Key Art
Image: Koei Tecmo

2022 is the 25th anniversary year of Koei Tecmo and Gust Co.'s Atelier RPG series. It debuted in 1997 back on PlayStation with Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg, and Switch owners have several entries in its library to choose from, including the very successful Atelier Ryza and its direct sequel, which broke series tradition by having the main protagonist of one entry (Ryza in this case) carry over into the follow-up.

Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream — the latest in the "Mysterious" branch of the series — is coming to Switch on 25th February, with series producer Junzo Hosoi returning to the ever-expanding Atelier canon. We previously spoke to Hosoi back in December 2020 prior to the release of Atelier Ryza 2, but to find out more about this new title, we caught up with him once again...

Nintendo Life: For Atelier novices (or for people who might have only played one of the Ryza games) could you briefly explain the main differences between the ‘Secret’ and ‘Mysterious’ branches of the series?

Junzo Hosoi: The "Secret" series has a relatively high amount of action when compared to other Atelier titles, whereas the "Mysterious" series focuses more on careful consideration and thought. The differences between the two are even clearer when looking at their battle systems. The "Secret" series utilizes a real-time system, while the "Mysterious" series focusing on a turn-based system.

Turn-based battles allow for a high level of strategy and gorgeous battle animations, so I really feel that style of battle has a lot of charm as well. We're looking to take best aspects of turn-based battles and expand on them.

Junzo Hosoi
Image: Junzo Hosoi

Following the success of Ryza and its sequel, why did you choose to return to the earlier Atelier Sophie in particular (rather than any of the other games, or starting a new sub-series)?

I'm really so grateful that the Atelier series is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary. We put a lot of thought into what the first new Atelier title would be to mark the occasion.

we looked over the reactions we received on social media for each of the past titles, as well as online character popularity polls

As many of our fans have been there with us throughout the long history of the Atelier series, we looked over the reactions we received on social media for each of the past titles, as well as online character popularity polls. We then took into consideration how popular having a direct sequel with the same protagonist was, in the case of Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness & The Secret Hideout, and began to consider making a story featuring Sophie and Plachta.

Sophie began as a novice alchemist in Atelier Sophie, grew to be a teacher of alchemy in Atelier Firis, and then an extraordinary alchemist in Atelier Lydie & Suelle. Between those titles Sophie and Plachta had many other experiences, so this sequel/new title focuses on one of those periods. We set out to make this new entry in the series a reality as we believed players would really enjoy it and also be able to experience a few surprises along the way.

Has feedback from the first Atelier Sophie – or the more recent Ryza games – influenced your approach to this sequel?

We are utilizing all of the knowledge and skills we gained when developing the graphics for Atelier Ryza 2 in Atelier Sophie 2. From there we brushed up on the fantastic elements of the game that are characteristic of the "Mysterious" series.

Additionally, we utilized all of the feedback we received regarding the three titles in the "Mysterious" series in order to brush up on various systems in the game by adding in new battle and synthesis gameplay elements, as well as improving the overall usability of the game.

What would you say is the most significant addition that Atelier Sophie 2 brings?

I would have to say that would be the seamless battle system we have added. Up until now, there was load time going from when you are exploring the field to when you enter the battle area, but now you can enter the battle much quicker than before. This compliments the turn-based battle system well, making this new feature indispensable for this title.

By implementing this feature, we have achieved a greater sense of realism and immersion in the world of the "Mysterious" series, as you can go directly from the expansive field area right into a battle.

As we understand it, this is the first game in the Atelier series that will launch practically simultaneously in all regions. Can you talk a little about the challenges involved in achieving this?

We always make sure to account for the amount of time needed for localizing each Atelier title, and include it in our development schedules very early on. We have to start all of this as quickly as possible as the story elements account for a large part of each title, and the sheer volume of each story is quite large. Whenever there is a change in the development process, we can go in and periodically fix things where needed, and by doing all of this in parallel, we are able to ensure the games have a worldwide simultaneous launch.

For new players, do you think it’s best to start with Sophie 1 before playing the sequel? Do you think fans of the Ryza games will enjoy Sophie 2 as much?

We have prepared a video to summarize the story for Atelier Sophie for players that have not yet played any of the games. Of course, it would be great if players can try out the game before Atelier Sophie 2 releases, but this video will allow players that haven't played the previous game to enjoy this new entry in the series.

This new title is somewhat of an "episode 0" and acts as the starting point for the "Mysterious" series' story. Every character is meeting each other for the first time, so it won't be an issue if the player doesn't have any prior knowledge of the story.

With the door now well and truly open for Atelier sequels featuring the same protagonists as previous games, is there a possibility you might return to earlier entries and characters for future sequels?

Atelier Lulua ~The Scion of Arland~ and Atelier Sophie 2 were special cases where the timing was just right for the development team and the illustrator, along with a lot of other miracles that were all timed perfectly to allow these games to happen. Regarding new titles and sequels for past entries in the series, if the stars align just right I think there is a possibility for more in the future!

Once you’ve completed work on Atelier Sophie 2, what’s next for Junzo Hosoi?

Atelier Sophie 2 is just the start of everything we have planned for the Atelier series' 25th anniversary, so things will continue to heat up as we go along. Please look forward to our future announcements.

Finally, if you’re playing Switch, are you more of a handheld or docked mode player?

The Atelier series has a lot of elements that require you to really focus when you play them, so when I'm playing on the Switch I like to use the handheld mode and just relax.

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Our thanks to Junzo Hosoi. Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream launches on Switch on 25th February.