Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream Review

Is this game a bust or a diamond in the rough? Find out with our review of Atelier Sophie 2!

by Shaun Cichacki
Atelier Sophie 2 - Nighttime

From the moment that Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist Of The Mysterious Dream starts, it’s impossible to hide the smile that keeps creeping onto your face. There’s something indescribable about the vibe of this game, from the gorgeous locations to the way that characters interact with one another, the only word that can come into your mind is Happiness. Especially living in the world that we do, escaping into a land of fantasy, only to be greeted with some of the most likable characters in recent memory gives you a form of euphoria that many have long since searched for.

While the series may be in its 25th year of production, many gamers do not know the tale of Sophie Neuenmuller, the titular character of this series of Japanese Role Playing Games, or JRPG for short. This particular reviewer had never played one of the numerous Atelier series games before but now may have to go through their backlog to clear some space to experience the stories told before.

From surreal dreamscapes to wide open fields full of monsters, to gathering materials, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a game as enjoyable as this new chapter in Sophie’s story. That being said, let’s get into the Meat and Soil Potatoes of things, and figure out why this is one of the most enjoyable and accessible JRPG games in years.

Cute is What We Aim For

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When booting up Atelier Sophie 2, you’re greeted with a beautifully animated cutscene with a blaring anime-Esque soundtrack greeting you into the new and unknown world that you’re about to embark upon. Even for those who are not familiar with the series, the game does a great job of introducing characters to the player through an optional “Story Thus Far” chapter at the main menu, allowing everyone to jump directly into this sequel. After witnessing the opening act, which sees Sophie and her Human-Doll companion Plachta sucked into a vortex, you’re not sure what to expect.

Well, what you’re greeted to is the Dream Tree, and two new companions, a young girl, and a shopkeeper, who are willing to go above and beyond to make sure that Sophie is okay and doing well. That’s one of the most refreshing parts of this game, is the overwhelming sense of friendliness that escapes from the expressions, words, and actions of not only Sophie but everyone around her.

Once inside the new and exciting world of Erde Wiege, you’ll be able to interact with people in town, accept quests, shop and so much more. But then, you get to the real draw of the game: the deeply rewarding Alchemy System.

One of the things that set Atelier Sophie 2 apart from the crowd, apart from its aesthetic of unending kindness, is its unique puzzle-oriented Alchemy system that rewards players with extra stat boosts for finding creative ways to fill up your board, almost like Bejeweled or Tetris.

Using different forms of Elemental Magic, you’ll be able to create weapons, potions, anything you can think of with embedded stat boosts that create a fun and exciting way to keep the player engaged, rather than just stopping at a shop to buy a new staff or sword.

Little things like this help elevate Sophie into her own, rather than falling into tried and true clichés, and makes her stand out in a sea of generic JRPG protagonists. She’s immediately loveable, and you want to protect her with every fiber of your being.

Venture Forth and Explore

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As you set out into the new world that you’ve been thrust into, you’ll be drawn in by its stylistic visuals. While not as perfectly refined along all of the edges as some others in its genre, Atelier Sophie 2 does a great job of combining an almost hand-drawn anime style with an old-school renaissance feel. Great attention has been paid to all of the playable characters, and while some could do with a few more items of clothing to cover up their assets, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a great crew that you’ll never tire of.

Everything pops with great colors, and while some of the textures are on the lower resolution side of things, you’ll be forgiven for looking over these small flaws in the overall run of the game. You’d be hard-pressed not to want to open Photo Mode at almost every location that you visit, as you can customize the scene to your liking and make you and your party do some fun and elaborate things to help you create your new favorite photos.

The sound design is also top-notch, featuring Anime-styled beats, mixed with olden-time Renaissance music. It shouldn’t go together as well as it does, but you’ll find yourself spending a little bit of extra time in the town square, just to listen to the excellent theme play over and over again.

And while the game does not have an English voiceover cast, the Japanese voice cast does an excellent job of delivering on their lines, making you feel the emotion in their voices, which helps set the tone of each scene quite well. If there was one word to describe the tone of the music in this game, the only word that comes to mind is Jovial. Everything is upbeat, exciting and gets you pumped up and ready for the next encounter.

The enemy design seems to take a bit of a page out of the “Dragon Quest” book of Adorable, But Deadly. You’re pitted up against anything from little jelly blobs, Wooden Golems, Dancing Sunflowers, and every other adorable design in between. However, things get more intense when it comes to the bosses of the world, as the first one you face changes the tone entirely from Adorable to Frightening. A towering water dragon, you’ll find yourself up for the first big fight of the game, but thanks to the excellent combat system, you’ll be able to dispatch it with ease.

Through Time and Space

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It’s refreshing to see an RPG that doesn’t follow in the footsteps of its many brothers and sisters. Instead of the overarching story being about finding and killing God, or any of the other standard JRPG tropes, you’ll find yourself on a quest to not only find yourself, but to find your friend and possibly even your Grandmother, before she had your mother? It sounds a little confusing at first, but it’s much easier to swallow than that.

