Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist Of The Mysterious Dream
After Many Years, Sophie Is Back
With so many sequels releasing over the span of a few weeks time, Atelier Sophie 2 is one for the fans and the newcomers. For further analysis on the Atelier series, please look towards my extensive first take where I picked apart each game's opening sequences. Released almost exactly a year ago, the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy DX Pack was released. Among those titles was Atelier Sophie, the first in the series. The following games, Atelier Firis and Atelier Lydie & Suelle, served as direct sequels. While each game is self-contained, Sophie would appear as an important side character in both titles serving as a mentor figure.
This is why I wasn't sure what to expect with Atelier Sophie 2. I didn't know much about its story, but I was aware of Sophie's role in the original trilogy. What would this game do for Sophie's story? Would it continue after the trilogy? The answer is "Not really." In fact, it's heavily implied that this game takes place between Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis for several reasons. It's one of those "sequel in between games" titles and this works for it and against it.
Explore The Land Of Dreams
Before the player embarks on Sophie's journey, they are given the chance to recap the events of the previous game. Not games, plural, but Atelier Sophie. Sure enough, events are retold leading up to Sophie and her partner Plachta leaving their hometown for two reasons. The first is for Sophie to become a licensed alchemist and save those in need. The second reason which comes into play in this game is finding a way to turn Plactha human. Shortly as they set off, they come across a peculiar tree that swallows them whole and places them into a different world parallel to theirs. What is up with "magic trees" that teleport people to different worlds, anyway?
As Sophie comes to, she's told that she's in a place based on the dreams of its inhabitants. As she finds herself in a new foreign world, she immediately panics, seeing her friend has gone missing. After meeting some of the locals in the town, she discovers a famed alchemist that has taken residency in the town who also goes by "Plactha." The problem is, this is a different Plactha altogether but the plot explains why this is the case. Without going into spoilers, given the context of the "dream world," genre-savvy players will connect the pieces together.
Atelier Sophie 2 Almost Makes Its Introduction Bearable
That is to say, the cutscene to gameplay ratio is almost fair this time around. Back when I covered Atelier Firis, I seemingly condemned the game for placing me in almost an hour's worth of cutscenes before I began performing alchemy. Firis's story was important and needed to establish her character and predicament. It was still dragged on to the point of almost losing interest. Thankfully, while Sophie 2 has its lengthy cutscenes, the action starts relatively quick.
Comparatively, the game takes a lot of cues from Atelier Ryza in terms of pacing, animations, and how cutscenes play out. It feels as familiar as the Mysterious Trilogy but with Ryza's modernity. Atelier Sophie 2's graphics are some of the best I've seen on the Switch and this is based on its "Quality Mode." I figured since it was an RPG that its framerates wouldn't matter too much and it didn't. In some Switch versions of games like Blue Reflection Second Light, I've complained that the bloom was overkill. In Atelier Sophie 2, it's just right.
The Sequel Achieves In Making The Protagonist Appear Strong
One of the greater challenges in making a sequel with a returning cast is making its protagonist show growth while not being too overpowered. By the end of the original Atelier Sophie, Sophie is an experienced alchemist. As this takes place before the events of Atelier Firis, she's not exactly "legendary status" yet either. What the game ended up doing was making her default level "high" enough to encapture her veteran skill. When the player begins combat and begins alchemy, her levels are high enough to reflect her growth.
For the players whose first Atelier happens to be Sophie 2, the game does a good job at easing new players in. While it is absolutely encouraged to at least play one game before diving into this one, mechanics like combat and alchemy are easy to grasp. This time around it once again borrows from Ryza and simplifies the Atelier combat that it's easier to follow. In this game, monsters are treated as materials for alchemy, providing the importance of crafting items over combat. Combat is needed for certain materials dropped by monsters and the stronger the party is, the stronger they can fight thus the rarer materials they can gather.
Overall, we started the Sophie trilogy on the Switch so, for consistency's sake, we had to play the sequel on the Switch as well. While I can imagine the graphical fidelity of the PS4 would trump the Switch version, Atelier Sophie 2 runs really well on the Nintendo console. Koei Tecmo has always done a good job in making sure their games ran well on all consoles and this title is no different. In a sea of RPGs and AAA titles releasing in the next couple of weeks, it's good to take a breather with a renowned alchemist.
Atelier Sophie 2 is available on PC, PS4, and the Nintendo Switch.