Note: I re-reviewed this title in 2020. Please disregard this review.
Before beginning, I feel I should clarify what I mean when I refer to prior Ys games, as I have played Ys Chronicles, Ark of Napishtim, Oath in Felghana, and Origin before delving into the creatively titled Ys Seven. Aside from Ys: Memories In Celestia, which was released after this title. I just want to clarify how I’m going into this game, as it does a few things I feel it makes some… notable changes. Also, I legally own the game via PSN, and played it using an emulator, because the Playstation TV displays PSP games at 480p, which looks terrible on a 1080p monitor.
Ys Seven Review
Developer: Nihon Falcom Corporation
Publisher: XSEED Games
For those unfamiliar with how the series works, the Ys series focuses on the exploits and adventures of Adol Christian, and his tendency to solve problems by awakening an ancient evil and then leaving shortly thereafter. This time is no different, focusing on Adol’s adventures in Altago, and his search for a series of gods in order to uncover some such mystery that I never really figured out, as my playtime capped at 12 hours. A near complete playthrough for most of the Ys games I played beforehand, but this time I doubt I was any more than a third done with the game. What I did hear of the story wasn’t particularly interesting, as most characters beyond the series staple of Dogi, a wall crushing, good hearted, knucklehead of a man, struck me as tropey as any other Ys cast, just modernized a little..
Naturally, I did not stop playing the game because of the story I very well could have skipped through, so my reasons must come from the gameplay. In that regard, Ys Seven is borderline unrecognizable from the prior Ys titles I’ve played. The series has gone from a single character, fast paced, action heavy RPG into a party based RPG that is notably slower and has notably worse game feel. Hitting monsters lacks a certain ompf, it takes far longer to bring down the average baddie, and by introducing a weapon type system, you are encouraged to switch between your party members and quickly grow accustomed to their skillsets. It may sound neat, but in practice it is annoying to switch over to another character, and do so several times in a given location.
Even when playing as one character though, I feel that some mistakes were made with the SP and skill systems of the game. In short you have a series of equippable skills, all of which have their own levels, that use SP, which you gain by attacking enemies with your basic strike. You may also charge this strike to gain more SP, so most combat is reduced to holding down the attack button to change, strike, use a skill, and then maybe strike again to recover your lost SP. Oh, and you are encouraged to use every skill at your disposal and use them constantly in order to level them up, a nice idea on paper, but it gets old fast.
As does the dodge/roll mechanic that replaces the jump button. It allows you to move faster than you normally would, is required based on how your movement speed is slower than it was in prior games, and is located right next to the attack button, the button you encouraged to constantly hold. I managed to fix this by mapping a face button to L1 so I could dodge that way, but needless to say, my left index finger quickly became sore, as did my right thumb. I can only imagine how uncomfortable this must have been to play on a PSP.
Granted, there are plenty more annoyances to playing the game regardless. Ys Seven encourages the player to defeat every enemy 36 times, which is a textbook example of video game busywork. Which in turn makes the dull and uninteresting drops you receive from enemies, materials and gold, effectively worthless as you will have more than you know what to do with after the first two or three hours. Also, veterans of the series may notice how I did not mention the health drops, as there are none.
Healing items are now only received from chests, which rarely have anything worthwhile in them, another change for the worse, and you may only regain health from glowing rocks place before a new area or a boss, or by standing still outside of a dungeon, waiting for your HP to heal. You recover, at best, roughly 20 HP per second, and if you have about 1,000 HP, that is essentially a full minute you may need to wait until your characters are fully healed and you can get back to the game.
Much the same, resources are scattered throughout the land of Altago, resources that contain rare items because why wouldn’t they, and require the party to come to a stop to collect, once again affecting the pacing of the game negatively. Bosses are also forgettable and feel like damage sponges due to how long they take. While the music, still being quality stuff, really did nothing for me, particularly in the areas you spend most of your time in. Instead of being a step forward for the series, Ys Seven is more akin to a step to the side, backflip to the back, and a tumble down three stairs.
Even if this were its own original IP, I felt that I was effectively wasting my time with the game after a point. At its best, the gameplay of Ys Seven is repetitious and boring, and everything about it feels like a chore thanks to the archaic bestiary, the Skill system, and the simple fact that I got more joy out of combat when all you did was run into enemies diagonally. I really hate saying that, and I truly do want to enjoy the game, but after making my way about a third through this 30+ hour game, realizing how it managed to be twice as long as the other Ys title, I realized my opinions would only grow more spiteful and bitter if I were to continue.
Above all that, how does the game look? Well, I played the same rendered at six times the PSP’s resolution, projected in a window three times as large, with antialiasing on to smooth out the character models, and texture filtering off to admire the pixel art employed in this 3D environment. When doing all of that, the game looks wonderful, at least for the most part. Much of the UI does not scale up very well due to how the sprite work was made for a PSP screen where the image would be fairly blurry. Text looks weird and overly blocky, while the mugshots of characters look like they were simply converted into sprite art.
With all of that in mind, I still prefer the look established in the five other Ys titles I played, more due to how boring the environments of Ys Seven really are. In my time with the game, I saw a quant looking port city, a visual highlight due to the crisp polygonal character models, a field, a few caves, a forest, a big tree, a desert, some plains, and a fire temple. It was riveting to say the least, as I was eagerly awaiting the ice dungeon and underwater area in addition to the mountains. Everything looks so uncreative and with that uninteresting, as if the developers did not want to try anything too daring with these new tools.
I theorize that the changes made in Ys Seven may have been an attempt to capture the Monster Hunter crowd and perhaps the fantasy of Falcom’s Trails in the Sky series by including massive bosses regularly throughout the game and including a lot of dialog that most players will probably never come across based on what you’ve done in the game. There even optional quests and giant bonus bosses. However, it is borderline unrecognizable from what I’ve grown used to, and even if it were a new IP, I don’t enjoy the game on a fundamental level. Perhaps things improved dramatically with the next game, Memories in Celestia, which I’ll get around to eventually. But for now, Ys Seven is my least favorite game in the series and I really wish I could enjoy it.