Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream commemorates twenty-five years of Gust’s Atelier roleplaying series. Much like its predecessors, it is full of funny dialogue, beautiful visuals and music, and unique crafting and exploration. As the follow-up to Atelier Sophie, Atelier Firis, and Atelier Lydie & Suelle, Atelier Sophie 2 combines its predecessors’ whimsy with the elaborate presentation and open field design sensibilities of Atelier Ryza and Ryza 2. The result is an enchanting entry that any roleplaying fan can enjoy.
Sophie is on a journey to become a licensed alchemist and help her teacher Plachta regain human form. However, they stumble upon a mysterious tree that whisks them away to another world powered by dreams. Sophie’s new goal is to find Plachta who has gone missing. She’s assisted on her journey by several allies, some of whom seem strangely familiar and connected to her past.
Atelier Sophie 2 follows the series’ core flow. The party receives quests in town, seeks ingredients outside, battles monsters, and then synthesizes items back home. However, Atelier Sophie 2 features plenty of substantial additions and changes. Players can choose between a corner mini-map or a semitransparent map that overlays the entire screen. Another notable change is that the game instantly shifts from field exploration to battles wherever the party is standing, which feels incredibly brisk. Battles also allow for double combat speed right off the get-go. Tapping right on the d-pad quickly lets players access their healing items.
Prior Atelier games have always intermittently shown character story arc events, but Atelier Sophie 2 now clearly organizes story arcs on screen so that players can easily chart their progress. The new Weather Change mechanic alters navigable paths and available ingredients, which can really make players consider how to progress through areas. Most notably of all, battles now follow a tag team-inspired format in which reserve members freely swap with the front row for a truly dynamic flow. These battles feature over-the-top Twin Attacks that are a joy to plan and witness in action. All of these changes bolster the feeling of immersion and seamlessness as players traverse the field.
And speaking of the field, Atelier Sophie 2 is the lushest Atelier game to date, even moreso than Atelier Ryza and Ryza 2. Sophie traverses lively town streets, verdant landscapes, and surreal spaces that are all full of detail. The lighting really accentuates the environments and characters in a vibrant way. Furthermore, the characters’ expressions, poses, and models bring NOCO and Yuugen’s character art to life more than ever before. Atelier Sophie 2 emphasizes transporting players into new worlds. With plenty of surprises, the game keeps players guessing as to where to may be going next. Ultimately, Atelier Sophie 2 is the pinnacle of the series’ visual refinements over the past decade. Just like other recent Gust games, the game features a Photo mode that lets players take snapshots, utilize plenty of filters, and freely position characters and monsters anywhere. Gust’s sound team also continues to knock it out of the park with relaxing tunes that feature eclectic instrumentation alongside the intermittent high octane rock-inspired track.
The game stands on its own without prior knowledge of other Atelier games. For further context, players can view a movie summarizing the original Atelier Sophie, which provides some optional backstory. Just like in many other Atelier titles, the game revolves around carefree silly interactions. The game also features a touch of mystique as Sophie solves mysteries in order to reach her goal. One minor quirk is that the game shows many on-screen pings between all of the encyclopedia additions, unlocks, and help sections. These pings can feel slightly overwhelming for series newcomers. However, the abundant tutorials are clearly written, and the game’s user interface provides plenty of cues to prevent players from becoming lost.
Alchemy is the heart of Atelier, and Atelier Sophie 2’s take feels more fun than ever. The puzzle-like grid from Atelier Sophie 2’s Mysterious subseries predecessors returns, but now players can synthesize with two separate characters. Each character has different experience levels, specialties, and unlock paths. Furthermore, other characters can assist while players select and place ingredients. Having the whole party participate really shakes up the usual solo-alchemist flow in a visually and mechanically fun way. Players can briskly unlock item recipes via multiple trees just by fulfilling tasks naturally. Just in case players are stuck, however, the game provides plenty of hints and branching paths to unlock. Some prerequisite tasks are a bit off-the-wall, and sometimes players have to explore to hunt for ingredients that they may not actually have. Ultimately, the game provides a meaningful and organic sense of progression.
Atelier Sophie 2 epitomizes the series’ charming alchemy-based roleplaying. It truly embodies the strengths of prior Atelier games while providing its own unique vibrant spin. The game will truly captivate anyone interested in whimsical surreal settings. The over-the-top antics and Twin Attacks keep battles visually striking, and the pace of exploring and battling has never been more brisk. While the overall flow may be ever so slightly overwhelming for Atelier newcomers at first, the game does a solid job of presenting and explaining its mechanics. Atelier Sophie 2 adds a lot of interface and quality of life improvements that really create a seamless experience. This is a great place to jump in and experience the joys of alchemy, and we wholeheartedly recommend it for any enthusiast of stylized roleplaying games.