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SummaryOne of the few recent games that's worth playing
The GoodAtelier Iris 2 : Azoth of Destiny is the second game in the Atelier Iris series, a Japanese RPG trilogy for the Playstation 2. I was very impressed by the first game, Atelier Iris : Eternal Mana, as it provided me an amazing experience (see my review for more details). Because I was so pleased by the first game I started to look for it's sequel, but this game was hard to find. When I eventually found a copy I bought it right away and my expectations about this game were high, as I wanted it to be as great, if not even better, as the first game.
The game is about the story of a young guy, Felt, and a young girl, Viese, who lives in the world of Eden, which is pretty much a paradise where everyone is nice, and without any monsters. Both are students in alchemy, and while Viese is an exemplary student, Felt prefers to practice swordplay (which is purely a martial art - there is no battles in Eden). Suddenly when an earthquake happened and destroyed parts of Eden, Felt decided to travel to the world of Belkhide, to be able to restore his beloved homeland. However many battles awaits you in Belkhide, and be prepared for a long and epic journey.
While the story is overall simple and classic it also revolves over the relationship between Felt and Viese, which has stayed at Eden but fully supports Felt, and is achieved so well that the player will have a lot of pleasure discovering the world, characters and story of this game.
The graphics of this game are very similar to the first, but you can see slight improvements in a few areas. As in the first game, all graphics are in a lively and colorful anime style. The playfield is shown in isometric 3D, while characters are made of 2D sprites, and battles takes place entirely in 2D. A good improvement over the first game is the world map, which instead of being made of very cheap and poor looking 3D is now an actual map, where you just have to press a D-Pad button to move from a place to a neighbour place.
There is also a notable improvement over the first game in the animations of characters, they are more interesting to look at. On the bad side, a few things are plain copied from the first game, but it's rare enough to forget it.
The gameplay is both very similar and quite different from the first game. It's similar in that the game plays like a classical Japanese RPG, which alternates between the playfield and random battles, and that the battle system is straightforward and simple. However there is huge differences in the mana system, and synthesis systems which have been completely redone from new basis. This proves that Gust put a lot of attention into this game and that only the basic game's mechanics were brought from the first game.
The music is, as in the first game, absolutely amazing. It mixes different styles including J-Pop, traditional Asian music, rock, pop, classical, techno and other influences I can't remember. There is an even bigger variety than from the first game, which already had an amazing soundtrack. The random battle music changes no less than 3 times, to avoid you being bored by the same battle music again and again, and there is quite a few boss themes as well. Few towns and dungeons have re-used themes.
The game offers a decent level of challenge as not all battles are easy, especially some bosses. I think it was probably harder then the first game, although I played the original a few years ago so I can't remember accurately.
The BadThe only bad thing I'd say about this game is that, once you finished it, there is few reasons to replay it, unless you want to go through the whole adventure a second time. However this is a common issues in RPGs, so it's not really something to complain about. While the first game had some actual additional quests, all this game has to offer is some challenging battles at Dragon's Den (some kind of arena), unless I've missed something.
Second and last problem, the English language voice acting pronounce "Maina" instead of "Mana", which tends to annoy me a little.
The Bottom LineThis game is probably not for everyone has it has a very strong anime feel, 2D graphics, and the story, while very well done, is classical and full of cliches. People which are at least a little into Japanese culture and RPGs which are looking for a fun and epic game to play should absolutely not miss this unique game, which is in my eyes, like it's predecessor, a masterpiece.
Gust is one of the very, very few companies who still knowns how to make good, simple and fun games since the 21st century, which is a good break from the realistic graphics and incredibly complex and uninteresting gameplay systems, or simple boring casual flash/portable games, which both aren't my style of gaming.
It's a shame this game will (probably) remain known only by a few dedicated fans, because it's probably the best RPGs released the last few years. Now I'll have to find a copy of the (rare) Atelier Iris 3 - Grand Phantasm, which I am now wanting to miss !