The world of Ys is back once again this year and this time there isn't a red-haired adventurer in sight. The newly released RPG, Ys Origin, via Steam, is the 7th release in the long running Ys franchise. Unlike its predecessors, Ys Origin takes place 700 years before the events of Adol and focuses on three new characters this time around. While this adventure lacks the red-haired hero it definitely doesn't lack in fast paced combat and big boss fights that the Ys series is known for.
The story follows the events of Ys' famous Twin Goddesses, who after using their immense power to raise a mountain temple into the clouds along with their subjects, disappear into the night. The only natural course for their followers to do is set out with a search party to the only place that the two winged Goddesses would go: The Devil's Tower. This demonic tower designed to reach the cloudily homes of those that fled, houses several tiers filled with demons and twisted surprises and puzzles around every corner.
Taking up the helm to tackle the tower in this adventure is the light hearted apprentice knight Yunica Tovah who despite coming from a well respected family of priests cannot use any magic whatsoever. This comes as an embarrassment to her and while she can't spin a spell she's really skilled with a Battle Axe. Yunica has an almost unhealthy obsession with the Goddesses and practically waltzed her way into the search party to some of the group's displeasure. Of the two main characters, Yunica is a solely hack 'n slash melee based experience and a good starting place for newcomers to the Ys franchise.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, players can choose to play as Hugo Fact, a magical prodigy who is way too devoted to his training and mastery of his signature weapon, the “Eyes of Fact”. As the successor to the House Fact, Hugo often misses the most obvious advances from some of his peers. Hugo’s gameplay is greatly different from Yunica’s as he specializes in ranged combat that resembles playing a top-down space shooter in a fantasy setting. Hugo’s attacks can make short work of your basic enemies though you will have to be quicker on the ball as you constant have to move around to avoid melee attackers and to line up your shots.
No matter which character you choose there is no shortage of fighting to be done. Almost every screen in Ys Origin has multiple enemies to fight over and over as all enemies minus bosses respawn when reentering the area. Players familiar with the recently released Oath in Felghana will quickly fall into step with Origin’s combat system. For those that are not, a little information is in order. You can choose to play Ys Origin two ways; the traditional keyboard and mouse or opt for the easier analog styling of a 360 controller. The default keyboard and mouse setup is functional, though I found it far easier to control my characters using the Preset 2 option found in the configuration utility outside of the game. The smoothest option however is with a controller, especially when having to navigate tricky platform jumps and boss climbing.
One of things that makes Ys Origin unique is the fact that the developers took out a lot of the item and equipment management that you see in RPGs today. That doesn't mean that this title is any less of an RPG its just means that your going to be spending more time cracking demon skulls. All bonuses that armor and weapons normally give you are instead given as drops off defeated enemies. The better you do in combat the better the drops are. These can range from Defense Add effects to Herbs (for health) and SP. The only real management to do is selecting and upgrading your weapons, elemental bracelets and armor. You can however spend earned SP from defeated enemies at one of the many Goddesses Statues found throughout the massive tower. At these statues you can receive a number of divine blessings such as the amount of health given from herbs to the strengthening of your current gear. One of my favorite blessings, once you can afford it, is the ability to earn more SP per defeated monster.
As you will be spending more time fighting and not looking at static menus, you'll get to see the rather impressive graphics from a title released in Japan six years ago. One of the reasons that Ys Origin looks good this time around is that that it supports high-resolution widescreen monitors better than what I saw in Oath in Felghana. The environments feature found in Ys Origin feature everything from richly designed hallways to fiery lave-filled floors to submerged levels. Unlike most of the RPGs of its time, Ys features some complex 3D dungeons that are almost as fun to navigate as whooping on some demons. The only downside to the level design is that you have to be super careful not to fall during platforming sections especially during the tougher difficulties.
Each are nicely designed complete with special effects such as lit torches, nice water animations and plenty of combat based effect like sparks and magic spells. No matter which character you choose to play first you will be treated to nicely detailed character models and the even more striking still animation portraits seen during story elements. The real showstoppers however are the massive screen-filling bosses that will make your character feel completely over classed in seconds. While Ys Origin has been updated a bit you can still see that it an older title as some areas are less polished in some areas.
If you like the intense action then you'll love the music featured throughout Ys Origin. Most of the time you will playing to fast paced fantasy scores classic with other games of the era. The music however shifts to more emotional tracks during some of the more touching and serious parts. Ys features no vocal tracks beyond the opening scene with in its native Japanese. The story is presented completely in text in traditional RPG fashion, so it's something I'm cool with.
Ys Origin has a lot to offer the player with five different difficulties including the sole-crushing Nightmare run. Only masters of Ys should apply here. There are three distinct characters with their own problems to play as and you will notice this immediately. Only two characters are available right off the bat so you must earn the right to play as the third one. You can show off your skills in the unlockable modes "Time Attack" and "Boss Rush" or face off against hordes of enemies in the unlockable Arena Mode. There are also plenty of Steam achievements to be earned for the truly adventurous.
Ys Origin easily deserves its "Action" moniker with its fast-paced gameplay and epic boss fights. The music is enjoyable and helps you get into the fighting mood and the characters are memorable. I have to say that Ys Origin, while it doesn't have everyone's favorite red-haired swordsman, is extremely enjoyable and should not be missed. Download it today on Steam and start slaying some demons.