While the Ys series might not be a household name, many elements in today’s RPGs and other genres date back to when they were first introduced to the world by Falcom through the Ys series. With a pedigree that has brought the company success over its thirty two years in business and a series that has been around since 1987, Ys has proven time and time again to be successful for Falcom. Now that their latest release in the Ys series, Ys: Memories of Celceta, has been brought to North America, by XSEED, does it continue to exude excellence?
Ys: Memories of Celceta begins with a familiar red-headed adventurer slowly walking through a town completely exhausted. After passing out in the middle of the road, we learn that this young man just so happens to be Adol Christin, the hero of past Ys titles but something is wrong with him, as it quickly is discovered that he is suffering from a severe case of amnesia after venturing into the Great Forest, a place where many warriors dare tread and those who do, rarely leave alive.
After his friend Duren, an information broker in town, finds him and tells Adol what little he knows about the adventurer. Shortly after this meeting, the town comes under attack from monsters and Adol feels a strong desire to help those in need, despite not knowing who he is. After repelling the attack both Adol and Duren learn that the Governor is offering adventurers an amazing fortune if they were to enter the Great Forest and map its depths.
With money encouraging Duren to move forward and Adol seeing a chance at regaining his memories within the dangerous depths of the forest, the two agree to the terms and begin to venture into the forest, where a larger story and more allies await them. For the sake of spoilers I will not mention any further details about the story, since, despite how it sounds, Ys: Memories of Celceta actually offers an entertaining story that is helped by a charming and compelling cast of characters.
You see, despite featuring one of the oldest clichés in the book by starring an amnesiac protagonist, this works in the game’s favor as not only do players need to worry about past events in the series’ story (though a few references to various events can only be picked up by those who’ve played previous titles in the series) a gameplay mechanic is woven into Adol’s amnesia. As players make their way through the game, they can collect Adol’s lost memories which not only provide Adol with a stat boost, but also reveal a few tidbits about his past.
It is also worth noting that while Adol is a silent protagonist, players often have dialogue options in the game as they talk to other characters. Little changes depending on what the player chooses but it provides a nice personal touch as well as comedy when characters react to the player’s responses. Thanks to a charming cast with a wide range of personalities and some impressive writing/localization efforts that gives these characters meaning, a number of twists that keep the player on their toes and plenty of humor to break up the serious nature of the story, what first appears to be a simple cliché quickly becomes something far more complex and compelling.
Those familiar with the Ys games may know what to expect as far as gameplay goes in Ys: Memories of Celceta, but for those who don’t the title is a fast-paced action roleplaying game that allows combat to unfold in real time. In combat players can unleash combo attacks through a basic attack button, use special skills with the R button and any of the face buttons, guard, parry, dash, and a special attack that can be used when a certain meter fills up. While it all may seem rather simple on the surface there is some rather deep mechanics at work which players will need to understand in order to tackle some of the harder bosses in the game, especially at a high difficulty level.
Dodging an attack at the right moment will allow players a chance to counter-attack and parrying an attack will also allow players to deal out more damage with their next attack. Along those lines, the game also features a system where most enemies are weak and strong to three types of attack: slashing, striking, and piercing. Using the right type of attack will allow the player to deal additional damage and gain better items from a defeated opponent while using an attack type that an enemy is strong against will deal less damage and often allow the enemy chances to fight back.
While this type of combat would seem difficult to grasp at first, it is handled gracefully since the player is capable of venturing out with three character parties. With six total characters available in the game each of them specializes in a certain attack type and they can be switched between simply by pressing the circle button. Enemy weaknesses and strengths can be examined simply by tapping the enemy on the screen using the Vita’s touch screen.
It also helps to memorize enemy types since the game tends to throw a lot of enemies at players which means the player won’t always have the time to analyze their foes. Enemies move in fast and can deal some worrisome damage while boss battles often require the player to be stocked on healing items and precise timing to dodge incoming attacks while also dealing damage to their opponents. Thankfully, the control system is incredibly well done with quick responses and intense battle sequences and the ally AI is incredibly intelligent which means that they are there as more than just meat puppets, but actual allies, requiring players to think about who they should take out to face off against specific enemies.
Outside of combat it is essential to hold onto many of the items that the player will pick up from defeated enemies as they can either be sold to purchase new equipment, used to help upgrade current gear, or even craft new items that will fit your style of play. There are also a number of side-quests that players can undertake which range from standard “slay x amount of enemy” or “gather y amount of items” to other tasks that help change things up, even if they are rather simplistic.
Memories of Celceta may not be the best looking game on the Vita but it certainly is high on the list. Thanks to the use of a wide range of vibrant colors the world the player ventures through is wonderful looking and even the enemies that players encounter have such a wide variety that there rarely appears to be a case of simply palette swapping.
The characters are nicely detailed, though they look a bit aged for the Vita, and feature fluid combat animations but there are some issues when it comes to walking animation as a few of the characters look rather stiff when walking around. It is also worth noting that I experienced a few periods of slowdown in the game but these happened so rarely that it didn’t become a significant issue.
Often background music tends to be rather forgetful, even in RPGs, but that is far from the case in Ys: Memories of Celceta as the title features an outstanding soundtrack that includes a wide range of instrumentals to accompany any element of the game. I would even recommend going as far as to use a pair of headphones for the title to get the most out of the soundtrack. The English dub for the title is also incredibly strong with some impressive voice actors portraying the characters nicely.
The Vita has featured many great RPGs since it was released and Ys: Memories of Celceta is easily one of the best available. With a storyline that takes a cliché and turns it into something interesting, an outstanding soundtrack, and tight gameplay that provides some intense action, this game is one that absolutely should not be missed for both fans of the series and newcomers alike.
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