Ys Origin (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 11.04.2021

Review for Ys Origin on Nintendo Switch

When it comes to cult classics, this generation has given fresh life to many big franchises. Persona and Yakuza being potentially the biggest standouts, but there are plenty of others still just waiting to capture the zeitgeist. Case in point, the Ys series; one that harkens back to the '80s, and one that has had nine numbered instalments since then, along with a handful of spinoffs, running the gambit from classic home computers, to 8-bit or 16-bit systems, and on and on, all the way up to the modern-day masterpiece that is the Nintendo Switch. Though, sadly, its mainstream appeal has never hit the heights of its contemporaries. Now, this prequel to the series is getting a port from its original release in 2006, giving a new audience a perfect jumping-in point to this story.

This tale is set 700 years before the original Ys 1: Ancient Ys Vanished. A group of heroes is sent on a quest into a demon-filled tower to rescue a pair of twin goddesses, and find an ancient artefact. Within that group, there are two playable protagonists to choose from: either the melee-focused knight Yunica, or the ranged mage Hugo. Whoever is chosen has to ascend the tower, overcoming the myriad demons, gargantuan boss encounters, and corrupted warriors known as Darkin, growing ever stronger and acquiring new abilities as progress is made.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on Nintendo Switch

The mage Hugo has a weapon known as the Eyes of Fact; a pair of spheres that float to either side of him. Hammering the attack button sends bolts of energy blasting forward. As Hugo ascends the tower he finds three artefacts that each grant a new magical ability. A magical fan unlocks the ability to summon a force shield that grants a protective bubble that has the bonus effect of granting slow fall, allowing Hugo to sail across large gaps. The second artefact, an ancient Warhammer, gives Hugo the ability to summon Trap Mines, and these can be used to set explosives on a timer which can also be used to crack open hidden passageways within the tower. Finally, a legendary sword grants FIre Wheels. These transform the Eyes of Fact into great balls of fire, circling Max at high speed and crashing into any enemies who get too close.

Each weapon and subsequent ability linked to a specific elemental nature, and each enemy within the tower has an elemental nature, exploiting these essential to rack up the big damage. While Hugo is all about keeping enemies at bay, Yunica Tovah is focused on getting up and personal with the monsters in the tower. A veritable berserker, smashing through enemies with her leads to the same weapons as Hugo, but they grant different abilities. The magical fan summons a whirlwind to hover Yunica in the air, but offensively it will also cut enemies to ribbons with the whirling winds. The Warhammer summons a pillar of explosive force from the heavens, the legendary sword spewing out a huge spout of fire.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on Nintendo Switch

The two feel very different in their playstyles, more than enough to incentivise a second play-through with both characters, and then a third once both have been completed, and a hidden third character is unlocked. Even better, the stories are drastically different too. They both have the same starting point and goals, but embark on their hero's journey. Hugo has a big chip on his shoulder compared to the earnest knight of Yunica, and each of the characters has unique antagonists fitting with their stories, with subsequent boss fights as the character progresses higher and higher through the tower.

The tower is separated into 25 distinct areas, each with its own style and personality, keeping things fresh throughout. Each area has a catalogue of unique enemies, including big boss battles at the end of each. Each area also has themed gimmicks and obstacles to overcome - the only way of doing so, tracking down hidden treasure chests with artefacts that grant special abilities or protections. In the sand-filled reaches of the tower, skeletal enemies will resurrect themselves, until a talisman can be found that will keep them down. In this same area sinking sands can pull the characters down until magical boots can be found, which have the bonus effect of the classic ability of double jumping. Different boots are needed to trek through an area filled with pools of blood. Fire themed rooms, poison gas chambers, underwater sections. Each needs specific equipment, tracked down in the classic Zelda way.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on Nintendo Switch

The experience as a whole feels like an old-school, dungeon-crawling, action-RPG, delving through screen after screen of top-down action, with enemies constantly spawning between transitions. There are little puzzles to figure out, lots of hidden chests with power-ups and new stat-increasing gear, and, best of all, some towering bosses. The creature designs are diverse and original; a cornucopia conglomeration of corrupted cryptids and creatures. These shine best during boss encounters. Towering beasties evoking simple, bullet-hell style sequences, having to dodge waves of projectiles, or huge environmental attacks.

There is the occasional spike in difficulty around some of these bosses - the game is punishing should certain things be missed. For example, there are little creatures known as Roo scattered through the tower, finding their favourite snack known as a Roda Fruit can result in them giving a special power-up reward - miss these and boss fight challenges suddenly ramp up, with hits landing for single-digit figures instead of the 20-30 they equate to on full power. Though there's also the age-old method of getting over such hurdles: grinding. With enemies that constantly respawn, there are plenty of points to do just that; enemies dropping more than just XP for levelling up, but also SP that can be spent to purchase permanent stat increases and passive bonuses.

Screenshot for Ys Origin on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Despite its age and the backdrop of the tower remaining the same, Ys Origin still manages to shine. All three play-throughs are enjoyable and engaging, each with its own story, and each character feeling so very different thanks to their drastically different play styles. Better yet, even after finishing all three play-throughs, there's much more to enjoy including brand new modes like Speed Run, Time Attack, and even an Arena mode; tight, fast, controls and combat; wonderful big boss encounters. It's easy to see why it garnered its cult status, and this latest re-release is going to introduce it to even more players; players who will be eager to experience more, and there's plenty waiting in the long-running story of Adol.


Nihon Falcom




Action Adventure



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

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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