About two years ago, I gave my thoughts on Ys Origin, a game I thoroughly enjoyed well above all other Ys games, at least the ones I played, meaning the ones on PC. Although, I didn’t technically fully complete the game as I only cleared it with a single character, Yunica, and felt that I should try out the other two and see how the game stacked up, only to then realize that there was a true ending I was not aware of, which leads into Ys I. Plus, I just felt like playing it again.
Ys Origin Review
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corporation
Publisher: XSEED Games
Upon revisiting the game, however, it became abundantly clear that I had next to no recollection of the story beyond basic event that tied in directly to progression or boss battles, and not just because I have a pretty terrible memory. The plot, which changes up depending on your choice out of the three playable characters, is filled with a very forgettable supporting cast who you seldom see and most of the time fail to contribute anything important.
There are a deluge of tropes from character archetypes that are easy to identify early on and failed to leave any real impression on me. The translation is solid, and the script is well written, but this was one of the few games where I felt I was patiently sitting through the story, picking up on everything that went on while not really caring about what was happening. The most memorable aspect of the story for me, a couple days after beating the game, is how much it brought the rest of the title to a grinding hault. That said, I don’t think I ever particularly enjoyed the proper story of any Falcom game I played, meaning the Ys titles, Gurumin, and Trails in the Sky, so perhaps there’s something that doesn’t quite click with me about their stories.
Regardless, it does little to distract me from the gameplay of Ys Origin, which I positively adore. Regardless of the character, the hack and slash RPG gameplay is very simple, run up the the enemy, mash them until they explode, jump or move to avoid attacks, use your magic to deal additional damage in a specific way or range, then pick up the health, currency, and goodies they drop. It sounds pretty easy, and it is to a certain extent, yet boss battles that are devoid of health drops can be a challenge, especially on higher difficulties, and new areas can be brutal as enemies dish out far more damage than you’re accustomed to.
You do have a constantly charging ‘boost’ meter for such occasions, but seeing as how it resets itself at the beginning of most boss fights, I barely used it. Instead, grinding for another level is a far more effective strategy, and I really don’t mind doing so in most cases. Although, not unlike the rest of this little unnamed trilogy of games containing Ark of Napishtim, Oath in Felghana and Origin, there really aren’t a lot of good spots to grind from what I recall, especially right before the final boss.
I also feel very similarly about every game in that aforementioned trilogy when it comes to visuals. The game world looks fantastic and timeless through use of a geometrically simple world with eye catching and diverse textures that almost look like sprite art. While the screen is liven up by bright and flashy effects from magic attacks to the concussive burst of sparkles that pop out of every fallen enemy. However, whenever I look at the actual character models or standard sized enemies, I can’t help but wonder why they went with an art style that aged as well as sprite of 3D models ala Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario RPG.
The sharp backdrops really do not jive well when put alongside these slightly cartoonish looking sprites with their oversized head and the inherent blurriness they have whenever they are blown up in an in-game cutscene. It really makes me wish the developers chose to make use of pixel art as they did in the still excellent looking Ys Chronicles. But instead it is a visual oddity that aged quite poorly. This dichotomy is also seen in the soundtrack, which has quite a few frantic, high energy, nothing short of excellent tracks that enhance the game to a higher plane. However, it also makes the transition to still quality softer and more mellow tracks a little bit jarring. Even something like the heavenly item obtainment chime sound out of place when you’re halfway through something like Scarlet Tempest.
The Ys series as a whole is one I wholeheartedly enjoy and do love to some extent, but each and every game has held some form of annoyance or oddity that prevented me from enjoying it as much as I wanted to. Fighting a boss while the amazing work of the Falcom sound team blares in the background, seeing every trick and unique animation the boss has while outmaneuvering it and making my way to victory before it explodes is nothing short of stellar. The game is ultimately an action fueled hack and slash dungeon crawling RPG, but there’s something about it, something about the series as a whole, a palpable spark of energy and determination by the staff. You can see the heights of the game in the intricate boss battles, as you take in their appealing animations, the amazing work of the Falcom sound team blaring in the background, and out maneuver your way to victory.
Sadly, this gameplay formula was retired almost a decade ago, and as far as I can tell, there’s nothing quite like it on the market. Instead, Falcom reinvented the Ys wheel with Ys Seven… Which I actually should play seeing as how I own it on PSN. But the Vita TV has no real upscaling capabilities, so…