Ys Origin (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 22.02.2017

Review for Ys Origin on PlayStation 4

Thirty years is a long time for any series to persist, but it's not unheard of. The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear Solid have hit, or are hitting, their third decade but unlike a series like Ys, those franchises are not only in the public eye but have also had healthy releases with plenty of hype to keep them afloat. Ys doesn't have that luxury. Releases have always been scattered and sales were never much to write home about, but the franchise has stayed despite its niche nature due to Falcom's never ending love and care. Originally released in 2006 in Japan and 2012 in the West, it's fitting that Ys Origin, the earliest title chronologically, is being released just in time for the series' thirtieth anniversary. With three characters to choose from and one of the series' more emotional stories, Origin abandons Ys staples in favour of an all new experience.

One of Ys' more alluring aspects is its insistence on changing the formula every few years. From 1987 to 1993, combat primarily focused on a "bumper car" system where enemies could only be damaged by having main character, Adol Christin, ram into them from the side.

Side games experimented with giving Adol a dedicated attack button, but it wasn't until 1995 where, on the SNES, combat switched to a more traditional hack n' slash design philosophy that was later fully refined in 2003 with Ys VI on the PC.

As intriguing as it is to have the gameplay constantly switch up, it can also be a bit off putting. Thankfully, each game has an emphasis on adventure and world building as Adol travels and documents the new world in his journal.

Despite being a silent protagonist, Falcom has managed to make Adol one of the most captivating parts of Ys, to the point where the shifting gameplay barely matters so long as Adol and his adventures maintain the high level of quality that's to be expected from Falcom's writing.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on PlayStation 4

More important than Adol, however, is the overall level design of each instalment. Exploration is key as Adol must talk to NPCs and fight his way through each country's dungeons to make progress. Dungeons, Adol, and overworld exploration are all key components to making a good Ys title, so it can be even more off putting when the realization that Ys Origin has none of those aspects his.

Taking place 700 years before Adol's first adventure and entirely in one dungeon, Origin tells the story of the three characters who shaped the ancient land of Ys.

While the series would later go on to adopt a party system where playable characters could switch on the fly in 2009 with Ys Seven, this marks the first time that anyone other than Adol was playable. Not only that, each character plays wildly different from each other and none act as an exact match for the long-time protagonist. Origin is as alien a prequel can be.

To further distance themselves from previous titles, all the playable characters are talkative and have very defined and dynamic arcs. Yunica is a kind-hearted young woman living in the shadow of her father, Hugo is a prideful and insecure magician who desperately wants to be stronger, and "The Claw" is an aloof man whose motivations are shrouded in mystery.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on PlayStation 4

Moving away from tradition even more, no character plays exactly like Adol. Yunica most resembles Adol, using her axe to chain combos from enemy to enemy while Hugo's magic keeps him far away from enemies turning his gameplay into something of a shoot 'em up.

"The Claw" plays more like Yunica, focusing on fast based combos but his incredibly fast speed and low strength completely changes how battles are undergone.

Due to each character's unique play style and the inclusion of a skill system, it's quite easy to forget that the entire story takes place in one dungeon and that each character has to play through the exact same stages.

The Devil's Tower has some of the most inspired areas in the series as the tower is constantly changing in aesthetic and design as the protagonists make their way to the top. The 26-floor monstrosity rarely ever lets up with plenty of puzzles and tricks to fight against the main characters.

Exploration doesn't have as much of an emphasis since there isn't an overworld to explore, but there are plenty of secrets hidden within the tower with each section having a fair share to find.

Much like the rest of the series, boss fights remain the highlight of Ys Origin. The different play styles mean that there are, at minimum, three different strategies that can be taken to defeat each one.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on PlayStation 4

Bosses show up at the end of each section of the tower, whether that be after one floor or three, and they're all fairly difficult. Falcom's philosophy has always been that an Ys boss should serve as a test of the mechanics, so it's nice to see that in an entry so keen on forgoing main features of the franchise that hasn't been thrown away.

Tying the experience together is some of the best writing to ever come out of Falcom. Each character has their own plot that, at times, conflicts with each other, but the heart and emotion behind each one is more than enough to forgive the inconsistencies.

At its core, Ys Origin is a story about identity both for the characters and the series. For the cast, Yunica and Hugo fight to find their individuality while "The Claw" is stuck between fighting against and embracing his identity and role in life.

For Falcom, Origin is a testament to just how strong Ys' identity is. The series will probably never permanently stray away from Adol and his lifelong travels, nor should it, but the mere fact that Falcom ended up making one of the strongest instalments in the series in doing so is proof that the niche Ys is just as strong as any mainstream thirty-year franchise.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

While it may be the black sheep of the franchise, Ys Origin is also one of the best entries the series has seen, and one of the best action RPGs period. All three playable characters having their own fleshed out and unique play style makes for an incredibly fresh, blood pumping experience that puts other action oriented games to shame. With an excellently written story, a beautiful soundtrack, and a challenging but always fair difficulty, Ys Origin is everything right with the series whilst maintaining an identity entirely of its own.

Developer

Falcom

Publisher

DotEmu

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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