Reviewed: June 22, 2005
Released: April 25, 2006
Eden and Belkhyde have been separated for 400 years. Some recent shenanigans on the part of a couple of neíer do wells has recently brought the two worlds back into contact. There is a little more to the plot of Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny than this but essentially you control two characters, one in each world, to find out what happened and stop the bad guys from doing what it is that bad guys do.
The hook is that you can create your own items and the characters have the same inventory through the magic of the ďshare ringĒ that each of them wear. Get it? Sharing? They have the same items because they can share? Man, the translator who thought that was a good idea needs to be shot.
Anyway, aside from including every Japanese RPG clichť you can name and having a very chauvinistic bent to the plot this game isnít terrible. That is if you can get past the voice acting, the random system slowdowns and occasional dropped lines of dialogue.
This is your basic turn-based RPG interface. You wander around the dungeons, get into random encounters, find treasure, level up and repeat until you kill the boss. This particular incarnation is something like a poor manís version of Grandia III. Instead of being able to juggle enemies for increased damage, etc here you just delay their attacks and get critical hits on them. If youíre smart you can get through most fights without taking a single hit.
The whole switching between characters is a nice twist except for most of the game the girl character just wanders around and talks to people while the guy is out fighting. Iíll probably get called a feminist for saying something like this, but the gender roles in this game are so strongly defined and so archaic itís like being beaten over the head with and educational film from the 50ís. I mean, not to soap box or anything, but havenít gender roles advanced a little bit from then? If they havenít, well, shouldnít they have?
I know that there are a couple of female characters in the game who arenít in this role, but they are also not held up as the ideal. I realize that looking for deeper meaning in video game plots is a little thin as far as scholarship goes, but at the same time the stories we tell ourselves have a way of shaping the world around us. Why do you think Aesop and Homer (the Greek, not Simpson) have been around for as long as they have?
Sermon aside the dual character bit gets old pretty quick, because playing as the girl is mostly fetch missions while the guy has all the actual game play. This wouldnít be terrible if it werenít for the fact that the story is mostly stuff youíve seen before, the characters are cardboard cutouts of what youíve seen in other RPGís, and the voice acting makes you want to shoot your television. All you really have left at that point is killing monsters to break the monotony, and hopefully prevent you from going homicidal on your PS2.
Item synthesis adds some depth to the game, but itís really very simple. You can experiment with using different pieces to make items with slightly different stats, but the differences arenít that significant, and if you can make a new item it will tell you so you may as well just stick to the recipe. You can make some neat little trinkets, but really the game just uses collecting ingredients and synthesis in place of buying something from a shop.
What will bother you the most about this game though is that it is by far the most tutorial happy game I have ever played. I think the most Iíve ever run into before was maybe three or four tutorials, usually packed in pretty close to the beginning, maybe one or two later when you open up some new abilities. This game has something like 20 tutorials that are simply text walks through the menus or screens. I think the last one I got was probably halfway through the game.
Aside from all of this the game is just a little wonky too. I experienced animation slowdowns and hic-ups, there is a story element where the two main characters are sending letters to each other that seemed to de-rail near the end and they usually were added when you were in control of the character who wrote them which sort of throws the whole thing off. It isnít the worst game Iíve ever played, but it is a far cry from good.
Before all you sprite graphics fans decide to burn me in effigy for not giving one of ďyourĒ games a fair shake Iíd like to say that thereís nothing wrong with using the sprites, even with the whole ďnext generationĒ looming so large. I liked Disgaea. Heck, most of the titles that NIS America put out look good. When a game uses sprite graphics for the PS2 though I expect it to run smooth; these arenít very demanding for a system like this.
This game looks like it was made at least five to ten years ago. It looks like it would have been at home on the Super NES. Had it been released then it would have been pushing the boundaries of what was possible on a gaming system. Sadly, it was not and it does not.
I wonít go too far into my opinion about the character designs, but they are all basic templates that youíve seen before (the villainís name is Chaos for starters). If you like the characters, well there is no accounting for taste, and I still like toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so you can make fun of me for that. Opinion aside the animation is terrible in this game. I could probably put something together in flash that looked smoother.
I guess I canít really complain too much about the music, and thatís the best that can be said about sound. Which is sad.
If you havenít been paying attention the voice acting is TERRIBLE. It is probably one of the worst examples of the profession Iíve heard. Itís no wonder so many early anime fans preferred subtitling to dubbing, the Japanese at least know what they are doing. Most of the dialogue in this game sounds like its being read straight from the script, such as that is, and the people they chose to do the dialogue have almost universally annoying voices. This game is one of the few times Iíve actually seen people cringe at hearing the dialogue.
I finished this game in about 35 hours and that is nearly a perfect game. I think I missed like two or three items to synthesize and a bunch of bestiary information, but I wasnít going to sit through hunting down every monster in the game and getting every item I could out of it just to complete that. I wouldnít call it a really satisfying 35 hours either.
If you have a younger relative who you want to get hooked on RPGís, buy them one of the Final Fantasyís or Disgaea. They may enjoy this game more than you would, but thatís no excuse for inflicting this upon them.
While I like that more and more Japanese titles are being released Stateside that also means that more of the crap is going to be coming through in the mix. Atelier Iris 2 just goes to show that RPG gamers are going to have to become a little more discerning with what they buy. Either that, or be happy with the occasional turd.