Nihon Falcom are masters at creating addictive RPG experiences. Their Ys series has quite an impressive history so let's go back to a time before Adol's adventures and see if Yunica and Hugo have what it takes to ascend the Devil's Tower.
Before I get to the review, I thought it would be fitting to briefly describe my history with the Ys series. When I was a kid, I remember obsessively playing Ancient Land of Ys on my PC. At that same time, I loved the original Final Fantasy on NES. However, the immediately gratifying fast-paced action of Ys was something special. Slowly levelling up while battling tough enemies scattered around the world in order to eventually take down a troublesome boss was just awesome. You could perish at any given moment which got my heart racing every time I played. Add in the fact that there were so many hidden secrets to uncover and you have one incredible game.
Over the years, I played a few of its sequels but unfortunately not all of them made it to North America. After playing The Ark of Napishtim on PlayStation 2, my love for the series was rekindled and that love grew even larger when I played through Ys Seven, The Oath in Felghana, and Ys I & II Chronicles for PSP a handful of years later. In 2013, Memories of Celceta for PlayStation Vita quickly became my favourite adventure in the entire series. Now that 2006's Ys Origin is available for console, let's see how it holds up in such a memorable series.
First of all, this isn't your ordinary Ys game. Instead of traversing a massive world and exploring complex dungeons, Ys Origin merely consists of one enormous tower. The story is simple, the characters are endearing, and the gameplay is as frantic and satisfying as ever.
As you run around hacking and slashing away at foes, you'll have to keep a number of factors in mind. When you start the journey, things are basic but as you progress, you'll gain access to many interesting abilities. The various magic spells not only help you slay monsters, they also allow you to jump further, break cracked walls, and light candles. You'll also obtain accessories that can show you hidden passages, heal you while you're still, allow you to dispatch self-reviving foes, give your shoes more grip on slippery terrain, and let you hold your breath underwater. As if that's not enough, you also learn how to sprint and double-jump which makes you rather acrobatic. Overall, the RPG action is not only satisfying, it stays exciting throughout with all of these fantastic additional gameplay features.
Battling hordes of monsters within the tower will let you level up and gain SP that you can redeem for divine blessings which provide permanent boosts. On top of that, uncovering additional pieces of armour, HP upgrades, and materials to upgrade your spells and weapon is quite a rewarding endeavor. Thankfully, you can warp between save points so you can discover goodies that you may have missed. Anyway, each of the tower's six main areas features its own tough boss. They require distinct strategies to take down so when you combine your wits with your newfound strength, finally tackling a boss simply feels awesome.
Speaking of equipment, one issue that I have with Ys Origin is that some pieces need to be selected but their effects should be in play automatically. For example, you may want the Earth Dragon's Claws equipped for added grip but then you face an enemy who revives itself upon death so you have to go through the menu to equip the Silver Chimes instead. It can be a nuisance having to juggle accessories like this. Why couldn't their effects be permanent? Intuitively speaking, it makes almost no sense.
Another downside is that the entire journey is incredibly short. One playthrough took me seven and a half hours from start to finish while playing as Yunica. This is lengthy for a platformer but for an RPG; it can be rather disappointing. Of course, the time it takes depends on your skill level, the difficulty setting, and your ability to figure out where to go and what to do next. For the record, I didn't have many problems at all with the exception of having to grind once in a while.
On the plus side, perfectionists will delight in the fact that there is loads of replay value. The most prominent aspect of this is that you can play through as two very different characters. Yunica is a melee warrior while Hugo casts magic spells. I prefer Yunica but playing as Hugo sometimes makes it feel like a shoot 'em up which is pretty cool. Anyway, there is a ton more to do even after you complete the game such as filling out your monster catalog, playing through on a higher difficulty setting, unlocking a secret character known as The Claw, and challenging time attack, boss rush, and arena modes. There's so much to see and do but that all depends on your willingness to keep playing after you finish the tower. Who knows; maybe even Adol will make an appearance at some point...
Ys Origin initially debuted over ten years ago but its graphics hold up very well. The 3D environments and 2D characters mix in such an appealing way that'll make fans of classics such as Xenogears and the original Grandia feel right at home. That being said, things sure can get chaotic fast. Whenever you're in the middle of fighting loads of enemies (some of which may be in the air), being able to discern just what's going on can be next to impossible. It's not game-breaking but definitely worth mentioning.
As a huge fan of Ys ever since the beginning of the franchise, I'm thrilled to be able to enjoy Ys Origin on the big screen. It may not be a perfect entry in the long-running series but it's one that genre fans will definitely find hard to put down.
- + Solid action RPG gameplay that stays exciting from start to finish
- + Satisfying character growth and boss fights
- + Loads of replay value for perfectionists
- - Having to juggle accessories that should be automatic can be annoying
- - It's a bit on the short side
- - Visuals frequently become muddled