Monday 3 March 2014

Ys: Memories of Celceta Review (Playstation Vita)

The Ys franchise has been around since the late eighties but the games have rarely made it over to the west. Some of the titles are available via Steam or the Wii virtual console but this is the first time the series has seen a major release upon European shores. We won’t go into a long history lesson on the plot as the game acts as much as a self-contained adventure as a continuation to the timeline. Because of this it is easily accessible for newcomers to the mythology of the world.

The plot follows a young adventure named Adol who is found in a great forest suffering from amnesia. As Adol you are tasked with exploring the forest and recovering your memories. Along the way you will encounter characters who remember you. Some of these will accuse you of things that you may or may not have done and a large part of the game is in investigation these claims, normally by heading to a dungeon, in order to find out what is actually going on.

An action RPG, Memories of Celceta has characters exploring the world away from random battles. All the enemies are on the screen from the start and you will need to use your array of weapons and special powers to defeat them. Combat is similar in some respects to the Tales series (or later Star Ocean games), where you have a small group of heroes fighting in real time. The player controls one character while the AI controls the other two.

Unlike many games the AI is actually pretty good at handling the characters and there weren’t many moments when it did something stupid or put them in harm’s way. They do attack but we found that we needed to dive in to perform at the heart of the battle. This means you can’t just sneakily hide somewhere while the computer does all the work.

You’ll gradually get more characters join your party and each has their own strengths and special abilities to use on the map.  For instance, one can pick locks while another is capable of splitting rocks to open the way. All members of your party gain experience during your adventure whether they are in the on screen party or not which means you are free to experiment and swap characters in and out without them lagging behind in terms of stats.

As you level you will gain new combat skills that you can assign to different buttons. To use these skills you have to strike enemies to build a meter. Finishing off an enemy with one of these skills then fills a different super move meter which when full unleashes a lengthy and powerful combo. It’s a simple system but one that works well.

Collectible items also have a system to follow. As you gather bits of plant, minerals and other objects you can combine them for items of higher value. Collect enough coal and you turn it into iron ore, collect enough iron ore and can turn into silver ore etc. These items can then be sold for much higher values than before as well as being used to craft new weapons and objects.

As you explore the forest you will fill out your map which highlights areas of interest and stone markers. Any marker visited can be used to quick travel around the map and also acts to heal your health and cure status ailments. This means you aren’t constantly backtracking and keeps the pace up. 

Aside from your main quest there are also numerous side quests in each area. These normally appear after solving the areas problem and take the form of messages pinned on the town’s board. Reading the board once adds all the quests to your map so you only have to glance at the quests once. This further streamlines the experience and allows for quick and easy access to what there is to do around you. You can also save just about anywhere, except during boss fights. If you die you get a retry option which normally puts you at the entrance to the last room you entered as well so there is little repetition of events.

In fact the only thing likely to stall your progress through the game is the somewhat strange requirement that some dungeons have to make you find a number of pieces of stone tablet in order to proceed. You need these to make a shape on certain doors (like a picture slide puzzle), before the door will open. We found ourselves stuck a number of times because of missing a piece and then had to trudge around the dungeon looking for it.

Overall, Ys does a very good job of bringing the action RPG genre to the Vita. It looks lovely and there is a strong and pacey quest to undertake. It may lack a little depth but it’s a player friendly and enjoyable game and one that fits the Vita very well. If you are in need of some dungeon exploring action then this is the game for you.

Overall 8/10

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