The Ys series has had a revival of sorts over the past few years thanks to XSEED, with releases on both the PlayStation Portable and the PC via Steam. This time around developer Falcom has decided to remake Ys IV, but for a new platform: the PlayStation Vita. If you already know the series' lore or know the controls of the series inside and out, you've already pre-ordered this, but for newcomers to the series Ys: Memories of Celceta is a great introduction to the series.
In Memories of Celceta, things start off a little slow as series hero Adol has lost his memory and isn't sure of what his next action is. Together with his newfound friend Duren, the pair set out to retrace his steps by mapping out Celceta's forest. It makes the start of the game a little odd, but after a few hours the game picks up and opens into the type of world the Ys series has become known for. In many ways, the introduction in Memories of Celceta is somewhat similar to the introduction of Ys Seven.
As far as characters go, Falcom and publisher XSEED Games did a lot to flesh them out in Memories of Celceta. Adol's the strong silent type he's been for the majority of the series, whereas Duren is a nice contrast to him. Female supporting character Karna also helps to lighten the mood, while not falling into the cheesy girly trope many RPGs tend to characterize them as. The rest of the cast, including the villains, are also developed well and fit their purpose in the overall narrative. It's similar to Ys Seven in this respect, so if you enjoyed that game's narrative you'll enjoy what you get here.
Celceta is a giant forest, so Falcom had to take in letting players explore on their own, while guiding them somewhat towards areas that are compatible with their current abilities. They did this by giving players a set area to explore at given points in the game, but also by placing multiple areas inside that larger area to explore. It works well, as many of these areas include new advancing points in the story or general tidbits that expand on those points.
Initially you have to backtrack using special stone monuments (much like Ys Seven), but after a certain point in the game players can pull up the map and teleport anywhere they'd like to go. That isn't to say the game requires it, it's meant mainly for completionists filling out more of the map or finding treasure chests that required an ability to get to which you didn't have earlier.
Gameplay is what the Ys series is known for and Memories of Celceta delivers that in spades. Building on the three-party system found in Ys Seven, Celceta allows you to control one party member at a time with the other two are controlled by the AI. Each character has their own weapon affinity that works in a rock-paper-scissors manner.
So for example, Adol might be good against plant-like enemies with his weapon, but Karna's weapon is better against flying enemies. Thus, the game allows you to switch between the three characters at will with a button press. The game also rewards you for evading enemy attacks at the right moment, which lets you deliver a powerful counterattack if you successfully pull off the evade.
The music, as all Ys releases are, is still held to the same high-quality standards as in the past entries in the series. Falcom is known for their kickin' battle and boss themes, but like Ys Seven their slower, more situational pieces hit the right notes. The diversity of locations in the land of Celceta also helps to create a lot of variety in the musical selection found in the game.
The one main fault with Memories of Celceta is that the graphics feel like a high-end PSP game ported that's been ported to the Vita. The lighting effects and shadows are executed wonderfully, but the characters and some of the geometry, feels dated especially due to the bloom used to hide their imperfections. This tends to make the character models a tad blurry when they're zoomed out during battles, but during story scenes it's not as bad. Falcom is a smaller developer, but how they tried hiding these issues might not be the best approach.
While the graphical issues are a slight nuisance, the overall package easily outweighs it. Anyone wanting a great action RPG for their PlayStation Vita would do themselves a disservice to pass on this game. Picking this game up would be the "Ys"-st purchase you'll make this year if you're a fan of the genre.
|The excellent gameplay found in Ys Seven is back again.|
|The music fits the mood wonderfully.|
|Characters feel authentic and don't fall into tired old tropes.|
|The graphics feel like a high-end Sony PSP title in some instances.|
|The initial few hours feel slow until the world map opens up.|
|Backtracking is hampered until later in the game.|