Just over a year later, Ryza is back in the latest installment in the Atelier series – the 22nd game overall and the second in the Secret subseries. It’s the first time that an Atelier game has featured the same protagonist twice, another bold change for the series that already went in an exciting new direction with the first Ryza game.
Improved battle system. I know some were disappointed by the change from traditional turn-based to action turn-based with the first Ryza, but I found it to be a nice change of pace. Just as with the first, the battles in Ryza 2 happen in real-time, with characters sliding along an action bar that determines when they can act. Once it is your turn though, you can’t just sit around deciding what to do, as the battle keeps going while your turn is ticking. It gives the combat a sense of urgency and I will admit it took some getting used to in the first game, but the second actually improves upon it a great deal.
For example, I really like the changes they made to items and core charge. Gone are the times of constantly going back to base and back to battle because your core charge ran out. Now, core charge is replenished via skill use and you can repeatedly use the same bomb in a single battle as long as you land enough skills to make up its core charge cost. And given that you can equip four items to each of your three active party members (and 1 hot-swappable character), there’s a lot of room for item use in battle now.
This ties into the new skill chain feature, which allows you to use multiple skills in a row given the right amount of AP. Of course, this allows you to build core charge even faster, so you can kinda see the increased emphasis on item usage this time around. It’s for the better though, as it gives the combat further ties to the game’s extensive crafting mechanics. I already liked that dynamic in the first Ryza, so you can imagine how excited I was to see it expanded here. These are just a couple of the changes though. There was a lot put into making the overall combat experience more streamlined while also maintaining a nice amount of depth, and I was all for it here with Ryza 2.
Crafting and gathering is still as fun as ever. Another Atelier game, another complex, yet fun crafting system. The first Ryza already had a solid base and – just like with the combat – the sequel makes it even better. For starters, the entire alchemy level system from the first game is thrown out the window in favor of a new skill tree system. It basically works like any other skill tree you would see in other JRPGs, allowing you to use experience earned during crafting to unlock new recipes, which in turn allow you to unlock even more recipes. It’s kinda combined with the progression in the first game in that you can still synthesize a new item from an existing one, there’s just another layer of progression on top of that.
It’s not just recipes though, the skill tree also grants other bonuses like new super moves to use in combat and increased quality and quantity of gathered materials on the field. The field actually saw some much more noticeable changes, such as giving you a preview of what items are dropped from certain bushes, rocks, and other objects – an excellent quality of life addition.
And I should also mention the new exploration features. You can now swim, swing, dive, climb, crawl, and even ride an animal companion around. Some of these require you to first craft tools (just like in the last game), but all really open up the game world in a fun way, making gathering a more involved experience. It’s still a bit rough around the edges (like diving below water requires a fade-to-black transition), but I like the direction the gathering is going in and this makes me excited to see what future Atelier games will have to offer.
Excellent graphics and music. The bar has been raised yet again for the Atelier series. In my review for the first game, I called Ryza the “best looking Atelier game to date” and as expected, Ryza 2 now takes that title. Bright, vivid color use, better lighting and shadows, excellent character designs – it has all that from the first game, but now with detailed weather effects (characters can actually get drenched from the rain), a more populated game world, and some nice technical improvements as well – which I’ll discuss shortly. You can even line up that perfect shot with the game’s photo mode, definitely a nice little extra to play around with.
Really, the only complaint I have with the visuals is that it can go a bit overboard with the bloom and depth of field effects. I’m pretty sure the first game had those patched a bit, so hopefully that will also be the case here.
Now onto the soundtrack, which has also improved. I mean, I already knew it was off to a great start when I was jamming out to the main menu music before even starting a playthrough. It’s got that excellent mix of more adventurous, exploration tracks (befitting of Ryza’s personality), but also some more mysterious, ominous stuff for the story scenes. That and I quite liked the new opening theme – I personally think it’s better than the first one.
Actually decent port. Usually, in my reviews for Koei Tecmo PC games, the PC port is an automatic con, as their ports generally are full of all sorts of issues. Ryza 2 I believe is the first to break from this trend, as Koei Tecmo appears to have learned from their past ports and actually delivered us something at least somewhat decent this time. When I reviewed the first Ryza, there was a grand total of two graphical options: a fullscreen toggle and a resolution setting. With Ryza 2, this has been expanded greatly, now including quality settings for textures, shadows, reflections, and effects as well as toggles for anti-aliasing, depth of field, and ambient occlusion. They even added a borderless window option, another complaint I had with the first.
It gets better though. I was able to set the game to output to 1440p without needing to edit any external INI files and it appears that the 60 fps cap has been removed as well. I was a bit confused because when I started the game, it was locked to 60, but after I had finished it and started this review, I was suddenly able to push the game past it after tinkering with the settings a bit. I don’t know if I just missed something or they updated the game while I was playing it, but it’s good news regardless and the game looks great running at 100+ fps.
However, I should note that the game is harder to run this time around. The graphics got an update, but so did the recommended system specs. The recommended GPU is now a 1070, which I barely pass with my 1070 Ti. At 1440p, I have to play at medium settings to get over 60 fps – just thought I should note for those expecting the game to run exactly like the first.
And then there’s the controls, which have also been improved. You’re now able to remap them in-game on both controller and keyboard and mouse, although there are a few that can’t be remapped. The game also finally has mouse support, both in regular gameplay for camera movement and in menus. The mouse support can be a bit spotty at times, like during alchemy, but it’s good enough to the point that the game is actually playable without a controller now – although I still opted to use one for my own playthrough.
It’s not a perfect port – you still have to use the escape key to access the settings even when using a controller and the game does not appear to offer button inputs for different controllers – but this is much better than what the previous game offered and worthy of praise.
Further decline in story quality. I hate to say it, but Ryza 2’s story is not only a downgrade from the original, but the weakest I’ve seen from the series thus far. As this is a sequel, it takes place after the events of the first game, three years to be exact. So you would think, “okay, then the game is going to expand on the characters established there while maybe taking them on another cool adventure,” but no, the game instead has you spend more time with an animal sidekick that cannot even speak.
The character’s name is Fi and while I don’t dislike them outright, I grew to dislike Fi indirectly due to how the story developed around them at the expense of the already established cast. The characters from the first game eventually are introduced, but they’re given the briefest of catchup stories before being shoehorned into this whole Fi plot, a plot that doesn’t even go anywhere and I can’t really get any more specific without spoiling it.
Let’s just say that the game does the Atelier story classic of getting progressively worse as it goes on and that really shines with this Fi character, leaving me with an ending that hardly felt satisfying and disappointed that I never really got to catch up with the rest of the characters and what they’ve been doing the past few years.
I imagine some would say, “okay, but that’s what the character side quests are for,” but that’s actually another problem entirely. Once you start doing these character side quests and events, you’ll notice that they typically involve you doing boring fetch quests for the bare minimum of character development, if any at all because some of the events are just straight-up filler. I won’t deny that the first game also had these (and that actually was one of my complaints in my review for it), but at least the main story there better developed its characters instead of just tossing them to the side.
This series isn’t exactly known for its good writing (a point I’ve brought up in every Atelier review I’ve written), but the story here is easily the weakest I’ve seen from the bunch – and this is the sixth game I’ve played in the series.
Tedious exploration journal mechanic. Part of the reason why I disliked the story this time around is how structured it felt and this is best exemplified through the new “exploration journal” mechanic. So to sum it up, instead of being a naturally-developed adventure like the first, this game has a very clear pattern to it through the exploration of ruins. You arrive at a new set of ruins, explore it enough to unlock a compass that then maps the ruin’s memories, and then pick up these memories before engaging in a light puzzle game in order to unlock the ruin’s secrets.
You basically rinse and repeat this several times and you’ve cleared the game, but that’s not my only problem with it. The other half of the problem is that the act of filling out the journal with these memories can be very tedious. You have this list of thirty or so memories to scroll through and have to match each and every one of them to a couple keywords, a process that not only can take a while, but doesn’t offer up that much of a reward. Sure, you get to learn more about the given ruins (and how they inevitably tie into the Fi plot), but it’s almost entirely detached from every single other character in the game.
Given that this is the bulk of the story, hardly any time is left for the characters that are actually interesting, so I imagine you can see why I was so disappointed when explaining my earlier con. I mean, the ruins mechanic is great in theory, but I didn’t like how it took away that sense of adventure that was present in the first game, where it was just a bunch of friends trying to have fun. Now, it’s a very structured affair and it just loses that charm.
I couldn’t quite fit this info into the pros and cons, but I felt I should also discuss the game’s length. Put simply, the main story is about as long as it was in the first game – 26 hours or so. That’s just the main story though, the Atelier series is known for its wealth of content on top of that and Ryza 2 is no exception with all of the extra side quests and even some post-game boss fights. There is also a new game+ mode that carries over some progress from the main game for those that want to go that route.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is a worthwhile follow-up to the original. The combat mechanics, crafting system, and exploration were already solid in the first game and have only been expanded upon here with the sequel. It may have taken a bit of a dive with regards to its story quality and the new exploration journal mechanic isn’t exactly the greatest, but if you liked the first game, there’s a lot to like here with the sequel. The PC port is much better this time around as well, so props to Koei Tecmo for that. I imagine we’re not quite done with Ryza just yet, so I’m looking forward to where Gust takes us with the next game.
Quote: Atelier Ryza 2 is a worthwhile follow-up to the original. The combat, crafting, and exploration was already great in the original, but are even better here even, if the story is not quite as good.
You can buy Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy on Steam here. The game is also available on PS4, PS5, and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.