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Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny PlayStation 2

Published by Koei
Developed by Gust
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £34.99

Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, an introduction.

What a year it’s been for PlayStation 2 owning RPG fans. There’s been a glut of RPG’s and even the postponement of Final Fantasy XII till next year (here in Europe) can’t spoil what’s been an excellent year for RPG fans. Prior to 2006 we hadn’t played one of the long running Atelier RPG’s. Earlier this year Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana was released and we thoroughly enjoyed playing the game. Of course it had taken a long while for Atelier Iris to arrive here in Europe and not long after, the sequel was released in the US. Thankfully the wait hasn’t been as long for the sequel and just under seven months after the release of Atelier Iris we have Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny.

What’s the game about?

In Atelier Iris 2 you’ll have two very different worlds to explore with two different characters. The story begins in the lush and tranquil Eden with Viese having just qualified as an alchemist. She goes to tell her friend Felt, a skilled alchemist himself who is reluctant to put the effort in to become a qualified alchemist. Whilst they are out together what appears to be an earthquake occurs. Later they find that it was no mere earthquake. Most of Eden has disappeared and more importantly the mana sites seem to have disappeared. There are other strange happenings too. The Azure Azoth, a kind of sword in the stone if you will, suddenly begins to talk to Felt. Viese can’t hear anything from the sword though. Felt tries to release the Azure Azoth from the stone and it comes out. No one before has managed this and even Felt has tried many times before without success. On visiting the Belkhyde Gate, a portal to the world of Belkhyde that has been forever closed, they find it open and calling for the master of the Azure Azoth to enter. Felt doesn’t do so initially but after consultation with the others it’s decided that the only way to find out what’s happening to Eden is to go to Belkhyde and find some answers. Before Felt leaves for Belkhyde, Viese gives him one of her share rings because she must remain in Eden. Because of these share rings it’s possible for Viese to create items that Felt will need and teleport them to him.

What’s good about the game?

If you’ve played Atelier Iris you’ll be instantly at home with Atelier Iris 2 as much of the game is familiar. However, it should be noted that it’s not necessary to have played Atelier Iris in order to enjoy Atelier Iris 2 because whilst many elements of the game are the same the story does not need any knowledge of the previous game in order to be enjoyed. This is a good thing as the story in Atelier Iris 2 is actually pretty good and will keep you coming back for more.

We said earlier that the story is set over two worlds with two main characters. Felt in Belkhyde and Viese in Eden. The way it works is that Felt does most of the adventuring in Belkhyde with a party of characters that he assembles along the way and Viese will remain in Eden to create any item that Felt may need which can then be sent to him via the sharing ring. For the most part it’s enjoyable stuff although it’s fair to say that controlling Felt and taking part in the battles is far more entertaining than controlling Viese and having to collect items over and over again. This is partly because the battles are more interesting than collecting but also because the characters that join Felt’s party are more interesting, and there are some great characters here, than those that Viese will meet.

As we’ve already said the game is very much in the same vein as Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana. That’s not to say improvements haven’t been made though. You’ll notice that a gauge has been added to indicate the chance of an encounter when exploring areas where an attack is possible. When there is no chance of being attacked the gauge is blue and it begins to turn red when there is an increasing chance of being attacked. It’s still a random encounter system of sorts, but it’s far less irritating knowing an attack is coming rather than it just happening out of the blue without warning. The whole synthesis process seems to have been simplified in Atelier Iris 2, not that it was complicated before. Some thought the US version of the game was a bit on the easy side. The UK release benefits have from having tougher enemies and should therefore provide more of a challenge which can only be a good thing. Importantly the battles are enjoyable and move along at a nice pace which prevents the action from becoming bogged down.

What’s bad about the game?

The complaints we had about the first Atelier Iris are for the most part present and correct in Atelier Iris 2. These large black borders that appeared at the top and bottom of the screen in Atelier Iris have rather annoyingly found their way into Atelier Iris 2. The battles may be enjoyable and zip along at a nice, quick pace but they still look rather dated. The 2D side-on view prevents any camera angle problems but there’s no denying the battles could have been presented in a better way. It can become a little tedious having to search for items when playing as Viese and it’s a shame there wasn’t more variation in her role.

How does it look?

Like the first Atelier Iris game Atelier Iris 2 doesn’t push the graphical capabilities of the PlayStation 2. Once again the game is played from an isometric angle with the battles played from a side-on view. Whilst the game isn’t filled with impressive 3D visuals the graphics do have a certain charm that will appeal to all who’ve played RPG’s on earlier systems. The character art is once again impressive with the much loved anime style being used again.  The anime cutscenes in the game look very impressive and provided a stark contrast to the rather dated appearance of the rest of the game.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Atelier Iris was deaf gamer friendly and the same can be said about Atelier Iris 2. By default the game is subtitled. Character dialogue is displayed in speech bubbles. The name and a picture of the character is placed alongside the text. Cutscene dialogue is displayed in speech bubbles (minus the character pictures) and you need to press the X button to move the dialogue forward meaning you can read it at your own pace. I also noticed there are a few anime style movies (such as the one that plays when the ‘earthquake’ occurs) and these had no subtitles so deaf gamers will miss out on a tiny amount of dialogue although thankfully it’s nothing that spoils the game. Tutorial messages are all shown in text and can be recalled at any time.

Final thoughts.

Those who have played and enjoyed Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana will no doubt enjoy Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny. The game may have a slightly dated look, although personally I find the graphics charming, but this should be overlooked in favour of the game’s enjoyable story and genuinely interesting characters. Is it the best RPG we’ve seen? Probably not but it’s still a very good one and a game that every fan of the genre should experience. Here’s hoping more Atelier RPG’s are released here in Europe.

Overall Game Rating: 8.0/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

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Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny is another enjoyable RPG from Gust. Fans of Eternal Mana will certainly want to pick the game up and even those who didn't give Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana a try will probably find a lot to like about the game.