Ys Origin is something of a first for me and I suspect for many of you as well. Gamers in the US may now be more familiar with the Ys brand due to more recent exposure, with Chronicles, Ark of Napishtim, 7, and Oath in Felghana available on the PSP, Legacy of Ys Books I and II available on Nintendo DS, and Ys I and II available on Wii Virtual Console. Origin, however, marks the first time the series has been made available on the PC market in the West. Several games have been released for the Japanese PC market, but thanks to localization by XSEED and Steam’s online distribution system, English-speaking players can finally enjoy Origin.
If you have played any game in the series so far, you are probably already familiar with Nihon Falcom’s long-running action RPG series. Though it is technically the seventh entry in the series, it is technically a prequel, and one of the few games not to focus on lead character Adol Christin. I nabbed this game during Steam’s summer sale, something I expect I will not regret. After playing for five hours, I have high hopes for the rest of the game.
Like most other Ys games, the story takes a backseat to the gameplay. Cutscenes are brief and dialog is kept to a minimum, though the characters are endearing and the game world is distinct. Origin takes place approximately 700 years before Ancient Ys Vanished (I and II) in the series chronology. Three characters take prominence here: Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact, and Thor Fact (though only two are available at the start). Yunica Tovah is a young, spirited girl who is following in her father’s footsteps. She wants to become a knight so that she can protect the Goddesses Feenah and Reah, with whom she has created a close bond. Opposite her is Hugo Fact, a prodigy in the magical arts. He is proficient with long range attacks. For my first time playing through the game, I’ve decided to choose Yunica. She is genuinely fun to play as and her story is surprisingly good.
Rather than taking place over a large landscape, the game is confined to a large tower. You climb to new floors, encountering traps and enemies along the way. Sometimes, you need to find a special key or item to uncover a hidden route. The game’s pathways are mostly linear, but it’s never boring thanks to fast-paced combat and a fun play style. If you have played Oath in Felghana or Ark of Napishtim, you will feel right at home with Origin; the colorful sprite-based characters, 3D backgrounds, and general feel of the combat system remain consistent.
One of the big draws in the series, and in this game for sure, is in its challenge. Enemies are rarely pushovers and bosses can be especially dangerous. You really need to be prepared for fights and have to take the time to learn patterns. Don’t be surprised if you die several times on some fights. The other point I have to praise is the music: it is absolutely fantastic. This is certainly one adventure where I strongly recommend you crank up the volume.
You can easily configure the game for a gamepad, and admittedly, I would recommend doing so. Using the keyboard is not exactly cumbersome, but it’s not ideal. If you happen to have a wired Xbox 360 controller, that can be plugged into your PC quite easily and makes for a great alternative. Combat sections are generally fine, but I had trouble with jumping over obstacles when using the keyboard. Expect a full review from me soon!