Ys has been a long running series made by the wonderful people of Nihon Falcom, a developer that has been surviving the storms of nicheness for awhile now. Originally conceived in 1987 on the PC, this title was one of the firsts in the action role playing genre to involve an automatic attack whenever the main character, “Adol” would run into an enemy. It was a staple in the series to provide action rpg combat in a new and different way that wasn’t Legend of Zelda at that time.
With only having older titles of Y’s I through III in older platforms, it was pure luck that the people of XSEED saw potential in this series from its further iterations. The power of the amazing fan translations made the later titles accessible in the first place (major props to you guys) and subsequently brought popularity back into the series overseas.
Here in the States, proof of the series’ continued popularity continues with this iteration on the Vita, Y’s: Memories of Celceta. Just to recap, my experience with the Y’s series spans from Oath of Felghana to Y’s Seven on the PSP.
The changes that are made to the series may have made diehard fans uneasy. The series previous strengths were in the platforming action, instead of a more core action-rpg experience, both of which are apparent from Y’s Seven’s shift in design. Despite multitudes of arduous platforming challenges featured in the older titles being cut, this title makes up for it with a battle system that is a lot fresher and more intimate.
The ability to switch different characters who each present different techniques and weapon types adds to the advantage of battle while still maintaining the concept of speed and timing to the flow of battle, just like previous iterations while still maintaining the difficulty that people love about the Y’s series.
Y’s: Memory of Celceta is canon from the main series’ storyline starring the brave, daring, adventurous do-gooder, Adol the Red, as he is 18 yrs old after the events of Ys II. Adol is seen exiting a grand expansive forest into the town of Casnan physically hurt, in a daze of some sort, dragging himself to the inn before being rudely knocked down and passing out.
When he is woken up by the kind innkeeper; it is revealed that Adol has lost his memories. Right after confirming his memory loss, Duren, a friend of Adol’s; barges into the conversation asking about Adol’s adventures into the forest, clearly surprised he made it back alive.
After some later events where miner’s are attacked by monsters in the mine and Adol regains some of his combat memory back; the governor general of Casnan sees Adol & Duren’s skill and asks them to map out the forest to expand Casnan’s gold forging for a large sum of cash. Thus begins the story of Adol regaining his memories of what happened prior, leading into a much bigger dilemma and adventure in the sea of trees.
Although an extremely niche and common trope is the amnesiac storytelling in JRPGs, the way Y’s: Celceta does it is actually quite well. While exploring the forest, Adol can touch orbs located at different spots to rekindle those lost memories, which go into his past before he got into adventuring. These are presented in beautiful 2D art, or a scenario that happened shortly in his time at that location in the forest. So for fans of the series, it’s a real big treat to actually learn more in depth of Adol’s character.
This also rewards players even more by taking the separate paths and exploring the map to get everything. Another little thing that I liked was that the game gave player choices to answer for Adol. It’s not revolutionary in the slightest, but with the easily likeable characters in mind, it’s fun to give Adol more player influence since he is normally a silent protagonist. This just made me like the character’s even more, even if it doesn’t change anything it helps alleviate linearity in dialogue.
The story does have its turns and yet it’s pretty easy to follow what’s happening, so it’s not an edge of your seat story experience like Persona 4. However, it is presented very well and in a classic type way, so if you appreciate a simple but cleanly presented trope story, you would appreciate it as much as I did. It does present some cool variations to the story so there is room for some mystery, but most of the time it is decently predictable.
With the do-gooder nature of Adol and the common adventure theme, its normally hard to break away from the tonality it presents itself from the story. So I would say that although this game’s story is good, I would love to see Falcom try to push a different direction to sway from the happy-nature of the title for a bit.
Gameplay is extremely smooth and is improved throughout the title, which is good thing. They introduced a bartering system for gathering materials which is helpful, and better yet gives different stat properties when imbuing those items to a character’s weapon or armor.
The game constantly keeps throwing in new things to add to the repertoire of abilities, such as different towns that introduce a new form of customization or even the additional artifacts Adol can pick up, some of which affect dungeon exploration or to better improve combat situations.
They constantly add new things, but not in a way that’s overbearing, as this was awesome and kept the title feeling nice and alive. They also added character-centric abilities for the environment similarly to the Breath of Fire series which does allow for more access to areas all throughout the game but not used too majorly.
