This year has been very good to me in terms of action-RPGs, and this one is no different. I got hooked pretty hard on Dark Cloud 2 earlier in the year, and at that point I would have called it my Game of the Year, but after finishing my first game from the Ys series, I can comfortably say that Dark Cloud 2 now has a strong contender. Within 5 minutes of playing this game, I was totally hooked.
I like playing games fast, and speed is what Ys is all about. The fast-paced music in the background, the quick dialog that doesn’t run on forever, the fact that your party moves extremely fast across the map, and the sheer speed and action of the battles makes this a perfect game for me. To be honest, I’ve never played anything like it before.
In brief, you assume the role of Adol, tasked with recovering your memories of exploring the Forest of Celceta. Throughout the game you grow your party, and watch interesting relationships unfold as you learn your past actions while mapping out the region and exploring. It’s a simple premise that never gets overly complicated or stale, and leaves gameplay at the forefront of the experience.
The weapon upgrade system is an interesting mechanic – my first thought was how similar it felt to Dark Cloud 2. In both systems, you can use pretty much anything to upgrade your weapons and armor, from parts collected from monsters, found on the ground, as well as other pieces of armor. Each item has a set of modifiers, increasing certain stats while, in some cases, lowering others. For example, Burn, Poison, Freeze, etc. For armors, they act as resistances. One of my favorite aspects of Dark Cloud 2 was squeezing as much power as I possibly could out of each weapon to build the ultimate weapons by end-game, so this was a real treat.
In many ways, this game is also a completionist’s dream, or nightmare, depending on how you look at it. There’s a stats page which lets you keep track of the percentages of items collected, map cleared, monsters encountered, and more, and it’s pretty addicting to want to find everything. The game moves so quickly, as a matter of fact, that just spending a half hour trying to reach 100% map completion while trying to uncover all the items is completely satisfying and entertaining in its own right.
By the last quarter of the game, you have six characters at your disposal to use, all with their own unique weapon style. While you can control one at a time with two running behind you on AI, you can cycle through the party with the press of a button.
Changing characters to have advantageous attack types is a part of the battle formula – each character is one of either Slash, Strike, or Pierce-weapon types. A Slash works better against more fragile enemies, while a Strike might work better against enemies in heavy armor. This whole mechanic keeps the battle system extremely entertaining and downright addicting. Beating everything on screen with your fists, or swinging a Halbard around and murdering 5 enemies at a time, is just as savage as it sounds, and boy does it make the time fly.
I spent just over 30 hours in this game, and honestly it felt like 20. The game flies by because you move so fast that you don’t realize how much time you’re actually playing. I love when games can get me immersed, and for me at least, 30 hours is near my breaking point before wanting to move on to something else, yet I was truly bummed out that the game had ended. It was like a great buzz from a quality whiskey that you didn’t want to end.
That being said, I was delighted to hear that there is already a new Ys game released, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana that is currently out in Japan on Vita, and early next year for the PS4. I am hopeful that it will be brought to the West, or at least in an English import form. Localizations take a long time so I’m not too concerned, as there’s a plethora of other Ys games available on both PC and the PSN Store. I’ll definitely be checking those out.
If you’re a fan of fast-paced action RPGs, do yourself a favor and give this one a shot.