Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth Of Destiny PS2
Cast your minds back, back to the 16 bit era before the advent of the third dimension, for some this was the pinnacle of gaming. Many genres truly excelled running in glorious 2D and the RPG was one of them. While most publishers seem to have forgotten sweet 2D in favour of its mass market appeal brother, developer Koei have always delivered excellent games that extend beyond the restrictive reigns of the 2D realm and over the past few years have slyly pushed these titles into the western market. Following on the heels of Disgaea, La Pucelle and Phantom Brave we have Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny. Unlike its tactical RPG predecessors, Atelier conforms to the traditional side on turn based fighting system with great success.
The game’s epic tale revolves around two orphans Felt and Vieze whose home world of Eden comes under threat after a series of mysterious disasters. The hero, Felt, is transported to the world of Belkhyde to uncover the mysteries around the disasters in Eden where the heroine Vieze remains. Unlike most RPG’s where you would have the two characters in the same party or both leading their own party, you play as both characters even though they are in totally separate worlds, free to swap back and forth as you please at any save point. While Felt’s sections contain the bulk of the adventure with all the fights taking place therein, Vieze still proves incredibly useful in that she can combine items using alchemy and send them to Felt and aid him on his quest.
The game consists of 22 chapters with a few extras upon completion and clocks in at around 50-60 hours (including the bonus chapters). The story is interesting enough to keep some going, but others will grow tired of it quickly. As with most Koei games the emphasis here is on the battles. The game’s battle system is incredibly deep due to the amount of items you have at your disposal. Due to Vieze’s synthesis ability, this is on top of the break system that allows you to push back an enemy’s turn so that you can squeeze in an extra move or two. It sounds simple, but some fights get rock hard and will require you to use the old grey matter or you’re doomed. Unfortunately the game can feel rather dull at times due to it’s A to B with battles in the middle style gameplay which can prove off-putting to the non-diehard RPG enthusiasts. Also the isometric camera doesn’t really allow for anything interesting visually outside of the fights. During the fights however you are treated to some of the finest 2D visuals going with pixel perfect designs and great animation all round.
A great gamer once said “One third of a game is the music” and over the years a staple of the RPG genre has been to have an epic soundtrack to enhance the feel of the game and in many cases has made up for many shortcomings of other games. Now assuming that one third of the game is music that would mean the remaining two thirds are graphics and gameplay. Now Atelier has the latter covered with only a few problems for those non-diehard RPG nuts and graphics, while limited due to the 16-bit throwback style, meet their potential to the fullest. However the music is quite disappointing. While it retains the feel of the old 16-bit era faithfully it serves as a reminder of how limited music was in those days. It would have served the game well to have spent more time on the music to help keep the player involved and interested considering they will be doing a lot of boring A to B quests.
Bearing yet more similarities to Disgaea, Atelier features many talking head sections, and as with all RPG’s, dialogue is of the utmost importance however I can only feel that some of the dialogue in Atelier is unnecessary and slightly predictable as opposed to being used to drive the story and give a greater insight into the character’s lives and personalities. The English dub is quite poor and rather irritating to listen to. Thankfully however; the Japanese dub is also available and is a little easier on the ears. There is also an option to have the text come up quicker than the default speed, neither of these sound terribly important and in all fairness they aren’t however they are features that are overlooked in many games today so kudos to Koei for remembering them.
Overall Atelier Iris is an enjoyable game with a tonne of charm and while it may have a fun and challenging battle system and a billion and one possible combinations using the synthesis system, it fails in capturing the player’s attention and doesn’t offer much in the way of incentive to play. However if you’re an RPG nut then there is enough on offer to keep you entertained and satisfied to stick it through to the credits.
One for the hardcore!