Review – Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Coming from the same developer-publisher tag team that brought us the impressive Fairy Tail last year, Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy has the distinction of being the first true JRPG (and turn-based RPG, for that matter) released for the Playstation 5, given the fact that, for some bizarre reason, Yakuza: Like a Dragon was initially released as an Xbox Series X exclusive when it comes to its next-gen version.
I expected for this game to showcase the standard of what to expect from a PS5 JRPG from this moment onwards, but sadly, what I ended up getting was yet another proof that maybe we should have waited a few more months for the console to be released, as this game feels rushed, not taking any single advantage of the resources provided by Sony’s console’s beefy hardware.
Being a direct sequel to 2019’s Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & the Secret Hideout, one would imagine that diving straight into Atelier Ryza 2 would be like starting to play Yakuza from the fifth iteration, but the game did a surprisingly competent job at setting things up in a way that newcomers won’t exactly feel left out. Granted, if you’ve played the previous game, you’ll feel right at home, but in no moment I felt like I was missing out on information. I do think that the game should have tried to explain things in a less boring and exposition-heavy way, but hey, it could have been worse.
Atelier Ryza 2 is really, really boring at first. The first few hours of the game are a tremendous slog, as you’re basically forced to do an annoying sightseeing tour inside this one big town you’re going to spend the majority of your time on. You’ll basically go from A to B, then from B to A, then A to C, and so on, just to be showered with exposition and countless pages of tutorial information, before being able to properly enjoy the game’s JRPG and alchemy/crafting mechanics.
The game utilizes an active time battle (ATB) system, not unlike games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. You need to wait for your action bar to fill up before being able to use any command. One interesting take is the fact that you don’t have a magic meter: you need to fill up another action bar with points earned by using normal physical attacks in order to spend them on your more powerful moves. You can also stun lock a singular enemy at a time whenever you’re fighting against multiple of them at once. Doing so will allow you to deal guaranteed critical hits for a limited amount of time.
It sounds fun, but it’s actually a slog, especially in the beginning of the game. Your physical attacks deal pathetic amounts of damage, enemies have tons of health, your action bar takes ages to fill up, and it takes a while before you’re able to do the bare minimum in a JRPG, buy some health items. Atelier Ryza 2 is stupidly slow at first, making it hard for you to keep on fighting through excessive amounts of cutscenes before the good stuff finally arrives.
The good stuff comes in the shape of Atelier Ryza 2‘s main gimmick: alchemy. Granted, if you’re hoping for something as epic or well-developed as the alchemy from Fullmetal Alchemist, then you’re going to be massively disappointed with Atelier Ryza 2. What you do in here is create items by combining ingredients in a system that’s paradoxically simple but also complex. It’s simple because the game basically tells you that you need a certain ingredient to create a certain item, but it’s also complex because you can add additional materials to change the properties of the item you’re creating.
There are two interesting things about this crafting system. First of all, you’re basically creating items with infinite usages. These items can be equipped and used like how summons work in other JRPGs. It’s weird to explain, but that’s basically how they work. Also, the more you craft, the more experience points you earn in order to unlock more items to craft. It results in a somewhat interesting gameplay loop, which is sadly hampered by the boring combat system and some other technical issues.
The main technical issue in Atelier Ryza 2 is its performance. This is the first Playstation 5 game I’ve played to feature serious framerate issues, and to make matters worse, it’s not like this is a visually complex game. On the contrary: this is, at the very best, a game with PS3-era graphics covered in some exaggerated lighting effects. How on Earth can a game like this struggle to run at a decent framerate, resulting in noticeable amounts of input lag, while other games like DIRT 5 can even reach 120fps while blessing my eyes with great visuals? The terrible framerate really hampers the overall gameplay, especially when exploring the overworld.
There are other positive aspects about this game, don’t you worry. There are absolutely no loading times, and the sound department is actually pretty freaking good. The voice acting department is comprised of what you would expect from a game like this, which is competent but overdramatic anime performances, but what really impressed me was the soundtrack. Every single tune is memorable, and I keep humming the (surprisingly chill) battle theme every now and then.
Don’t think Atelier Ryza 2 is a bad game. There are lots of good things in it, in fact. The problem is that I was expecting more from a game with a full-fledged Playstation 5 build. With the exception of the fast loading times, the game doesn’t take advantage of the system’s hardware, resulting in a game that looks dated and runs as well as what I would expect from its Switch port. I wanted for the first JRPG on the PS5 to be the new standard of what to expect from these kinds of games from now on, not a passable port with more issues than similar games released for the PS4.
Some nice anime character designs, but Atelier Ryza 2 looks like a PS3 game at best. To make matters worse, its lighting effects are excessive, and its framerate is all over the place.
The overworld controls are quite clunky, with some noticeable input lag. The combat system is uninteresting; it’s not particularly good, but not terrible either. The alchemy and item creation systems are, by far, the most interesting aspects of the game.
The voice acting is decent, but what really surprised me was how well-composed and catchy the soundtrack ended up being.
Atelier Ryza 2 suffers from a really boring intro, an average-at-best combat system, and previously mentioned technical issues. The story is quite good, however, being the main reason you’ll keep on playing it even during more boring sections. It becomes a lot more entertaining in later chapters as well.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy is available now on PS4, PS5, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy was provided by the publisher.