Ys: Memories of Celceta Review – PlayStation Vita

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Ys (pronounced eece as in fleece) is one of those RPG franchises that hasn’t really gotten the fair shake as far as being known about here in the States. Whether it’s the commercial success of other franchises hogging all the limelight or the limited releases that hit these shores, Ys has found a home over the years heavily with PlayStation and its portable systems. That or no one outside of the hardcore gaming community can actually say it’s commonly mispronounced title right when asking for it as their local retailer. Ys: Memories of Celceta is the newest exclusive release on the PlayStation Vita and easily one of the most enjoyable games in the series and on the system to date having played many of its predecessors personally on the PSP.

Ys: Memories of Celceta, like many of the more recent Ys releases, is actually a heavily reimagining of Ys IV and the first to be made by the series’ creator Nihon Falcom. XSEED Games once again distributes the game as well as helping with the localization. This title actually replaces two other versions of Ys IV made nearly a decade ago as canon to the series’ larger story continuality following the main character and red-haired swordsman Adol Christin. This time around Adol has completely lost his memories as he magically stumbles back to the town of Casnan half dead after finding his way out of the Great Forest of Celceta. This gains the attention of some government officials as no one has ever come back out of these untamed, beast filled woods alive. After seeing Adol’s unique perseverance, he is tasked with mapping the Great Forest for the kingdom who is in search of gold in the forest.

As the name suggests, Adol will find more than just beasts as he maps the untamed wild, which is actually the main objective of the game for the most part. While this sounds like it could be a complete bore, it’s actually quite fun considering the sheer amount of combat you’ll doing along the way with Adol and his cast of companions. Periodically, Adol comes across memory orbs that cause the game to cut out graphically like an TV with poor reception. As you view these memories you not only get a greater appreciation of Adol as a character but come one step closer to unraveling the events that led up to his bout of amnesia which is vital to the story. Supporting him is an interesting cast of playable characters like the information hungry Duren or the heavy hitting disciple-in-training Calilica. While the main story focuses heavily on Adol it would be a grave mistake to dismiss his growing party of friends as mere tagalongs especially with Memories’ combat system.

Ys is a series that I’ve seen evolve over the years from its iconic bump attack roots which was both challenging and unique to the fast paced yet deep system that I experienced here with this release. Combat is evolved even further from the system seen in Ys SEVEN with the added and quite frankly life-saving Flash Move ability that if triggered correctly negates damage and gives you a momentary speed boost. Memories of Celceta is an action RPG that uses a simple yet complex attack style system that hinges on a Slash/Strike/Pierce dynamic. Each of the playable characters has one of those three strengths as their style. Adol, the amnesiac hero and swordsman, falls under the Slash category while his early companion Duren fits firmly into the Strike category. Most of the time you will always have two of the three styles present in your three person max party. This is very important as each of the many beasts out to end your journey has a weakness to one or all of these categories in a sort of rock/paper/scissors strategy. The great thing about Memories is that you can use the Vita’s touch screen to select the enemies to discover their weaknesses before rushing in blind. This also allows you the time to switch to the most useful character for the situation with a quick tap of the Circle button.

Switching between certain party members also has another purpose as you make your way through the big ass Foliage Ocean. Each of the playable characters have a special skill that is unique to them like Ozma’s ability to break cracked walls and boulders or Duren’s lock picking skills. Adol of course is the only one that can interact with the memory orbs which show up on the game’s large world map under the right conditions. These memories once viewed also give a random permanent boost to Adol. Memories of Celceta also continues the series defining feature of recharging health as long as you’re not in combat and your weapons are put away. I did notice that sometimes this feature failed to trigger more than once but was unsure of it was a bug or a status effect on my characters that kept it from triggering. If you don’t want to wait for it to recharge you can always use potions in traditional RPG fashion. That’s assuming you actually have some and are not three levels of hell deep in a dungeon with no warp point in sight to hop back to the nearest town to buy more with all the gold you’ve amassed depending on the difficulty chosen. There is a really useful warp system in place in Memories of Celceta though that makes these sometimes rather lengthy trips a lot shorter. Scattered around dungeons and the forest are color coded Silver Wing monuments that allow you to zip great distances with hardly a thought and they replenish your health and remove all status effects you may be afflicted with.

