Three years after the events of the first game, the adorable Ryza and her friends are back for another alchemy-fuelled adventure.
If you’re familiar with the long-running Atelier series, you’ll already have an idea of what to expect. But even if you’re not, and even if you haven’t played the first Atelier Ryza game, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy stands on its own two feet as an excellent and engrossing JRPG. In fact, even after more than 50 hours with Ryza and her friends, I’m happily indulging in even more, clearing up side missions and spending time synthesising missing recipes. It’s a world that’s simply a pure pleasure to be a part of.
Your time with Atelier Ryza 2 will be split between adventuring, creating materials in your atelier, and taking in story scenes. Even if you’re not already familiar with Ryza you’ll quickly grow to care for her and her friends; her sweet, bubbly personality is infectious, and as she goes about her business, helping her friends and townsfolk with their everyday problems, you’ll become invested in them, too.
At first glance, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy‘s crafting system can be confusing and overwhelming. It’s a lot to take in, so thankfully you can automate the process if you’re not comfortable. But taking a bit of time to learn it can be incredibly rewarding. Combining items together to create something new, and having control over the quality of the outcome, is great. Get deeper into the mechanic – as you’ll need to later on in the game – and you’ll unlock completely new items by experimenting.
But key to being able to craft and synthesise is gathering a wide range of materials. From exploring Atelier Ryza 2‘s large and beautiful world, you’ll gather a huge range of items from interacting with bushes, rocks and more. You’ll also gain materials from successful combat encounters, and some items can be purchased from vendors. Even gathering items requires a little skill; Ryza has access to multiple gathering tools and, depending what tool is in use and what level it is, each can wield different results. Using a cutting tool on a bush will wield various berries and branches, but use a bug net and you’ll find a handful of insects.
The wide range of possibilities sometimes raises some issues. Perhaps you need a very specific item in order to craft something required to progress. Atelier Ryza 2 provides very little information to you about new items, and even less on how to acquire them. If you’ve already found something, it’ll appear in your ‘guide’, along with information about what tool is required to gather it and what locations it might show up in. But it doesn’t tell you what level your tool needs to be; you might spend hours trawling an area trying to find a specific type of branch and it turns out not to be available to you simply because your axe isn’t high enough level. The game will never notify you of this.
There are several examples of this throughout Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy. While a list of missions is available that gives you an overview of what you should be working towards, it’s not always clear. Particularly in the first half of the game, I found myself hitting a brick wall more than once because I wasn’t sure what item I needed to progress, or what I’d missed somewhere. I’ve had to rely on internet searches a few times to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing; better signposting and the odd nudge in the right direction would go a long way here, I think.
But even when I have been at an impasse, Atelier Ryza 2 has never been frustrating. There’s always been something to do, be it a side quest or a random mission from the town’s notice board, or simply exploring to fill some gaps in my inventory. The simple act of existing in the game’s world is a joy, helped massively by the fact that on PlayStation 5, it looks absolutely stunning. Running at 4K with some outstanding shadows and reflections, it’s by far one of the nicest-looking JRPGs we’ve laid our eyes on yet. Sadly, it does come at a bit of a cost; there are frequent frame rate hiccups in numerous areas of the game. They’re never so bad that it’s unplayable, but I’d happily trade a slightly lower resolution for more consistent performance (there are no graphical options whatsoever). Hopefully it’s something that Koei Tecmo will address in a future patch.
Atelier Ryza 2‘s story centres around the titular ‘secret fairy’; early on in her adventure, Ryza comes across the oh-so-adorable Fi, a fairy-like creature of unknown origin. The pair become immediately inseparable, but finding out where Fi comes from and how to ensure his safety becomes the catalyst for a grand adventure based around exploring ancient ruins. In these ruins, Ryza can sense memories from previous civilisations; by interacting with them she can gather clues which can be put together in order to uncover the truth.
It sounds a bit like detective work and, to an extent, it is. You’ll follow a series of clues to unlock these memories, then you’ll need to follow a compass in order to find them all buried with the ruins. When it comes to compiling what you’ve found, there’s a bit of puzzle work involved; you’ll need to match keywords from broken snippets of text to full paragraphs. There’s some great lore of Ryza’s world to be discovered here for those who want to get fully immersed in it. But even if you aren’t interested in that, it provides a pleasing bit of puzzle work that acts as a nice change of pace from the usual exploring and crafting.
It’s during these sections that you’ll encounter the majority of the game’s combat, too. As to be expected in a JRPG, there are a lot of random battles – though the rewards to be reaped from them make them worthwhile. Combat can be as straightforward or as complex as you’d like it to be, though if you’re playing on a harder difficulty you’ll need to learn the ins-and-outs of all the mechanics on offer to you. As its most basic, each party member has a standard attack and a slew of magic attacks. To use those magic attacks, you’ll need to have built up AP, which generates by performing other activities. Despite being turn-based, it rarely feels slow; turns move quickly, and the range of systems on offer – the ability to use and combine items, switch party members mid-battle and a ‘limit break’ type move, amongst others – ensures every battle remains action-packed.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is the lack of an English voice over option. The Japanese voice acting is solid, but an English option would help take the immersion to the next level. It’s also let down by the fact that some snippets of dialogue – in combat, in the atelier and when discovering landmarks out in the field – are devoid of subtitles. While nothing in these moments is truly pivotal (I presume, anyway), it would be nice to fully appreciate Ryza’s personality, even if it is merely flavour text.
Although I’ve picked apart several problems with Atelier Ryza 2, the bottom line is that they’re all minor issues. Rarely does anything detract from the joy of stepping into Ryza’s shoes and simply existing in this gorgeous world. There’s so much to do, and every element of the game – from exploring, to crafting, to combat – is immersive and rewarding. It’s a shame there’s no English voice acting, and a bit more direction would be helpful at times, but even with those faults, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy remains a delightful way to spend 40+ hours of your life.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy Review: GameSpew’s Score