Ys Origin from Nihon Falcom is an Action-RPG that was originally released in 2006 for PC in Japan, before eventually coming worldwide in 2012 and then to consoles beginning 2017. It has had quite the path of release after release and is now available on the Xbox One. I am a complete stranger to the series but have been on the outside looking in for quite some time, Ys Origin is a prequel to all the previous instalments that released before it and so far after it. This looks to be a perfect entry point into the beloved series but does its origins entice or simply push me away?
The land of Ys is ruled by the twin Goddesses Reah and Feena and their six priests. It’s filled with a populace who can use magic to enact miracles, this is made available thanks to the Black Pearl, a holy artifact, not a pirate ship. It was once a peaceful place until some demons decided to roll up on the land and wreak havoc. With the Ys forces losing, the citizens retreated to the tallest mountain and sought refuge inside the temple that sits atop it. In order to protect the people, the temple was raised up into the sky by the twin Goddesses to keep them out of harms way. It doesn’t quite work out because the demons were ever persistent and build a tower of their own to take the fight into the air. Reah and Feena disappeared during the battle with no notice, the six priests then brought their best elite knights and sorcerers together to form a search party with the goal of finding the twin Goddesses.
It’s a fantasy themed story that looks to take inspiration from other similar games of the RPG genre, all the while putting its own stamp and twist on it. It drew me in from the get-go, with chaos already having struck your not starting off playing a prologue chapter in which it’s peaceful and wait for the inevitable good turning bad. Instead, it wastes no time and starts you off on your grand adventure. Time is money and I appreciate there is no wasted narrative. In the 10-15 hour playthrough that trend generally continues, the absolute necessary story and character information is delivered with added world building lore but not to the point of over excess that it feels too much to take in.
Throughout the journey, you are introduced to a plethora of interesting, likeable and sometimes hate-able characters. Falcom have done a good job at making you care about them, whether you love them or hate them it doesn’t matter, but as long as the investment is there then they have done their job. Playable characters like Yunica and Hugo are both endearing but for their own reasons. Yunica is the more naive, child-like in nature one you just want to protect, and Hugo is the more mature, serious person of the two that realises what must be done.
Between the two available from the beginning the choice in front of you isn’t as simple as playing a male or female. Their combat styles are different with the one being a ranged mage and the other a close quarter warrior, dialogue isn’t the same for both and in general the gameplay feels different. Playing as Hugo I felt was certainly the easier ride in terms of difficulty, being able to keep your distance from enemies and damage them from afar whilst remaining undamaged was a blessing. On the flip side however, controlling him was awkward and if fast moving enemies got in too close you either had to stay and spam your attack or run away with no attack, not able to move back and fire at the same time because of the one stick for movement and aiming. Yunica gets the harder path from the viewpoint that you are always having to risk getting in close to deal damage but what she dishes out feels more than what her counterpart does.
Aside from the minor gripe with controlling Hugo, the overall gameplay is responsive and satisfying. It reminds me so much of old school RPG’s whilst feeling more perfected. Everything from movement, to the minor platforming, and the combat is a joy. The simplicity still has a place in this day and age of gaming where many similar titles have gone the complex route with systems like stats, crafting, dialogue choice etc.
The best of times to be had are in the boss fights, these are the most well though-out and executed fight designs I have ever had the pleasure of going up against. Every boss fight was genuinely fun, I enjoyed the process of working out a strategy to overcome each one with no battle feeling too convoluted and none feeling downright easy. It walks that fine line between easy and hard, instead providing something that challenges but not to the point of frustration.
For a game that originally released in 2006 I would remiss if I didn’t say just how well this game holds up visually. It isn’t the cleanest looking game in terms of quality but in terms of level design and appearance, it looks good. Each level has been meticulously designed and every character has their own unique look, setting them apart from each other whilst also remaining true to the fantasy-style setting. Thanks to the design you get a feel for the world and understand what a specific levels backstory is, without any text-based information having to be exchanged. The animated style cut scenes are a welcomed inclusion that just add weight and quality to the overall product. Being able to show the emotion better as opposed to just text-based and picture dialogue.
Audio design is key when it comes to building immersion, it’s the final stamp if you will that can be the cherry on top when accompanied by a fascinating story and fitting visuals. The sound effects and soundtrack are utterly delightful, capable of inducing a variety of motions and feelings throughout the entire adventure. There are many tunes that ooze that sense of what can only be described with a made-up word, epicness. It really is the nice exclamation point on the entire package.
Upon completing the campaign with both characters, a third one becomes available which provides another way to play, The Claw becomes playable and introduces a third viewpoint into the events taking place. If that seriously wasn’t enough after finishing that run of the game, there are additional features unlocked such as the arena and time attack modes. It’s like the game does not want you to stop playing, like at all.
Ys Origin is a blast from the past that holds up to this day and age as a complete package in terms of an action RPG experience. Its got an enticing narrative with varied and unique characters, visuals befitting the fantasy setting that tell their own story, gameplay that is rewarding and a score that works wonders in creating atmosphere. Not only that but it supports multiple playthroughs and offers incentives to players to dive in more than once. My first foray into the Ys series was a successful one that keeps my interest perked in what’s to come.
OVERALL: 9/10 – EXCELLENCE
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Ys Origin, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)