Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Eric Ace 20.04.2022

Review for Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream on Nintendo Switch

Developed by Gust, a long-time fan-favourite of a variety of JRPG games, the latest Atelier entry, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream strays little from the typical path laid before it. Players will find themselves in a very casual game where they adventure around environments, gathering ingredients to go back and craft new gear that makes exploring easier, and the pattern is repeated on and on. Taking place in a dream world, the game is obviously a sequel, but little knowledge is required of the first game, and this even includes a short summary of the original title within it.

Atelier Sophie 2 falls very heavily into the typical line of the Atelier series, meaning is strays very little off the well-worn path. This is both a blessing and a curse, depending on one's preference. Following the tale of a young girl sucked into a dream world, this plays out much the same way from beginning to end: gather some ingredients, fight a few guys, make some new gear, and do it all over again. Where the mixed quality first starts to come in, is due to the repetitive nature of the core gameplay loop. Those looking for something to just kick back, not think too much about, and take in short bursts will likely really enjoy this. However, those desperate for something… anything to happen will start to eye the door as there is only so much undelivered-promise of plot that can be taken before players are ready to get off the train and go somewhere else.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream on Nintendo Switch

The initial story is mildly interesting, and some of the characters are cool, but saying nothing really happens is an understatement. Setting the stage, where heroine Sophie finds a mysterious tree and is sucked into a dream world where she finds her ancestors, offered some interesting premise, but little ends up capitalized upon it. Far too often, the main quest will be 'go to point X,' you get there, realize you need an item, then queue one to two hours of back tracking to go find various things to move on. Unfortunately, most of the story is told in very short cut-scenes that are randomly triggered upon certain areas or rooms, these essentially being conversations between characters. While banter is often a completely underutilized form of character development in general, in here these are woefully lacking in terms of entertainment or character development. These are often something like following a character around and finding out they are taking a nap. It's not that interesting, it does nothing for character development, and certainly nothing for an over-arching plot.

The main thrust, alchemy, is a step up from Atelier Ryza in that its more approachable, but it lacks a feeling of mastery that the Dusk Series had with its numeric manipulations. Essentially there are five elements, and any item found will have a small Tetris-like grid of elements as part of its identity. For example, a flower might have two Fire blocks, and three Wind blocks. When mixing these ingredients together, the player will attempt to line them all up on the board (there are some minor nuances here, but nothing major) and if certain thresholds are met, it will unlock additional stats on the item. As an example, if the player puts five Wind on an item, it may give +3 attack, if they can get up to 10 wind, this will change to +5 attack. It is far, far simpler than both Atelier Ryza and the Dusk series, which is again a blessing and a curse. On one hand it's nice to just slap some stuff together to get synthesizing; but on the other one there is that missing element of satisfaction from crafting this super careful item that lines up at the very right numeric level to unlock some trait.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream on Nintendo Switch

Combat is fast enough, but there are a couple of flaws here that don't do the game any favours. First, for whatever reason, the characters all start levelled. From the combat level of 20+, or alchemy level 50+, there is very little 'growth' that happens. On top of this, the stat boosts from levelling up are so, so minute it takes away one of the joys of RPGs; that of watching your characters get better. Combat follows a loose 'time-card' system, but for all intents everyone just takes their turn and that's the end of it. It feels like a hugely missed opportunity, especially when nostalgic players may recall the fun insanity the Mane Khemia series had with its time-card craziness. Enemies are either easy enough to just whack to death, or are wildly over-powered that players need RNG help (and a truck-load of items).

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream on Nintendo Switch

Graphically, the game looks very good, even when on handheld. The environments look pretty, and some of the levels are visually a treat, such as the space dimension or some of forests. One thing that is a little odd is some of the character designs are very fan-servicey, which is fine, it is just the game does little with it. You have these characters with thick legs busting out of tights, body suits and chests bigger than their heads… and nothing happens, nothing remotely flirty or sexual, so it feels like this strange temptation is in your face but not actually utilized.

In some regards this is the same issue present in Atelier Ryza; the air of innocence generally prevalent in the game clashes with these issues. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with fanservice and attractive characters, but it feels like watching a kid's cartoon and noticing some of the characters look more like they'd be home on the late-night shows after the kids go to bed. This is generally a fun romp that runs out of steam far too soon. Those that have loved the core Atelier series will find this one more than sufficient; but anyone hoping for something new, or a throwback to the older, more conventional style of JRPGs will be disappointed. Everything comes together well enough, but there just isn't something that magical or stellar that elevates this to anything special.

Screenshot for Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

While the overall package is lots of fun, it's not without a few issues. The lack of a truly driving story is by far Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream's weakest point. Furthermore, progression is in general just slow throughout, with endless backtracking. The simplified alchemy system is a mixed bag. It does little to stray from the formula and will be picked up by players exactly for that. It would be nice to see Gust take some risks and really step out with some new ideas rather than re-hashes of the same thing over and over.

Developer

Koei Tecmo

Publisher

Koei Tecmo

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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