Ys: Memories of Celceta Review — Delve Into the Great Forest to Find a Solid JRPG
Ys: Memories of Celceta features fun and challenging gameplay complemented by deeply satisfying exploration that keeps your interest.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is the PS4 port of the previously-released PS Vita version, and is also a reimagining of Ys: IV, which first released back in the 1990s for the Super Famicom. Memories of Celceta is now considered the fourth canonical game in the series, due to the previous installments being outsourced to other development companies in the 90s.
Despite the complex and confusing lineage, the game itself is rather straightforward in both its self-contained plot and how it fits in the overarching franchise.
You begin the game as a young man named Adol Christin, who has unfortunately fallen prey to the trapping of many a JRPG hero: amnesia. After stumbling around the town, he eventually meets a man named Duran who claims to know him and reveals that Adol had previously left to explore the dangerous Great Forest.
Soon after, monsters appear in the local mine shaft and trap several miners. Since Adol is in fact a JRPG protagonist and therefore has an intrinsic instinct to help others, despite having no memories, he runs off to help said miners. Duran joins him and they successfully evacuate the workers while defeating the monsters inside the shaft. After that, the General offers them a deal to explore the same forest Adol came back from, which officially opens up the game proper.
The main goal of Ys: Memories of Celceta is to fully explore the Great Forest and discover all of its secrets while completely filling the map. As you make progress in this goal, you receive awards based on the percentage value. There are ten tiers in total and you must report back to General Griselda to receive any rewards.
As you progress through the game, certain characters can interact with objects on the field. These objects allow for that corresponding character to perform a unique action that influences the story. For instance, when Adol touches a mysterious blue orb, he regains a part of his memory back. When Duren encounters a locked chest, he can pick it open.
Combat is simple and action-based rather than turned-based, similar to the recent Trials of Mana. You can attack, dodge, guard, or use a charged attack that regains SP. Enemies, however, are resistant to certain kinds of physical damage (slash, pierce, or strike) so players must learn to switch between teammates that deal the proper damage. Aiding you in this is the ability to scan to view an enemy’s weakness and level at any time.
When characters learn skills after leveling up, they can be equipped through the main menu then unleashed in combat by using the shortcut automatically assigned to them. The Extra gauge fills up when a skill hits a foe, with skills that use more SP filling the gauge faster in turn. Once the gauge is full, you can unleash an Extra Skill. Generally, the flow of battle has you using normal attacks and skills, charged attacks to replenish SP, and, unleash Extra Skills when the gauge is filled. It sounds easy enough but pulling off that pattern while dodging and blocking attacks takes some skill and plenty of practice.
There are also more advanced techniques such as Flash Guard and Flash Move, which work essentially as a perfect version of the basic mechanics. If you time either a dodge or guard at just the right moment, you’ll gain some handy benefits such as invincibility, more rewards, critical hits, SP restoration, etc. Attack Bonuses are also used to reward a player for fighting strategically.
You encounter and fight foes on the same field as they appear in, with the environment playing a huge role in how well you can fight them. Your human characters naturally do best on flat plains with plenty of space to move around in, but there are plenty of other environments that they can end up battling in, such as tight, rocky slopes or in water. Ys: Memories of Celceta actually incorporates the lack of mobility the humans would experience if they’re ever outside their most suitable domain.
This pairs well with the enemy AI. Like in most JRPGs, enemies will normally attack in easily identifiable patterns. However, at times they will lure unsuspecting parties to engage in areas that give said enemies an advantage. For instance, water enemies will gang up on party members and attempt to lure or push them in the water which means you can’t use skills and regular combos are reduced to a single thrusting attack.
Another example is the tendency of enemies with opposing weaknesses to be in close proximity to each other. This means players need to be able to switch between party members on the fly in order to effectively take them down.
There’s also some excellent enemy variety from the start and it continues to impress on that front. What makes foes truly stand out is that they require constant strategy and managing in order to best them. Players simply can’t expect to button mash their way through the Forest. Instead, learning the ins and outs of the combat system and applying each mechanic is the key to surviving early encounters.
Bosses and strong enemies make for interesting, strategic battles as well. Even the first boss, though simplistic in its patterns, requires you to immediately apply what you’ve learned about attacks, SP regeneration, and skills effectively in order to defeat it without taking too much damage. Meanwhile, the sub-bosses that you encounter on the field require players to exercise cautious judgment, seeing as how you can literally run into one that can decimate your entire party in a few hits.
It’s interesting then, that unlike most other action JRPGs, Ys: Memories of Celceta promotes the art of running away and coming back reinforced. Not only are you encouraged to flee when you encounter an enemy too strong for your current level (without any penalty I may add) but you can heal up and then return to said powerful sub-boss and keep fighting while they retain any damage dealt to them.
The Great Forest itself feels like the massive, dangerous, and foreboding labyrinth that the NPCs play it up to be. Unlike in many other titles in which the beginning is far too easy and no real challenge is encountered until mid-game, the Forest from the start is filled with powerful enemies. Its level design is quite varied for being essentially the same location, as there are tons of different environments to uncover as you slowly fill your map out. This design choice really lends a sense of adventure to Ys: Memories of Celceta and motivates players to keep exploring and discovering more of the Forest.
When it comes to equipment, you can absolutely purchase them normally as new pieces become available. You can also choose to delve into the deep system of item refinement and equipment reinforcement to strengthen weapons and armor. Refinement involves taking ores and monster parts found on the field and in dungeons and upgrading them into better items. You then apply those upgraded items and reinforce your weapons and armor.
Reinforcing not only boosts attack and defense but also gives the equipment a unique effect such as SP regeneration, status attacks and protections, or stat increases. Reinforcement is a good way to increase your equipment’s overall potential, which extends their longevity.
Being that this is, in fact, a port of a PS Vita game remade from the original Super Famicom title released over 20 years ago, the graphics leave much to be desired. The environments and character models are slightly blocky, muddy, and low res. Even the walk and run cycles look awkward and stiff.
The plot itself, while decent enough, is far from engaging and interrupts the otherwise great gameplay. Thankfully, both the fun characters and the great voice work save cutscenes from being too boring and motivates you enough to still care about the characters. The game has a pretty great soundtrack as well, complementing the battle system by increasing its energy and intensity.
Another area Ys: Memories of Celceta lacks in are the side quests. The NPCs that populate the various villages you come across as you explore more of the Forest are vibrant and full of life so you’d imagine that the side quests must be as equally unique to play through. And while the conversations before and after the quest is finished can be entertaining, quests themselves are painfully easy. Even worse, they’re scattered around sparingly so you never get your fill of them.
If you’re looking for a fun, challenging, and strategic action JRPG, Ys: Memories of Celceta is a great title to pick up. Though its graphics leave much to be desired, both the battle system and exploration are by far the biggest draws of the game and will easily pull you in for the entire 25-hour runtime. While the plot is a bit on the light and inconsequential side, it’s nothing particularly bad and the characters themselves are entertaining enough to keep your interest for the long haul.