Now this is odd. Usually we get an Atelier trilogy with an overarching theme as each game contains a new set of characters to adventure with, but here with have something different – an actual sequel to 2016’s Atelier Sophie. Is it a worthwhile endeavour? Lets find out.
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream continues the story of Sophie and Plachta. After leaving Sophie’s hometown, the pair discovers a huge tree identical to one that Plachta has been seeing in a dream, upon which a mysterious vortex suddenly opens and pulls them both inside. Sophie finds herself alone on the other side in a curious new world called Erde Wiege, and it’s not long before she hears about an alchemist named Plachta. When Sophie arrives at the atelier she finds a young alchemist that shares the same name and feels familiar, but unfortunately neither really recognise the other. Will Sophie find her lost friend and what other surprises await her on this journey?
Seeing a return to previous characters marks something of a first for the modern side of the series, then again Ryza did somewhat break the mould too, as usually things play out in a self contained trilogy and move on. With Sophie & Platcha splitting early and a new world to explore, there’s plenty of new characters to see along the way. It’s a good little adventure this time too and all the voice acting keeps the quality high. Luckily there’s a ‘Story so Far’ option on the main menu that gives an insight into previous exploits by the duo, a good refresher for those it’s been a while for or newcomers from Ryza.
Atelier Sophie marks my first foray into Atelier games on the Switch, and for the first time in a while when it concerns portable JRPG’s, I was genuinely impressed. The game keeps the bright and punchy look of Ryza as the great character detail carries over, with the swaying grass and splashing rain making for some environmental flourishes, and the usual BGM we’ve come to love is ever present alongside a fully voiced story. What impresses is how visually close it can get to previous games I’ve looked at on the PS4 considering the platform its running on.
Portable is best for this as the small screen hides some of the necessary nips & tucks that were needed to get this running smooth enough, which it does for the most part especially docked. Didn’t really notice much, if any, framerate issues when playing with docking the Switch likely ironing out any stutters that crop up. On the big screen the cutbacks are more apparent, pop-in being the most blatant as items (not the world or environment) noticeably draw in – textures and shadows are expectedly lower than on bigger consoles too. Still, it looks good enough docked as the style likely scales up well, and again, portable does hide this stuff well. Compared to the previous Atelier game I played on Switch, Lydie & Suelle, this is a nice visual improvement.
Surprisingly, outside of the graphical boost from Ryza, Sophie 2 doesn’t seem to take much else from the new releases as the game settles back into the Mysterious Trilogy template. Gone is the somewhat real-time turn based combat of Ryza to be replaced by a simpler turn based system. You might think this is a step back, but I personally prefer it and given this is a sequel to Sophie – a similar turn based style makes sense. There are some aspects similar to Ryza. Exploration for example takes place on the wide open areas you’ve become accustomed to and the general flow of the game is similar, no longer are you running an atelier as you head out on an adventure of sorts to find Platchta
As with the general gameplay loop, Sophie doesn’t take many cues from Ryza with the alchemy side of things either with a classic feel returning. Learning new recipes from books and via completing challenges or finding ingredients is a throwback to how things were before, as well as how synthesizing works as a whole. Its good to see the synthesis panel return as the puzzle based way of improving items was a nice touch that also served as a great visual aid in getting to grips with that side of alchemy. It’ll no doubt seem a little simpler to those returning from Ryza, but any long time alchemists will slot into this as tho they had never been away. It could also go either way whether someone will prefer a return or not, but I generally prefer the simpler times at the cauldron myself.
Atelier Sophie 2 marks a return to the world and characters of the opening act in the Mysterious Trilogy with a fun little adventure carrying on the story of our protagonist. Surprisingly, the characters etc are not the only thing to return either as the gameplay is firmly rooted in the aforementioned trilogy, with many systems returning alongside some improvements from Ryza. Thankfully the game looks excellent on the Switch and runs pretty well too, especially portable, which probably makes it the ideal way to sample this JRPG. Going back and expanding on a previous trilogy could go either way for long time alchemists, but for me its a neat idea and I’m hopeful of more in the future. Atelier Rorona 2 when KT?
Offers a new adventure alongside some old friends, with a fresh lick of paint & worthwhile portable play.