Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: XSEED Games, DotEmu
Platform: PC, PS4, PS Vita
Tested on: PS4
Ys Origin – Review
Ys Origin is the prequel of many games which are set in the world of Ys. The first Ys game originates from 1987, and Ys Origin had been released in Japanese in 2006, developed and published by Nihon Falcom. Later, in 2012 it has been re-released in English by publisher XSEED Games for PC (via Steam) and for Playstation 4 in 2017, by the French publisher DotEmu. Soon this game will also be released for the PS Vita.
Ys Origin tells the story of a once peaceful kingdom named Ys, which was overrun by demons. To escape the demons and save the population, a part of the main city gets risen up into the air. This part is where the city’s protectors, twin goddesses, are housed. However, the demons build a huge tower in order to reach the city in the sky. One day, the twin goddesses disappear from the city, and a search party, with the protagonists among them, set out to to the surface world, to try to find the goddesses in the demonic tower.
Initially, there are two characters to choose between: Yunica, an ax-wielding fast melee fighter, and Hugo, a magic-wielding long-range sorcerer. Both of these characters have their unique stories. Yunica is kind, simple-minded, and helpful, Hugo is arrogant, smart and vengeful. Both have an interesting background story which will become clear while adventuring in the tower. Yunica is an apprentice knight, who lost her father, a leader of the holy knights, while he was fighting against the demons on the surface to save Ys. Hugo is the descendant of a line of powerful mages, and he lost his disinherited brother, whom he hates.
Both Yunica and Hugo will encounter many different interesting characters during their journey through the tower, and learn a lot about their past, but they will also learn a terrible secret about Ys, and the nature of magic. Both characters also have slightly different battles, following their personal stories. Both of the stories are deep and meaningful, and will let you keep playing this game.
Ys Origin has a great storyline which will make you want to explore the game with all playable characters. If you finished Hugo’s and Yunica’s story, you will be able to experience the viewpoint of Hugo’s brother Toal, the third unlockable character.
The graphics are isometric, in a well executed retro style. Every level has a distinctly different style with lots of details. All levels are thematic; there’s fire, sand, water and demonic themes. Combined with the music, the feel of this game is similar to retro style Castlevania games.
Ys Origin has a story intro in French with English subtitles, and an anime sequence explaining and visualizing the story. The sprites of the characters in game are detailed and well animated chibi-style characters (big head and small body), but every time a new character gets introduced, a full-size anime style image of the character will appear on screen. During conversations, the face of the character is depicted next to the text, and the emotions of the character are depicted on the face of this image.
The music is typical Japanese style video game music, with a retro feel to it. The background music is different for every level, but it’s always fast paced, classical style music with a modern twist. The dialogues aren’t narrated, but the intro of the game is, in French. This is the only place where you experience that the game is indeed re-published by a French company.
Ys Origin is a hack and slash dungeon explorer RPG with platformer elements. In Ys Origin, you’ll gradually proceed through a tower, from the bottom towards the top. At the bottom is the home base of the search party your character is part of, and you can teleport to this at any time. Furthermore, at each level there are safe points which also double as teleport points.
This game is a typical hack and slash dungeoneering action RPG: you’ll spend most of the time fighting countless of demonic enemies. The controls are rather easy, but to get the most out of your attacks, you have to time your button presses very well, and this takes some practice. The bosses in the game are a real challenge when you encounter them. Most of the time, bosses can decimate your HP bar in just two or three hits, so most of the time you are running and bouncing around, trying to dodge the bosses’ attacks. All bosses have a different strategy and stages, but the dodging tactics stay the same.
Items in the game are received by discovering chests, and during normal gameplay you’ll discover virtually every chest in game. There are ways to discover secrets, but discovering these is not hard (they are obvious), and usually needed to proceed in the game, so you basically won’t miss anything. Items in chests include keys, armor, permanent upgrades, and abilities which help you to progress further in the game or to defeat certain enemies. Enemies drop HP and MP boosts, bonuses to attack, defense and magic, and SP, which you can use to buy permanent upgrades for your character. Sometimes during the game you’ll notice you are underleveled, and you need to grind a bit in order to defeat a boss or reach a certain objective. Grinding luckily won’t take that long, and you’ll earn more SP when you defeat enemies, which is always useful.
The platforming in this game takes some getting used to, you’ve got to time your jumps and abilities just right, and be careful not to jump slightly diagonally. If you fall, that usually means you have to walk back to start the platforming bit over again, which gets annoying after a few tries. Jumping with Hugo is more straightforward than jumping with Yunica, since Hugo has a levitation skill and Yunica can float by timing her whirlwind skill just right.
Ys Origin has great replay value since each character has a different story, and finishing the game with a character will unlock new characters or new game modes to try. The different gameplay of the characters will also make the experience with both the bosses and the general enemies rather different, though dodging is an important part of the strategy for all characters. In general, bosses are a bit harder when playing with Yunica than with Hugo, but taking on hordes of enemies is a bit easier with Yunica.
The Playstation 4 release has some differences compared to the Steam release of the game, for instance: the third character will only get unlocked after finishing the game with both Yunica and Hugo, and some achievements are different.
Ys Origin is a fun dungeon-crawler RPG with an enjoyable story. The characters are uniquely different, both in play-style and in story, which makes it fun to play through the game more than once. Despite its age, the game looks very good on Playstation 4 and a big TV. It definitely has a retro feel which fits the series, and since the characters and backgrounds are well designed, it does not feel dated at all. Ys Origin is an enjoyable game, even for people who are unfamiliar with the Ys game series.