For aficionados of gaming history, the Ys series is a curiosity. One of the oldest RPG franchises in Japan, precious few entries in the series have made it westward. That’s a real shame, as Ys has always stood apart from its genre mates, delivering speedy real-time combat and an ongoing story with a returning lead character, adventurer Adol Christin.
Memories Of Celceta is technically a remake of 1993’s Ys IV, at the time outsourced by original studio Nihon Falcom. The result was two separate games (one by Tonkin House, one by Hudson Soft), neither of which ever quite fit with the series’ continuity. Despite being an interquel, this updated take works well as an introduction for newcomers, investing players in Adol’s character and the style of the series.
Although the story of this instalment isn’t deserving of any particular praises being sung – an amnesiac Adol explores the land of Celceta to both restore his memories and defeat the dark force responsible for their loss – Ys is one of the most, well, ‘game-y’ J-RPGs around. With no random encounters or menu navigation to worry about, combat feels like a hybrid of Dynasty Warriors-esque hack-n-slash action and an arcade beat ‘em up. Hammering away at the Vita’s square button doles out basic attacks and will be enough to wade through most foes, but more powerful skills are activated by the right shoulder button and any one of the face buttons. In lieu of high scores, successfully juggling skills, timed guards and dodges, and targeting enemies’ weaknesses rewards more crafting items. It’s a nice way of rewarding players who make the most of the combat system.
These materials can then be refined in towns and used to reinforce weapons and armour. Rare is the piece of fantasy bling that can’t be somehow improved in Ys, and figuring out the best way to power up a weapon or add certain attributes is strangely compelling. Those combat skills are customisable too, each providing different effects that can alter the flow of combat without slowing down the whole affair. It all adds a level of complexity to the game that the simplistic battles would otherwise obscure.
This twofold approach, simple enough for immediate engagement, detailed enough for stat-heads to really dig into, is what makes Ys a real joy. Memories Of Celceta isn’t the best looking game on Vita, and its music can be overly repetitive, but it is nevertheless relentlessly absorbing. Couple that quality with fine use of the Vita’s functions (such as bringing up enemy info with a tap, or issuing commands to Adol’s occasional party members using the rear pad) and the result is a nippy little action RPG perfectly suited to its platform.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen