Game Review

by Myles Gibbs,

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

Playstation 4

Description:
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Atelier Ryza 2 follows the titular Reisalin as she moves out from the sticks and into the big city to be with her friends. In this installation, the budding alchemist becomes swept up in a new adventure tied to the ancient history of her new home. With new and old friends in tow, master your alchemical talents in order to amass a magical arsenal that will win the day in all the battles to come.
Review:

Atelier Ryza 2 is somehow both one of the most belligerently boring and uniquely compelling games that I have ever played. The plot is dull and heavy-handed. Gameplay consists in large part of traversing an oversized map and picking up items. The combat has five game's worth of style and explosions, but not nearly enough room for strategy and forethought to remain compelling over its own 25-hour runtime. It's not all bad though. Atelier Ryza 2 is a beautiful game. It takes on a CG pastel anime aesthetic that felt incredibly fleshed out. The music was even more noticeable than the visuals. Every single track was in a brilliant inspirited orchestrated kawaii style. And on top of this style, it became clear to me that Atelier truly has a beating heart as a game. Despite its missteps, this game managed to capture a spark of inspiration that kept me interested the entire time. Whether or not it utilized this inspiration to the extent it could have is up to some debate, but its undeniable that there was a lot of potential here.

I'm a big fan of using items in video games (odd tangent but bear with me). I use all my fire paper in Bloodborne and equip all my berries in Pokémon. I farm my coffee in Persona 5 and keep my fairies stocked in Zelda. I enjoy the tactility of items, the sense that I discovered or earned something along my way that can now provide me a serious boon in battle. But in many ways, items often come off as a cheap escape from consequences in games. A win can't really feel earned after I've spammed phoenix downs and dragon fangs in Final Fantasy. The smart move that Atelier Ryza 2 makes is that it centers the gameplay experience around the creation and utilization of items. Attaining a powerful potion or bomb takes time and energy, making those strong items feel much more rare and special than they would if they'd just been picked up off the ground. It's an ingenuitive idea to center your gameplay around, and I was impressed by its unique nature. However, if that was all I had to say, this game would've passed across my desk with flying colors. But it's not. And it didn't. Let's talk about why.

Like I mentioned, Ryza's primary offense is that it manages to be egregiously boring most of the time. This can be mostly attributed to plot and pacing. The story it's telling is by-the-books anime cliché, and I don't really have a problem with that. Games like Dragon Quest and Octopath Traveler pull it off inoffensively enough, and now that I've played Atelier Ryza 2, I realize it's because they never really leaned or lingered on it too heavily. In Ryza, alternatively, it felt like there was a cutscene every 15 minutes for the first five hours of the game, and they were still spread out marginally after that. The most agitating part is that these scenes rarely did anything to add to the story or even offer any sort of exposition. They usually consisted of characters attempting to be cute and stating facts that were already obvious. They're skippable, which I think is worth noting, but I watched every single one of them just so I can say that it's an educated stance when I urge you not to.

The other issue I take with Atelier Ryza 2 is that there's just too much downtime. The gameplay is split up into largely two segments – exploration and combat. Both are neither completely good or bad, but both definitely lean towards the latter in terms of how able they are in engaging the player.

Exploration is mindless, and executes itself across maps that have no reason to be as spread out as they are. It breaks down to “walk to glowing spot, press button, rinse, repeat.” It manages to attain a certain Animal Crossing-like simplicity at times, but even those small pleasures are marred by some serious quality of life issues. Ryza's atelier (her home base) is the only place you can save in the game. You can fast travel there though, and about four hours into the game, after a bomb-synthetization mission, you can fast travel away. In my playthrough, though, that fast travel tutorial must've gone right over my head, and because the feature was tucked away into the map, I never knew I could access it. Which means that I was probably much less productive in my 25 hour playthrough than I could have been. The combat is a bit more straightforward though. Simply put, it rarely forced me to think about what I was doing. Simply use three normal attacks, and then follow with as many special attacks as your current AP level will allow. That's it. Combat optimized, with the exception of the aforementioned item usage, anyways.

Al-in-all, it's abundantly clear to me that Atelier Ryza 2 isn't a game for everyone. If watching numbers go up gets your rock off, or if you're unusually fond of cute anime sounds and visuals, this might be a game for you. But if you find yourself in any other camp, I'd hold off at least until the price drops to a more reasonable number.

Grade:
Overall : C+
Graphics : A-
Sound/Music : A
Gameplay : C-
Presentation : C

+ Spectacular music and a brilliant visual aesthetic. Has great character designs and gameplay that attempts to make a connection between item-collection and combat in a unique way
Suffers from a lackluster plot being dismally paced. Combat is flashy but uninspired, and somehow manages to make turn-based combat feel like a button-mash. Forces too much empty traversal upon the player, and is in dire need of some quality of life fixes.

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