The Ys series, like most of Falcom's works, is slightly confusing for those who haven't been paying close attention. Without going into a long detailed explanation of the series history, I'll just say that Ys began in 1987 as a PC action RPG. Since that time, the series has seen numerous entries, often from developers other than Falcom. For the most part, the Falcom-developed releases have been for PC. For the latest game in the series, Ys Seven, Falcom has crafted a PlayStation Portable exclusive. Lucky for us, XSEED Games is bringing it to North America this August.
"This is the most fun I've had playing an action RPG ever."
As far as the series goes, the only other game on the PSP is Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. That title, which was actually developed by Konami, was plagued with horrible loading times. Thankfully, this newest title has little in common with that one. Ys Seven is a fast-paced action RPG with minimal loading times and a host of features that make it stand out not only as a solid Ys game, but as a great game overall.
One of the most important aspects of an action RPG is the battle system. Combat is where Ys Seven shines. Adol, the red headed hero of the Ys series, is back as the main character, but this time he's not alone in battle. Unlike other action RPGs where you only control the main character and your party members are solely AI controlled, it is quick and expected to swap between other playable characters. The game starts with Adol and his wall-breaking friend Dogi in the party. It is explained that Adol's slash attacks are useful against softer enemies whereas Dogi's punches are to be used against hard shelled foes, so players will have to swap back and forth during combat. Thankfully, that is quick and simple to do; you simply press one button and change characters. The game is set up to have a host of characters supporting Adol, with three available in the party at any one time.
The combat interface is very user friendly. Standard attacks are assigned to one button, dodging is set to another, character changing is on a third, skills require holding down the R-Trigger and pressing a button, and the L-Trigger executes a special attack. The interface is also very quick and responsive, and thankfully allows for use of either the D-Pad or analog nub without having to change any settings. When enemies are defeated, loot is scattered about and the AI-controlled party members will help to pick it up. These items will be a mix of cash and items used for synthesizing new items. Weapons, armor, and accessories are all equipped in standard RPG fashion and seeing what stat increases are available is readily available on screen.
Throughout the world, players can restore health a special stone pillars. These do not act as save points, because in Ys Seven players can save at any time the menu is accessible. However, if you did happen to forget to save, those pillars act as retry points that can be returned to in case of an untimely demise. How difficult the game is largely depends on the selected level of difficulty, as there are four options: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Nightmare. There are lots of options in many different aspects of this game.
When I listed this game at the top of my most wanted list, it was mainly due to the hype I'd read about how this was one of the best and most accessible Ys games to date and that Falcom had directly handled the development of this one. Not being a lover of action RPGs as a whole, it takes a lot for one to keep my attention. I'm happy to say that Ys Seven fits that bill. This is the most fun I've had playing an action RPG ever. The swift combat, easy-to-use interface, interchangeable party members, and save anywhere feature are just a few of the things that make this game enjoyable. I've not really gotten deep enough into the story to say whether I care about it or not, but so far the battle system has been engaging enough that I haven't minded. What I've seen of the dialogue has been solid and is sure to make longtime fans giddy. For now, I'm ready to go slay a few more titanos, so if you'll excuse me.