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The one without Adol.

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    Ys Origin

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    The one without Adol.

    Ys Origin is the 10th title released under the Ys franchise name, the 9th entry in the mainline Ys series, the 1st game in the in-universe chronological order and the only Ys game not starring Adol, the series’ iconic redhead. I am not going anywhere with this.

    While Ys Origins has had a couple of previous releases, most recently, in 2017, it became available for PS4 and Vita with the port job being handled by DotEmu. This port is marred by occasional crashes during the game over screen (which have been largely addressed in the recent patch) and some very minor and infrequent framerate skips but gets the job done. That said, this version followed the unlocking progression of the 2006 Windows XP version, with Nightmare difficulty for example being unlocked after you finish all the character campaigns which can be a detriment depending on your patience.

    Let’s move on to the actual game. The setting is the prosperous land of Ys. After suffering a demon attack, goddesses Reah and Feena raise the holy Solomon temple, filled with residents of Ys seeking shelter from the attack, up in the sky using the source of all magic, the Black Pearl, as a last attempt to keep everyone safe. The demons answer by erecting a giant tower (as they quite often tend to do in videogames) to take the battle up above. One night, the goddesses leave the floating island without saying a world to anyone, setting the plot into motion. In response, a search party made up of Holy Knights and sorcerers is formed by the priests of the now floating shrine with the goal to bring the goddesses back.

    Within that party we find our 3 protagonists. Yunica Tovah, the daughter of the former leader of the Holy Knights, Hugo Fact, the son of the most powerful priest of the shrine and his older brother, Toal Fact, a former Holy Knight and friend of the goddesses who has seemingly accepted demonic powers for reasons unknown. The narrative follows their ascend to the top of the tower and is largely carried by their personal conflicts and their interactions with the people they find in there than the overarching plot. The peculiar setting lacks the pacing and world building tools that RPG staples like towns and world maps provide but the game manages to space out its cutscenes and slower moments well enough so as not to become an unrelenting bombardment of action nor fall into long-winded exposition dumps. Nonetheless, the game serves its purpose as an Origin story and a decently written one at that.

    But you’ll probably won’t stay around for the story. You’ll stay for the combat, bosses and the top tier soundtrack. Ys Origins fall into the isometric phase of Ys. You control a single character who can jump, use normal grounded and aerial attacks, skills that consume MP, has a timed power-up transformation and later on a burst move. The controls are quite responsive (except for the lunge attack execution which the tutorial LIES ABOUT) and provide you with a plethora of approach, escape and DPS options – long and short range. A well placed plunge attack can stun enemies while the lunge decreases opponents’ defence. The skills in particular can work as distance closers, dodges and guards along with being chargeable or spammable for damage output. Outside of combat, your jump, your key items and your skills are used to traverse the floors of the tower, platforming and solving simple puzzles to reach the top of the tower. But since this is an action RPG, the tower is filled with chests that provide armor, HP ups and weapon upgrades to help with the fight. The level system is pretty basic, with no point/stat allocation but the game implements an experience multiplier system where if you keep landing hits before the bar runs out, the exp given by each enemy increases with a ceiling of x1.99. Lastly, enemies drop SP crystals, a currency used for generally helpful upgrades cashed in in save points like less MP consumption or strengthening a piece of armor.

    The sections where the battle system is fully fleshed out are the boss fights. There’s a decent variety of normal enemies with different behavior and weaknesses to different skills but some basic spacing and good skill utilisation makes short work of them. The bosses, however, call for quick thinking and adaptation, often demanding that you cycle through your skills constantly to evade and get there in time to counter attack. The depth of the fights does not lie on your tool kit but moreso on the interaction of said kit with the various boss movesets. Even on normal difficulty, each boss will go through multiple moveset cycles, hitting hard on the way, so you need to learn their patterns and timings to win. You are not getting out of there alive until you comprehend the openings. What makes them even more enjoyable is that there is not set way to fight them. You can approach the boss in several ways, even when talking about the same character, and that makes the victory feel a bit more personal. There are generally 2 kinds of bosses. Humanoid fights, which tend to lean towards reflexes, and big demons that are mainly a real time pattern recognition puzzle. 2 bosses aside, I feel this Ys entry has the best designed boss fights of the isometric Ys titles, closely edging out Oath in Felghana.

    Let’s talk music. I actually first discovered the series from its OST. The soundtracks are so good that even on their own, stand strong as a piece music. So you can imagine how great it feels when a well designed boss is complemented by Falcom Sound Team jdk’s touch. Stage themes are catchy (there’s a part of Silent Sands, the desert area track, that refuses to leave my mind) and there are some pretty well thought out pieces in cutscenes that make me wonder why they’re being used in a 20 second dialogue. One boss track in particular that I won’t spoil manages to be both quite different from their usual work but still reach the same heights as the top tracks form other Ys titles. But you don’t need me to tell you about that stuff. The game does a great job blasting Genesis – Beyond the Beginning in the opening movie.

    Moreover, bonus modes are unlocked after finishing every character’s story like Nightmare difficulty, the Arena, boss Time Attack and boss rush, bonus movesets for characters and a returning character to use in these bonus features. As a side note, every character’s campaign provides a different take on the story as well as things like new bosses and scenarios.

    All in all, Ys draws in people for its responsive, well designed battles accompanied by chilling soundtracks and Origins continues the tradition. The thought of going through the same tower with 3 different characters might sound off-putting and I would have preferred the most complete route, Toal’s, to be available after a single playthrough but if the game clicks, you’ll feel like playing it again, multiple characters or not.

    A surefire bet for fans of Ys and a good place to start for newcomers.

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