It's easy to be nostalgic when playing Atelier Iris 2: The Azoth of Destiny, because at first glance it could be mistaken for a PlayStation game. The game plays by the rules established more than 10 years ago for Japanese role-playing games, which makes it sort of an anachronism in today's world of video games. But while it's certainly no Oblivion or Final Fantasy, Atelier Iris 2 is a charming and mostly fun adventure that will have you recalling your favorite classic role-playing games. And for that reason alone, it's a good game.
You have to switch between two different heroes in two different worlds, which unfortunately sounds a lot cooler than it actually is.
Taking place a long time before the events in the previous game, Atelier Iris 2 follows the story of not one, but two young orphans who live in the peaceful world of Eden. Felt and Viese are their names, and they are studying to become alchemists. One day Eden is shaken by tremendous earthquakes and much of the world simply disappears. Felt, being the more adventurous of the two orphans, grabs a talking sword known as the Azure Azoth and charges through a magic gate to the world of Belkhyde, which he's told holds the key to saving Eden. Viese decides to stay at home and put her alchemy skills to use by making items for Felt to use on his journey. These items are passed between the two separate worlds by a share ring, which lets both of the heroes access all of the items in the inventory.
Most of the time is spent controlling Felt and the ragtag band of adventurers that he picks up along the way. However, you'll often have to switch over to controlling Viese so you can whip up key items that are required to complete quests. It's an interesting concept to have two heroes in two worlds, but it isn't used very well here. Instead, it's just another tedious contrivance that results in too many frustrating and unrewarding fetch quests. The way it works is that you play as Felt until you encounter some obstacles that require a specific item to surpass. You have to first find the recipe for the key item, and then switch to Viese to find out exactly which ingredients you need to make the item. If you have all the ingredients, you can simply whip up the item, switch back to Felt, and continue your journey. But, more often than not, you won't have all the right ingredients, so you'll have to find a store that sells what you need, or you'll have to switch back to Felt and go search the world for one or two very specific ingredients.
Worst of all, once you jump through all those hoops, the reward is usually very minimal, and then it's on to the next convoluted fetch quest. It doesn't help matters when seemingly every non-player character you encounter demands that you offer some random and hard- to-come-by item in exchange for his or her help. You'd think that people would want to help you out since you're trying to save the world and all, but instead they'd rather have five berries from some plant that only grows in a cave that has collapsed and can only be opened with a bomb that you have to get the recipe for from some guy who lives on top of a mountain and won't speak to you unless you bring five feathers from a bird that lives on the other side of the world and...well, you get the point.
As tedious as the quests are, the story is still fairly enjoyable because the characters are all so likable. The dialogue is light and often silly, but most of the time it seems relatively natural and lends a lot of personality to each character. It also helps that the voices are all fairly well done and the sprites, character portraits, and environments are all varied and colorfully detailed. In fact, the only flaw with the look of the game is that most of the enemy sprites are recycled from the first game.