The thing to remember about Memories of Celceta is that you don’t necessary have to go up and poke every little beast with your sword to progress the game else wise you’ll never get anywhere fast in this 25 hour campaign due to the large open world presentation found within. That doesn’t mean that defeating every living beast that even thinks about looking at you sideways isn’t fun because believe me it’s extremely fun and addictive thanks to the fast paced nature of the combat. While combat is the main focus of the gameplay there is a lot to discover and do while out in the world of Celceta. For starters there are resource points littered all over the place and often repeat trips to these points are needed to discover all the possible minerals or plant materials you can get. These items are then in turn used to allow you to customize aspects of your armor and weapons such as increased damaged or my personal favorite health siphoning off your enemies at places like the town of Selray. You’ll quickly learn that some areas of the forest are sealed off from you until you come across items like the Hydra Scales which allows you to swim underwater. I love games where you get to explore and discover and while some might feel like this is a ploy to extend gameplay I see it as an opportunity to level up, strengthen my skills and actually 100% a Ys title for once.

Ys: Memories of Celceta is a title that you will spend a good deal of time navigating its complex environments and solving some touch based puzzles here and there so it helps that the visuals are actually quite good. It’s far from the best looking game on the Vita but Nihon Falcom does an exceptionally good job for their first major release since the original games. The environments are vibrant and feature effects like fog but the thing I really like the most is the draw distances. The draw distance range found here allows you to easily see what’s on the horizon of places that you’ll most assuredly visit or the next group of enemies allowing for proper planning on how to attack them. Ys: Memories of Celceta also features a day/night cycle that can affect the enemies or items found depending on the time of day. The camera views and movements are all nicely handled by the game so there’s no worrying about being attacked by something you can’t see. The character designs are well done allowing you to easily differentiate each party member even in the thick of combat. The attack animations including those of the special skills variety are quite beautiful and easily my second favorite aspect of the visuals as most of them just feel visually powerful.

The most detailed aspects of the visuals however fall with the anime style character stills during plot moments and conversations as well as the world map that your trying to uncover bit by bit. The world map might come off as one of the most trivial things to talk about but considering that I spent a great deal of time looking at it to plot my next resource gathering or chest finding run it is easily the most valuable asset that the game has to offer. The map which is pretty detailed not only shows the towns and base camps with miniature 3D models but every single resource point, side quest location, warp monument, special areas, chests and Memory orbs that you can possibly find as you discover them. You use the left right analog stick to navigate and hover over points to see what resources can be found there. The right stick allows you to zoom in and out or raise the viewing elevation or the map to give you a better sense of direction when plotting routes.

The Ys franchise has always been a series that has had some memorable score pieces and Ys: Memories of Celceta is no exception. The Underground Ruins is one of my favorite pieces this time around as well as the default music that you hear in the forest which really adds to the fast paced combat mentality. The voice acting is okay though entirely too sporadic as a whole. You’re usually treated to a bit of spoken dialogue when you first meet new party members but other than that it’s usually just written text. You will run across a quick spoken line amidst a sea of text sometimes for some reason or another, perhaps to add more emotion to the moment but it’s more often than not comes off just as awkward as a certain woman in a back alley of Casnan.

What’s not awkward at all is Nihon Falcom’s use of the Vita’s touch capabilities which I’d almost given up on developers for the lack of using one of the Vita’s main functions. Ys: Memories of Celceta as I mentioned before allows you to tap enemies using the front touchscreen to reveal their weaknesses but things don’t stop there. Using a character’s unique ability can be triggered by tapping the screen over the interaction point for instance. You can even use the touchscreen to navigate the world map and pinch it to zoom in and out on the map. This also goes for moving the camera zoom farther away or closer to your party members when you’re actually moving around the environment. The rear touchpad(something heavily underused) even sees a little action as you can pinch your fingers on each hand towards or pull away from each other to change the fight strategy from Attack to Evasive Focus with relative ease instead of changing it in some menu screen.

Ys: Memories of Celceta not only marks the first time Ys IV has hit North American shores but the entry of a really great Action RPG to the Vita library. Sure we’ve seen some good ones already since the handheld’s release but Memories of Celceta is the first one that seriously kept my attention for literally hours on end at a time which is saying something for a portable device. The visuals are good though while not living up to the Vita’s potential really paved the way for the game’s overall addictive combat and sense of grand adventure as only Adol can deliver with a great cast of accompanying characters. If you haven’t hit the purchase button yet on the digital download or started your car to go pick up a physical copy of Ys: Memories of Celceta then you should be.

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