Oh the tale of Ys. Even gamers that haven’t played the series should be able to recognize the red haired protagonist, Adol Christin; he’s appeared in the many of the series’ entries over the years. However, in 2006, Falcom released Ys Origin on the PC exclusively in Japan, without the well known protagonist at the helm of the story.
Six years later, publisher XSEED localized the the game for western fans and brought it to PC. Now, here we are in 2017 and Ys Origin has found its way onto the PlayStation 4 (with a PlayStation Vita version coming soon) from publisher DotEmu. Looking back, it’s admirable how this game has stayed relevant to gamers over the years, but playing the game on current hardware will see if it stands the test of time.
Ys Origin serves as a proper prequel to the Ys series and takes place 700 years before Adol went on his first big adventure during Ys I: Anchient Ys Vanished. At the beginning of the game, players choose one of two characters, Yunica Tovah or Hugo Fact.
Each character features their own personal storyline and skill set: Yunica is an axe wielding apprentice who can pull off some very cool techniques during combat. Hugo uses a wand that can launch colorful, but deadly attacks.
The opening scene is oddly choppy as the edges of the screen render as the scene plays out. Strangely, this isn’t something that is present in the PC release of the game, but it was quite distracting and took away from opening premise. However, after this scene I didn’t encounter the strange render issue again.
The main goal of the game has players searching for two missing goddesses, Reah and Feena, in an extremely tall, dark tower. It’s good to mention that the objective of the game holds true throughout Ys Origin — you never feel as though you are fighting for nothing or misguided in anyway. I enjoyed the focus the characters have on their mission and the huge amount they seem to grow as individuals throughout the short adventure.
Yunica stands out as one of the more developed characters of the bunch because she is handicapped without the ability to use magic. This makes her seem weak in the eyes of her colleagues, but she makes up for it in so many way by never using her inability as an excuse to not push on in a tough situation. I enjoyed playing through her story quiet a bit and found myself testing her strength on tougher difficulties upon completion.
The fighting system is simplistic and fast. Players are able to hack and slash their way through dungeons until their hearts are content. Enemies become more and more difficult as you near the end of the game with the variation between types being quite impressive. Some enemies act as your typical grunts who serve no real threat, but there will be times where you stumble into a trap and three shield bearing knights appear to take your life.
As enemies are defeated you gain experience that will level up the character. If many enemies are defeated in a short amount of time than an experience bonus meter is filled up. Additionally, items are dropped that grant temporary stat buffs for the character. I really like the hub screen featured in Ys Origin. Everything is in the bottom right corner and takes up very little room, but also provides so much information about the character’s status.
The visuals seemed to translate surprisingly well on the PlayStation 4. The character’s are represented by animated sprites that look as gorgeous as ever, even on a larger TV screen. I felt a strange sense of nostalgia while playing the game and was reminded of the awesome visuals developers pulled off even over a decade ago.
I was hesitant going into Ys Origin to see for myself whether the game’s graphics still looked as impressive as they did six years ago and in every category I’d say, yes, they did. The colors bursting from attacks and the enormous boss battles are as gorgeous as ever. The game features elements and mechanics that are often mimiced even today in indie games that are being released. It serves as a reminder to new gamers that graphics don’t have to huge 3D worlds to be enjoyable. Instead, one can find beauty in 2D character sprites that show so much detail with such little room.
The controls are extremely responsive inYs Origin. I found myself switching from using the analog stick to the D-pad in order to pull of some of the more complicated platforming areas. Additionally, Ys Origin is unapologetic to those who require in depth tutorials as well as hints to get through every area of the game that has a puzzle. An example being, some doors require a certain item to unlock, but don’t expect the game to remind you to go back to the door if you end up finding the item later and forget about back tracking. However, the save statues in the game can also be used to teleport to previous floors of the tower.
Being a fan of classic JRPGs, I enjoyed this less hand holding way of going about the game. However, I’ll tell you that there were times that I wish I had an auto save features after I died 3/4 the way through a dungeon and had to go back to the beginning of the floor. With that being said, I was glad the game kept this feature that seems to be disappearing from the JRPG genre.
Ys Origin is one of the best introductions to a series that I’ve ever played. Newly interested gamers to the Ys series would not be let down if they chose to start their adventure into the mainline Ys series with this prequel. Furthermore, the game feels at home on the console and the campaign doesn’t even over stay its welcome as the story can be played through in around 10 hours.
I appreciate what DotEmu has done with the console port of Ys Origin. A story localized this good deserves to be easily accessed by gamers on as many ports as possible. Besides the strange rending issues on screen in the beginning of the game, I would say this is a great port of ten year old PC game that serves a preface to the beloved Ys series.