There are a few things that do need improvement, however. When exploring the dungeons, I found myself running into a few glitches. One of them made me fear that I ruined my current conquest, but was luckily enough to be easily fixed.
This is still an apparent issue in the title as well as a few snafus with frame rate issues when multiple enemies and projectiles are on screen at once, or some issues with animations having similar frame rate issues.
When you’re at a far distance from the enemy, those are smaller things that do effect gameplay, but not in a game breaking manner thankfully. I had one issue with visibility, which is when you go in a particular dungeon, due to the way the camera views the 2D planes. The camera didn’t do a great job on that particular part, but the other dungeons are pretty swell.
What I considered an awesome and probably overlooked feature, is the utilization of touch controls, which are used pretty well. These range from organizing your team’s basic strategy whether its either evasive or offensive, menu navigation, and adjusting the camera.
The touch controls for once felt decently intuitive and efficient. These touch commands are also used in some touch based puzzle solving, whether it is to rotate plates properly to get the right for or to do a certain pattern based off button presses.
This really helped break the mold of the game just always being an action rpg. I wish there could have been a little bit more on that part, possibly mixing some of that functionality with the quests from the job board. For what it’s worth, considering the little they did, it helped a large amount.
The only annoying touch command was when I tried setting the strategy using the rear touch pad. I noticed that sometimes the command would be performed by accident because of hand placement, and when I wanted to do a certain command it was unresponsive.
Combat is the bread and butter in this game. The fast-paced platforming action from prior games is swapped with fast-paced twitch action combat, which works very well. All the characters present various skills that bring a pretty awesome dynamic to the battles.
The characters can all gain skills based off level and a chance when doing a normal attack that can be leveled up to 3 by usage of the skill which makes a visual and damage reflective differences.
There are also three types of characters; slash, piercing, and smash types. Enemies can be weak and/or strong to these types, which will require your team to be more rounded with each type. However, switching characters is very simple so it isn’t a downfall to have two of the same type.
The game rewards the player even more then Y’s Seven did. When guarding at the right time a Flash Guard is triggered, which subsequently makes every attack done by the player a critical attack for a short period of time.
A new technique added to Celceta is the Flash Dodge technique, which is when the player dodges in perfect timing, making time slow down and your team invulnerable for a few seconds.
These add to the fun of perfecting the system and when you jump into harder difficulties especially nightmare mode, you will need to do these techniques perfectly but it is done easily which is nice.
The downside to the combat would have to be the partner AI. At times they are awesome and dodge everything, especially if your tactic is set to evasive. Things change when you decide to make the allies aggressive – they will take a crap ton more hits from the enemy pretty easily.
This can lead to early deaths not committed by you. Luckily enough, when your partner is at 1 health, they will stop attacking and come near you. During this they are impervious for the most part from dying unless you directly control them. In this case you can do some kiting on enemies to avoid death.
What also fixes this slightly is that if you are not in battle within a dungeon, you can recover all your HP over time. When in a dungeon, this would not be the case, that is until you get a spirit cape artifact to equip. This becomes extremely essential in the harder difficulties to live. Another good and but underutilized feature are the quest boards in each town.
It adds more entertainment to exploring every area of land, sometimes even leading to different semi-dungeon areas to explore but it normally doesn’t feel like enough is available. When starting each town there is normally 3 quests to do but after each major event of visiting a new town there might be an extra mission or two that can be done extremely quickly.
For the most part it could have served a bit better to change the quests up a bit more to add more variety, but it is another fun thing that was added to the title.
The art of the game is awesome. The 2D art is extremely smooth, clean, and present really wonderful contrasts on the Vita screen. The environments are large establishments which give that sense of adventure and exploration, which as explained before can lead to frame rate issues on creatures or animated objects in the distance. Despite this, Ys: Memories of Celceta is still a very very pretty game.
Music and sound is very well done, with very catchy instrumental rock music that plays when exploring the forest, and some nice tunes while in town. There definitely could have been more variety though, despite there being bunch of the songs, normally the rock songs are repeated in areas.
Ys Memory of Celceta is easily one of the must have niche titles that should be on that golden shelf of must own Vita titles next to Persona 4 Golden, Virtues Last Reward, and so on. It’s a title that the Vita needs in its way to gain more dominance in the handheld market.
The game is a ton of fun and really challenging. I played the game on hard mode from my previous experiences with Ys titles. For most avid action players, you might want to play it at the same level but those who are new and fresh, this title is very easy to get into so don’t shy away from its appearances.