters, strange quests, etc. . Final Fantasy VII Remake, while it could have been westernized as a Final Fantasy XV, fulfilled this specification brilliantly. Since Atelier Ryza, I have struggled to sketch even a smile, while the humor was the hallmark of the series. Instead, we are served nothing but banalities and hints. With Atelier Ryza 2, the fantasy is not final, it is already lost.
If you thought you were consoling yourself with the exploration and progression system, that's also missed. The game is always extremely interventionist, offers little freedom, almost no surprises, and especially super empty dungeons. Don't expect to find a host of side quests or an ambitious open-world like in the excellent Atelier Firis. The dungeons require you to go hunting for clues using a kind of compass. Once these have been collected, some correspondences must be found by deduction with the legend of the dungeon. But deduction is a pretty big word since the text is highlighted on both sides almost verbatim. A simple analogy is enough to move forward, and the added value is zero. There is once again an outrageous infantilization of the player here in Atelier Ryza 2, especially since the progression systems had always been interesting and complex until now. We went straight back to primary school.
ALCHEMY WITHOUT LIMITS
Fortunately, not everything is dark in this video game, since the series maintains a proven game system. The alchemy takes up the main lines and advances of Atelier Ryza, the first of the name (the reader will be invited to refer to the test thereof so that this part does not extend over fifteen paragraphs) while continuing, however, the work of improvement undertaken. Thus, it is now necessary to unlock important recipes by skill points (SP). The aforementioned points being gleaned in large quantity in the dungeons but also after any synthesis of an alchemical object, the progression is done smoothly. On the other hand, and when playing at a higher level, you must always look for recipes for more powerful objects at the end of the building trees. This of course presupposes finding rare objects in large quantities, which requires both a diabolical optimization of the collection objects, but also memory and a sense of observation.
The game will help you in this optimization because you can now preview what you get at a collection point. The game will display the materials that can be taken, either by the scepter, or by the ax, or by the sickle, etc. A big advantage that leads to (much) better inventory management and reduces the risk of being blocked by a missing ingredient. Let us add that the basic catalysts are now materials of their own recipe: it is easy to reuse them to make them themselves and thus give them more and more powerful properties.
As a reminder, these properties are transferable to weapons, armor, accessories, attack, and healing items. So you dramatically increase the stats and the healing / destroying power of your inventory. Finally, let us point out that the game is now made in such a way that no property is lost during the synthesis: the optimization necessary to keep the maximum of three properties per object has often been difficult in the series. This problem is now fixed since the objects will always keep all three in memory, which can be activated later if necessary. An appreciable improvement when we know that many properties take a long time to obtain and that some are only found in one place in the game!
Your last trump card is Denys. The blacksmith from Atelier Ryza 2 may not have any charisma (he's not the only one) but he can hone gear like never before in the series. You can assign any ingredient to a weapon, armor, or accessory to increase your team's stats. But it would be very banal if it were only that: there are in the game a small score of objects which will add an exclusive capacity to the equipment. Eiyû no Tamashii, for example, allows you to acquire Hero Soul, which increases tenfold abilities in boss fights. This item, however, is almost impossible to find ... Manten no Yozora boosts all stats at night, etc. I appreciate the sought-after denomination of these powers, which are still an additional lever in the power.
The main bosses are pretty strong, so the game really invites you to get into the gigantic puzzle of the alchemy system. Without thorough research of the meticulous mechanics which vary the quality, the types of ingredients, the elemental index ... it is almost impossible to finish the adventure in normal or the very thin post-game content (one and only boss). To summarize, Atelier Ryza 2 is always hours and hours of thrilling reflection in front of the cauldron and a model of RPG / management, the exemplary nature of the interface, and the guarantees of the system having reached ergonomic heights.
FAIRIES AND GESTURES
On the combat side, Atelier Ryza 2 is continuing its quest for dynamism, but this time at the cost of a gradual withdrawal from the strategic dimension. The first striking symptom of this mutation, the leveling up of Tactics is automatic. As a reminder, the fights start at a Tactics 1 stage which can go up to 5, allowing longer combos and more damage. In Atelier Ryza, you had to manually choose the right moment. The requests made by teammates (to trigger a support capacity) are much less varied and surprisingly easy. The system of roles to be distributed among the characters has quietly evaporated. The player has nothing more to do than strafing the attack button and stringing offensive skills, very pretty after all. The dynamism of the fighting emerges from it increased, with a cascade of special effects which we never tire of, but we feel a loss of wealth in a system which no longer has much "tactics". However, I welcome the appearance of the guard, whose management yields precious AP with good timing.
I also feel a paradigm shift in the management of objects. Using a bomb and a healing item has a quickly high Core Charge (CC) cost. It is not easy to treat yourself urgently in case of a hard blow, for example, the ultimate elixir costing 5 CC! A priori, the object system is oriented more towards an "all for all", that is to say, to build a large stock of CC over several turns and to balance everything at once. In doing so, an additional effect called Core Drive is triggered, doing large additional damage or granting attack and defense bonuses. A system that defends itself, and gives quite exhilarating results even if I lose flexibility. Red card on the other hand on the customization of the famous crystal which governs the use of all these objects, a real gas factory since it requires a different type of points (Core Shards) which are obtained drop by drop. The result is that you feel completely constrained and it is really painful.
To sum up, the fights are still quite spectacular but paradoxically felt more passive than in the first one. Won't the endless quest for accessibility end up getting the better of the player's interest? The risk is real. These playable characters from the first game are now traveling on their own for no apparent reason, but the more discerning have already noticed that there are three empty spaces even after all seven characters in this sequel are together.
Atelier Ryza 2 Review, the conclusion
Atelier Ryza 2 is a frustrating experience as it continues to deconstruct the main principles that have supported the series for more than 10 years. I am witnessing a script written on a corner of the table, an interventionist adventure full of empty dungeons, and uninspired conversations between characters of all kinds. It is the sad impression of a forced march towards naive and insipid general public standards which destroy the charm of yesteryear. However, I take a lot of fun in the fights and with the flawless alchemy system that appears more than ever as the last bulwark before the general collapse.
For more information about the game, please make sure you visit the Atelier Ryza 2 game official website for all details.