July 22, 2012
The backstory for Ys Origin is simple but effective. For ages the land of Ys had been peaceful until a demon invasion threw the world into chaos, forcing the twin goddesses of Ys to use their magic to send their palace into the sky away from the reach of the demons. Of course, that wasn't about to stop them, so the demons built their own tower tall enough to be within reach of the palace. Mysteriously, right around this time both of the Goddesses went missing.
Ys Origin begins with either Yunica or Hugo setting off on a journey to explore the tower, known as Darm Tower, in search of the goddesses. Yunica will be pretty familiar to long-time Ys fans as she's essentially a female version of the series hero Adol in terms of her battle style, right down the fact where she needs various items to give her more magically-inclined abilities. Hugo is a caster and plays similarly to what you'd expect in a bullet-hell title with him shooting out spell blasts. Neither character's stories are especially complex or compelling, but they do serve their purpose in keeping the player interested as they progress through the game. Essentially, if you prefer the story structure of the earlier Ys titles you will feel right at home here.
As stated earlier, the entire game takes place inside the expansive Darm Tower. To most this may seem somewhat restricting, but in practice it's very similar to other franchises such as Metroid or Castlevania titles where each area inside the location feels and plays different from the rest. This ranges from a castle-like atmosphere to a water-logged dungeon and even a few places that will kindle the memories of fans of Ys I & II.
If there's one thing the Ys series has become renowned for it's the gameplay, which is in full force in Ys Origin. For those new to Ys, the series is known for its action-based RPG combat with a focus on close-range attacks. As you defeat monsters you will gain SP which can be used to upgrade your equipment and abilities and various gems which provide temporary boosts to parameters such as your attack power, attacking speed and even how fast you gain experience. Of course, like most RPGs you will eventually learning abilities that add elemental-based moves to your repertoire which can be used for more powerful attacks and surpassing Origins' many puzzles to progress farther up the tower.
An action RPG wouldn't be anything without its bosses and Ys Origin is no exception. In classic Ys style the bosses are without a doubt challenging, but at the same time exceptionally rewarding once you finally conquer them. For those of you who like to think in your RPGs, you'll be in luck as on the normal and harder difficulty levels you will almost certainly die on your first try as you learn the boss' patterns and weaknesses. Once this is mastered the battles become quite entertaining as they feel challenging, but without ever feeling cheap as there's always enough of a tell given beforehand --- so when you get hit it's 100 percent your fault.
Of course, if the controls didn't perform as expected this balancing would all be for naught, so thankfully Falcom did a wonderful job as far as this went. Origin supports both keyboard/mouse control as well as gamepad support. The former performs admirably considering the combination, but the action-based combat works much better with the latter for actions such as timing jumps and repeated attacking.
As far as the audio and visual presentation go, however, it's a mixed bag depending on how you look at things. Falcom's soundtracks rarely disappoint, especially for the Ys series, so if you loved any of the previous title's soundtracks you'll be enamoured by Ys Origin. There's a nice range of musical selections available, ranging from energetic dungeon and battle themes to more melodramatic instances when the story requires it.
Being released in 2006, the graphics aren't horrible by any means but they do show their age to some degree. But if you aren't a graphics junkie you still find a competent graphics engine here as the game looks extremely impressive at its max resolution of 1920x1080 widescreen with all of the graphical extras enabled. If you have a respectable setup you shouldn't have any trouble running this game at a high resolution and without any framerate drops. As long as you don't come in expecting 2012 graphics you shouldn't be disappointed in the slightest.
The game does come in at a $20 Steam price point, normally a bit steep for those who play more indie-based titles, but with 10 hours of gameplay with the two default characters alongside a third unlockable character, a boss rush mode and a plethora of Steam achievements the price isn't as much of an issue as you'd initially expect. If you are a Ys fanatic you've already had this on pre-order, but for those who are on the fence but love action RPGs this is a solid recommendation.