Ys Origin Review
An Ys-y Introduction
Ys Origin might not need a lightning-fast PC to run, but that doesn’t mean the game is any less exciting. This 2006 Japanese action RPG has just received its first official English release on Steam via XSEED Games. Nihon Falcom’s long-running Ys series has seen quite a few installments, but this origin story goes back over 700 years before the first introduction of series-regular Adol. So how does a six-year-old PC game hold up? In this case, it does so amazingly well.
Unlike other Ys games, there are two playable characters to choose from at the start. The red-headed warrior Adol is not one of them, and instead players get to choose from Yunica and Hugo, both of whom offer differing playstyles. Yunica Tovah is a young girl and the daughter of a famous knight of Ys. She starts with a large axe for melee combat, much like Adol. The other character is Hugo Fact, a mage with a wand and two orbs called the Eyes of Fact. The orbs follow him around and act as additional weapons. Hugo brings a different style of play to the game, as his magic allows him to be a ranged attacker. A third character is also made available after the game has been completed once, and this warrior offers an even faster, though more dangerous, playstyle than the other two. The variety these different characters offer makes replaying the game on different difficulty modes more interesting since each one brings a unique feel to the table.
The biggest strength of Ys games tends to be their fast combat systems, and Origin does not disappoint on this front. Players will be battling foes using not only standard physical attacks, but also wind, thunder, and fire skills, each differing based on the character. Players gain permanent boosts to these skills through gems found in chests. As enemies are defeated, they will drop money as well as vials that grant temporary, yet stackable, bonuses to stats such as strength and defense. Money is not used to actually procure new equipment, but instead is used to purchase blessings that can improve equipment or enhance different abilities such as speed. Rather than constantly replacing weapons, players can use ore to upgrade their primary one. All of these features make for a very streamlined system, and it works extremely efficiently, helping to keep the game’s pace moving quickly onward.
The whole of Ys Origin takes place not in the outdoors but within a giant tower, one that should be familiar to veterans of Ys I & II. This means that there is a constant drive to progress further up the tower, and with that, very little backtracking is required. During the few times players do need to travel back to another floor, a crystal can be used to instantly warp back to any previously visited save statue. The tower consists of twenty-five floors divided up into about half a dozen different zones with a save point available every few floors. In these unique zones, players will solve puzzles and find items to unlock new skills and abilities in order to progress further.
Each of these different areas is fairly self-contained and typically wrap up with a boss battle followed by a chunk of story. In typical Ys fashion, boss fights are a highlight of the game. These challenging battles will test the player’s mettle in looking for a pattern while jumping, dodging and attacking. While outside of boss fights players can heal by standing still or using items, during combat there is no means of healing, so players will have to rely on skill to avoid death. If the player does die, restarting the boss battle is quick. Even on lower difficulty levels these fights can be challenging to those who don’t have patience, but on the higher difficulty levels they can be downright brutal.
As for the story, it begins with a shake up at the floating Shrine of Solomon as the two goddesses of Ys have gone missing. A search party is dispatched to find them that contains both Yunica and Hugo. How things play out differs depending on which character the player selects, though regardless of the selection, players are soon faced with many of the same struggles. The team runs into the opposition of a group from outside Ys that is seeking the goddesses for its own nefarious purposes. Yunica and Hugo both must face their own inner demons during this adventure, and their individual stories are well told and pack a bit of an emotional punch. Hugo’s scenario is especially touching as his character develops from a resentful loner to someone much more multifaceted. The game’s story might be brief, but it does a great job creating tension, giving players a reason to drive further, and does not wear out its welcome.
As mentioned before, Ys Origin has a few years on it, and as such graphical prowess is not one of the game’s strengths. That’s not to say the game looks bad, because the characters, enemies, and environments look great, but simply lack the same level of detail found in more current games. That said, the artwork is beautiful and fits the game’s style quite well.
Audio is another area where Ys Origin shines. While the game lacks voicework, thankfully that does little to diminish the quality of the soundtrack, which maintains a solid variety of tracks throughout. From the music that plays during hectic boss fights to the tracks that accompany the more emotional moments, Falcom’s composers have crafted a very fitting collection of music and the lack of voice acting does not deter from this.
Ys Origin is a very tightly crafted experience. Considering that a single playthrough with one character will only take about six to seven hours, it’s amazing how much story is packed into that amount of time. Playing through as a different character won’t necessarily change things too drastically, but it does a good job of providing a different enough perspective to make it worthwhile, especially considering how quickly it can be done. The game’s great pacing makes it an easy game to replay, as there is very little padding here. This along with the responsive gameplay, well-trimmed story, and outstanding soundtrack make it easily one of the highest-quality Ys games around as well as an outstanding action RPG in general.
Quick, fun combat system
Three unique, playable characters
No fat, very streamlined
Not very impressive visually
Limited healing options
Not enough red-headed warriors