Atelier Sophie 2 Synthesizes Old and New - Preview
Despite my and likely many others’ expectations, the next Atelier game is not yet another Ryza sequel. Instead, Sophie Neuenmuller of the Mysterious trilogy is getting another shot as a protagonist with Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream. Due to its sandwiched position in the timeline, there’s no need to touch the Mysterious trilogy of games to enjoy this one. From the main menu, you can find a recap of the events of Atelier Sophie. Nothing major will be missed from starting here, even if she does reference some other characters from time to time.
Atelier Sophie 2 takes place shortly after the first game, as Sophie sets out to become an officially certified alchemist. She soon finds herself in the dream world of Erde Weige, having lost Plachta on the way. Her first order of business is to find her friend. Asides from the introductory segment, the game doesn’t take too long to let you into the usual swing of things. Gust continues the trend of making Atelier games more suitable for newcomers by adding a few better hands-on tutorials.
One of the most important parts of alchemy, gathering, has continued in the fashion developed from more recent titles. That is, different gathering tools are required for different jobs,as well as the ability to preview what items you can gather from any given spot. A new addition, however, is that some gathering spots glow which give you the option to play a mini-game to gain more within the items such as higher quantity or quality. The one I played simply involved trying to hit the desired effect while it cycled past like a single row of slots.
Taking a step back from the Ryza games, Sophie 2 continues the usual turn-based tradition with no active time elements to worry about. Some seamlessness is introduced, though, as it transitions you into combat without changing your position in the game world. Nearby enemies will also join the fray and thankfully, be gone once the fight is successfully won. Party members can be placed in the back row and swapped in following a prompt to take the hit instead. This uses the TP metre, as does doing a double special attack, allowing two party members to activate their skills at the same time.
Synthesizing takes after the style from Atelier Sophie, which is a grid in which ingredients must be positioned around. Thankfully items can now be rotated making it a lot easier, at least for me. Further bonuses can be gained through linking star-marked pieces. Though this puzzle style has prompted me to use the auto-fill a bit more often. Items are now back to being consumable, but now have a different amount of uses. The number of uses can change depending on the synthesis process, as you can use certain traits to increase the power of an item at the cost of fewer uses.
Visually, the art style has blended in between old and new. There is less of a watercolour feel as the environments instead are vibrantly detailed. Still, the character models lean a bit more the other way, having been based on a previous art style. The character design for named characters ranges from bland males to flagrantly over-designed as is the case with Alette (though perhaps she is meant to look like a jester). Locales themselves are wonderfully designed, adding to the dream-world feel such as the waterfall located in the main town.
So far Atelier Sophie 2 is doing a wonderful job of merging features from the Ryza games while maintaining Sophie’s style. I do wonder if other features from Ryza 2 will emerge in this, such as mounts or swimming. Nonetheless, I am pretty excited to continue my journey through Erde Weige.
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is set to release on February 25 for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC.