Well folks, I have done it. Since discovering the Ys series three years ago, I have now finished every English release. And what a journey it’s been! I just finished watching the end credits to Ys Seven, played on my faithful PSP 3000, and I can still feel my accelerated heart rate from downright one of the most epic boss sequences ever.
The final boss fight utilizes all of your available party members. While you can have three active members in your party who can be swapped out at any time (outside of boss fights), the final fight required having trained up some of your less-used party options. This.. caused me a bit of trouble, as I had neglected a few, but a solid hour of grinding and a few weapon and armor upgrades later, and I was able to best the final boss on my third attempt!
The real final boss fight is a three-phase battle, where you fight the first phase with three (seemingly random) members, the second phase with another set of three members, and then the final phase with only the main protagonist of the Ys series, Adol Christin.
The thing with Ys boss fights, for the uninitiated, is that the bosses are all heavily choreographed, in that they have many types of moves that are “announced” with tells, and you need to be able to react quickly and trust your muscle memory. The combat is totally insane and extremely fast-paced, with heart-pumping music racing in the background. Ys Seven‘s bosses were no different!
I don’t really know how to rate games in a series like Ys, because to me they’re all quite similar in the best ways, yet they all still manage to introduce unique elements. Ys Seven, for example, was the first in the series to introduce the new party system and to break away from the engine used for Ys Origin, Ys: The Oath in Felghana, and Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim.
It also introduced blocking and parrying (which I had NO IDEA EXISTED until Googling around for final boss strategies – yes I am a huge idiot) as well as super combos, stun meters, weapon types, you name it. Of course, as my first Ys game was Memories in Celceta, I was already attuned to this play-style, so adapting was a non-issue for me. But the point is, it was a dramatic departure from the previous three titles. Less hack-and-slashy, and more strategy that we’d see continue on to Memories in Celceta and of course one of my favorite games of all time, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana.
I really enjoyed the level of customization given to you in Ys Seven, particularly in the form of weapons and armor to craft. There is a lot of content and items to unlock, and it’s not the biggest grind in the world to “max out” your characters at the end. You will need to grind out some Soul Stones in order to meet the synthesis demands of the heavier-hitting weapons, but Ys Seven is just like the previous titles in that grinding is rarely a chore. The game’s already fast-paced, and grinding will level you up fairly quickly, and you’ll be able to gather and harvest materials off monsters and spawns fairly easily.
I was able to get the ultimate weapon for 4 out of my 7 playable characters before I said “thumbs up, let’s do this” and rushed the final boss. I also maxed out the armor for just about everyone with relative ease and minimal end-game grinding.
As shown above, each character has a large set of Special Moves, each of those having their own leveling system. You can equip four at a time, and each can differ pretty greatly from others – some are AoE (area of effect) attacks, others attack in straight lines, circular attacks, projectile attacks, you name it. Maxing out a skill means more damage, but that requires having used those skills for quite a while. There are certain items that will make a character level up abilities faster, but if you want to max anything out, it’s still a time commitment. Luckily, this wasn’t really required for the difficulty that I was playing on.
One thing to mention is that I played the game in Normal, and I must just suck at Ys games or something because I can barely make it through the final bosses in any of the games in this series that I played. Which at this point is all of them! Yep, upon re-reading that, it is becoming apparent that I suck at Ys.
Difficulty modes and replayability are par for the course in Ys games, Normal being the, well, standard way to play, all the way up to the infamous NIGHTMARE MODE, which for the love of God I can’t even imagine how difficult that is. But, while I may have played through every game in the series at this point, I’ve still only touched everything in Normal mode.
If I were to gripe about Ys Seven in any way, I will moan about the lack of documentation! The game has a whole help screen that is very useful and contains full color “manual pages”, but someone completely forgot to add the screen that tells you how to freaken block and parry attacks which evidently is not required for Normal mode, but a downright requirement to master if you attempt Hard Mode or god forbid Nightmare. How was I supposed to know this, if the very concept was only introduced in this game?!
See, parrying an attack requires you to hold R and press L within a fraction of a second before you get hit. You will then parry the attack, and gain SP (Special Points), which gives you power to launch special attacks. It’s actually very satisfying when you pull it off, and if you master parrying, you can pretty much run straight into danger and come out, not only unscathed, but with a filled SP meter, ready to unleash a hellstorm of special abilities.
But you see, no one in the darn game told me about this, and I dug through the documentation to see if perhaps I had simply missed it – but nope, there’s nothing. I did end up parrying quite a bit on the final boss fight though, which helped me keep my SP high (allowing me to execute heavy-hitting Special Moves more often, keeping my ass not dead), but it sure would have been nice to have been told about this for the preceding 24 hours of the game!
The big question: where does Ys Seven stack up against the other titles in the series?
It’s tough to say, really, because a lot of the titles have much different vibes and gameplay feel than the other, but I’d have to put this one pretty high towards the top. Celceta was my introduction to the series and so it always has a special place in my heart, and I definitely liked the larger scale of the world and the “exploration” feature that it had.
There’s never been a lapse in the vibe of Ys games, and that I really appreciate. The non-speaking protagonist Adol Christin, the comic relief of Dogi who always knows what to say to ease (Ys?) the tension, the feeling of impending doom that somehow doesn’t feel as menacing, because the passion of the characters tells you that everythng is going to be alright. It’s classic Ys, and for my money, ya just can’t beat that.
The final ruling, at least in this point of time, is as follows:
- Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
- Ys: Memories of Celceta
- Ys Seven
- Ys: The Oath in Felghana
- Ys Origin
- Ys: The Ark of Napishtim
- Ys Book 1 & 2
You can probably see a pattern here – and this might be due to the fact that my first game was Celceta, but I much prefer the three-person party system to the more mindless hack-and-slashing to the Origin/Felghana/Napishtim titles. And of course, the “bump attack” games sitting permanently at the bottom because screw that. Even if I did enjoy in a masochistic kind of way.
There we have it! All the Ys titles [that I intend on playing, so not Mask of the Sun or Wanderers from Ys on SNES] completed. I’ve gone on about how excellent this series is in the past, but while we’re all in quarantine, you should definitely check one of these games out. Odds are, you have at least 2 consoles where you can play them. If you have a PC? You can enjoy just about all of them!
Have you played Ys Seven? Let me know if you enjoyed it, in the comments. Thanks for reading, folks!