Seeing how Atelier Sophie is already a part of a trilogy, especially when ordered from first to last in their triplet sequence, it was shocking to see the announcement of a sequel. It was interesting to speculate how it would be done, and it might surprise the unaware Atelier fan.
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream severs any plot relation it has to its first game. The story takes place before Atelier Firis and Atelier Lydie & Suelle. Sophie is still an inexperienced alchemist at this point. The pleasant part of it all is that you won’t start over from level 1 when playing the game. It makes sense to have it done like this, after all.
Sophie and Plachta are sucked into a mysterious vortex. Separated from her partner, Sophie must now try to seek her out in the dream world of Erde Wiege. The game takes a step back from the everyday life gameplay from the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy and focuses primarily on its adventurous nature. It introduces a new cast of characters and contains references players of the first game may take notice of.
The story is paced out much better than in the first game. It feels like a full-fledged adventure game with optional character events on the side. The fluid story pacing was the much-needed improvement Atelier Sophie 2 deserved. While it may have aspects that can be confusing at first, the puzzle pieces eventually come together to paint the full picture.
Do You Need To Play The First Atelier Sophie Game?
No, you do not need to play the first Atelier Sophie game to understand Atelier Sophie 2. The game comes with a recap for you to catch up with most of the events from the first game; however, Atelier Sophie 2 takes place in an entirely different universe. You can play the game and skip the recap to avoid some spoilers from the Atelier Mysterious Trilogy.
Gather materials, fight enemies, recruit playable characters, and craft new items; Atelier Sophie 2 doesn’t stray from the Atelier gameplay formula. It’s still easy to get lost if you’re not acquainted with checking up on recipes. However, progression has drastically improved from the first Atelier Sophie game.
Atelier Sophie 2 will have you exploring a handful of areas to gather materials and fight monsters. These areas start off small and simple but get complex later on. Similar to previous games in the series, a marker on the map will always show you the way to help you advance in the story. An incentive is also available for exploring different parts of most maps to keep the interest.
What differentiates exploration in this game from other Atelier games is the weather control devices. These devices add puzzle elements for you to solve. The weather affects the surroundings and opens up parts that were previously inaccessible. It’s not too challenging to figure out the required weather for progression, and even if you’re somehow struggling, the fast travel map leaves a hint behind.
The game uses familiar turn-based combat mechanics with a party of six characters. Three characters will be on the attacking front row while the remaining three are used for support. These positions can interchange between each other by executing Twin Actions. A Dual Gauge can also be built up to prompt the option of a Dual Trigger: a powerful special skill carried out by two characters.
You’ll have a variety of skills and items to use at your disposal. What you won’t have is the option of benching a character you do not fancy. You can put them in your secondary, support row. However, it’s likely that they will show their face during a battle against a fearsome foe.
What’s noticeably new to the combat system is the aura barrier. It’s a defensive mechanism that stronger enemies possess in the game. Unfortunately, it can be a double-edged blade. While it does help raise the challenge during a battle, it can get tiresome the more you run into enemies with it. You will find a generous number of aura barriers given to many random foes throughout the world.
Despite the above, the combat system is still a delight. You even have the choice to avoid the overflowing number of enemies in the overworld if it becomes a problem. The game’s difficulty can also be adjusted at any time if you begin to have trouble. Some boss fights can drag on to a tedious length if you don’t upgrade your gear often depending on the difficulty you set. But one of the best parts and a new addition to the Atelier series is the seamless transition from battle back into the overworld.
Synthesizing in Atelier Sophie 2 is going to be more challenging than in previous games. You will have to place the materials’ blocks along a limited grid-based space to get bonuses from colors and links. It’s been fun trying to unlock the best effects and I did appreciate the challenge to do so. It’s a system that’s easy to master but only pays off when more work has been put into it.
What I found troublesome was how you have to level up both Sophie and Plachta’s alchemy levels. The urge to neglect one of these characters is strong; however, the game demands that you level up both for progression. Synthesizing high level items does help with this, and you can seamlessly switch between characters during the item selection screen.
It’s also easy to get stuck if you don’t pay attention to the recipe route tree. Sometimes you may need to synthesize items leading to the required item for story progression before you can make it. I haven’t had much trouble with this in Atelier Sophie 2 until the endgame where I had no idea how to get the item’s unlock requirements in the recipe book.
Post Game Content
The game’s main story campaign takes around 45-50 hours to finish. After this, you have the option of beginning where you left off before the final area or New Game+. Choosing the former adds quests in which you can battle against powerful enemies, a higher difficulty mode, and there will no longer be limits to changing the weather. The latter, however, starts your journey from the absolute beginning while retaining your money, hunting certificate, and equipped gear/items.
Graphics and Performance
Atelier Sophie 2 maintains the aesthetics of the first game with polished graphics. Koei Tecmo has been generous this time around with many free costumes for Sophie if you have saved data for some of their other titles. All/Most other costumes, especially for other characters, must be purchased through the Nintendo eShop if you want to traverse the world in new styles.
What’s interesting is that there’s a setting you can tweak between performance and quality. I’ve noticed shorter processing speeds when using the performance option. However, I failed to notice any differences in graphics when choosing their respective option. There might be minor differences, but it’s not something I noticed for the time I kept it enabled.
Soundtrack and Audio
Atelier games are known for their smoothing music, and Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream is no different. The game has a great soundtrack that’s most likely to please. Only Japanese voice acting is supported, which isn’t anything unusual for most of Gust and Koei Tecmo’s games. The little audio and sound effects are about the same as other games.
Although Atelier Sophie 2 takes a detour to the dream world, it still has all of the core ingredients you’d expect from an Atelier game. You’ll be able to explore, fight, and synthesize as you’d usually do. Its explorative side doesn’t reach as far as Ryza; however, progress can still be seen in the right direction. Its synthesis system can be challenging when it comes to creating the best gear and combat is satisfactory.
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream gets an 8/10.