At the beginning of your tale with Sophie, you find her and Plachta sucked into a vortex near the Dream Tree, which is a tree that is larger than life itself. They are then transported to the new world of Erde Wiege, which is also known as the World of Dreams. In this new land people do not age, and they can stay until they accomplish their dreams. You run into old favorites, as well as new faces, and even, just possibly, your Grandmother. She taught you everything you’ve ever known about the world of Alchemy, so you’re excited, nervous, and happy to set out on a quest to find her, as well as yourself in the process.

As you proceed through the story, you’re taken to vast, open worlds and introduced to a cast of over-the-top characters that are just as loveable as Sophie herself. You’ll navigate the world, gather materials, craft new weapons and items, and so many more things. The battle system in particular is a stand-out example of how to make something old feel new again, as you’ll be able to use your standard attacks, magic, block, items and flee, but also the option of Twin Attacks.

What this means, is you’re able to craft your team of up to 6 different characters and keep some in the background, that you’re able to swap out within battle, do super-powerful combination attacks, and take hits for your lower-powered teammates. It’s a great way to help keep all of your characters in balance, as they all gain experience points, and helps you learn the dynamics between all of the different characters, too.

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The ease of exploration is another part of the game that excels above most. You’d be able to have just about anyone pick up Atelier Sophie 2 and have a great time with it, even if they just wanted to go out and explore the world and gather materials or fight some monsters, it’s one of the most assessable JRPGs that has come out in recent memory. While some may balk at its lack of in-depth item, skill, and strategy management, it’s nice to see a game like this come out and be extremely welcoming to those who may have never played a JRPG in their life before.

As someone who is more experienced with the genre, you’re still able to make things as difficult as you’d like, with an adjustable difficulty slider at the beginning of the game. For those looking for a more relaxed experience, throwing on Easy and breezing through battles, exploring the lands and the like will find themselves fully engrossed and having a great time, and those who want to get up and personal with all of the details that the game has to offer can put Very Hard on from the start.

Getting lost in this stunning world is not hard, and it’s a great way to release a bit of stress from the hustle and bustle of the real world. You may expect to pop in for just a few minutes to grind out some experience points and gather some Princess Grass, but the next thing you know, you’ve been playing for 4 hours and not even realizing it.

You’ll find yourself getting lost further and further into the world and story of Sophie, even if you try your best not to do so. And for those players that are less skilled, or this may be their first JRPG, there are plenty of tutorials to help you along the way, and even ways to set up Automatic Alchemy to help you get the best stats that you can in your items.

Lots to Love, Little To Dislike

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As praise has been gushed upon this game thus far, there are a few points of frustration that do pop up along your journey.  While the game is stunning and was mentioned above, there are some lower resolution textures and some pop-in that can detract a little bit from the overall experience.

As you see a loving world, carefully crafted, and walk up to a tree with a resolution that looks more fitting in a Nintendo 64 game, you may be taken out of the immersion of the world. The rest of the world is rendered in loving care and detail that this bit of inconsistency may not even be noticed, as you’re taking in sights and sounds unknown.

Finding some materials would be a little bit easier as well if you were able to set a quest marker on them, rather than exploring and finding them in the wild by what sometimes feels like hard luck. Sophie, you’re an alchemist, you could conjure up a notebook to make life a little bit easier when we’re trying to find extra wheat.

The only other, marginal complaint that comes to mind is the number of invisible walls in the world. After being treated to games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Elden Ring, you may try to jump off of a ledge, or even of the side of a staircase, only to be blocked by an invisible wall that will not allow you quicker access than the set path that the developers set in play. While slightly disappointing, it’s not enough of a deal-breaker to make this shine less than it does.

These are the only things that come to mind when it comes to thinking of flaws, and even at that point, it was hard to come up with them, as it felt like it was a bit of nitpicking.

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The Verdict

It’s been quite some time since a JRPG came out that was this engaging. Finding new materials in the world, brewing together new items using the intuitive and deep crafting system, battling monsters, and forming bonds with your teammates through well-told story events and so much more.

For a series that has been hiding in the shadows and deemed a cult classic franchise for quite some time, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist Of The Mysterious Dream proves that even though it may be the underdog in a genre saturated with many, many entries, it can come out from the shadows and prove that it’s a one of a kind experience. While not the most groundbreaking game you’ll ever experience, you’ll be missing out on a valuable and worthwhile time if you skip out on this game.

- This article was updated on February 25th, 2022

"loved"
loved

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream

  • Score: 4.5 / 5
  • Available On: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch
  • Published By: Koei Tecmo
  • Developed By: Koei Tecmo
  • Genre: RPG
  • US Release Date: February 25, 2022
  • Reviewed On: PS4
  • Quote: "For a series that has been hiding in the shadows and deemed a cult classic franchise for quite some time, Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist Of The Mysterious Dream proves that even though it may be the underdog in a genre saturated with many, many entries, it can come out from the shadows and prove that it's a one of a kind experience."
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