Ys Origin Review
Parent Talk: Ys Origin is a role-playing game originally released on the Japanese PC market in 2006, now available in English for the first time. There are some instances of mild profanity, but nothing severe. There are no instances of blood, gore, excessive violence, or sexual themes though, so parents should have nothing to worry about.
Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 64-bit compatible; Pentium III/1 Ghz minimum, Pentium 4/1.3 Ghz or higher recommended, 1 GB ram, 64 MB VRAM, 3D accelerator w/DirectX 9.0c, and 2 GB HD space.
Plays Like: Ys Origin plays similarly to other games in the series, especially Oath in Felghana and Ark of Napishtim. While all of the games in the Ys series are action role-playing games, these games share some many close similarities, like control style, the third-person perspective, etc. Even the visuals are similar. The major differences between them are the playable characters, story, and skill sets. While most games in the series feature Adol as the lead, Origin has three unique characters to choose from: Yunica, Hugo, and Toal.
Review Basis: Played for 28 hours, completed two campaigns (on normal and hard), currently playing the third.
The Great: Fast-paced role-playing. The Ys series has always distinguished itself from other role-playing games. This is due to many different things, but one of the primary differences comes from the game speed. Ys is anything but slow. While most people think RPGs tend to be slow, boring games, the Ys games focus more on action. You move quickly, attack quickly, and the game keeps going at a brisk pace. The emphasis on quick action, platforming, and combat makes every game a blast to play. You can easily power through the adventure in a much shorter time than other RPGs, but that just means there’s far less filler time to sift through. Story and cutscenes are important, but they take a backseat to the action. You will run and jump through a variety of traps and hazards, keep an eye out for switches and hidden passages, and attack enemies with a myriad of spells and skills. Think of it like the 2D Legend of Zelda games with a serious case of ADD.
+ Excellent music. Nihon Falcom games tend to have great music, but Ys Origin managed to impress me thoroughly. The music is simply incredible. The boss themes are among the best I have ever heard in an role-playing game and they perfectly highlight story scenes. Scars of the Divine Wing and Beyond the Beginning are songs I’ve listened to repeatedly even after finishing the game.
+ A variety of characters to play as. When you boot up the game for the first time, you are allowed to be as Yunica or Hugo. Yunica is a young knight-in-training tasked with rescuing the goddesses Feena and Reah, while Hugo is a magical prodigy with his own agenda. They offer completely distinct styles of play, making the game ideal for multiple play throughs. Yunica is a quick, mid-range melee fighter with very aggressive and offensive skills. She is considered best for first time players and I had a genuinely fun time playing as her. Hugo, on the other hand, is far slower but offers more range and versatility. He has defensive skills (a wind barrier), in addition to mines and a fire attack. Once you complete the game, you will unlock Toal Fact as a third playable character, who specializes in speedy close-range melee attacks. His claws aren’t as tough as Yunica’s axe, but he moves quickly and his skills emphasize his agility. If you’ve grown tired of playing as Adol, then Origin will make you happy.
+ A sincere and well done story. Ys games never focus too much on narrative. Most often, the game just boils down to a conflict of good vs. evil. Still, the games manage to be endearing thanks to strong characters and an interesting world to explore. Origin manages to be even more interesting, because of its lead characters. Yunica isn’t just a knight-in-training, but she’s the daughter of a famous warrior who was slain by a man bartered for a demonic essence to gain power. She has to struggle with thoughts of revenge while on her quest, making her story genuinely fun without being overbearing. There are several cutscenes throughout the game and there are quite a few lines of dialog (nothing voiced), but they don’t ever come off as intrusive or annoying. Hugo’s story is arguably even more interesting, because of his moral ambiguity and his struggle with finding inner strength and purpose. Toal’s ambitions are even murkier, making him a fascinating character to explore—especially because it’s like experiencing the game from the enemy side’s point of view.
+ Platforming, combat, and exploration. Ys games aren’t particularly deep in any one area. They don’t offer huge and robust battle systems like strategy RPGs or rich and detailed worlds like the Elder Scrolls games, but they put it somewhere in the middle, perfect for a fast-paced adventure. There is enough emphasis to fully explore each area because of all of the hidden power ups and secret items though. With each new ability gained, you can access to new areas and new rewards.
+ Lots of challenging enemies and bosses. Even on normal, you should expect to die and retry on your first encounter with several of the boss enemies. Enemies will put up a serious fight and require precision to overcome. You can’t just hack away at bosses and expect to win (with some exceptions). You cannot pause the game or use healing items during boss encounters, meaning that you need to exercise absolute caution. Memorizing boss patterns and recognizing safe zones is a crucial element.
+ Excellent visuals. Origin is a six-year old game, so set your standards accordingly, but even so, this game does look pretty. When running at 1920 x 1030, everything looks nice and clean and the magic effects are a sight to behold.
+Replay value. It may only take you about 10-12 hours to complete a campaign, however, that’s 10-12 hours of solid gameplay and there are three unique characters to play as! Each character boast a distinct story and play style, making the game fun to play every time. That’s not counting the Steam achievements or bonus modes, like Time Attack and Arena Mode.
+ Support for gamepads like the Xbox 360 controller. It comes recommended, especially for tight jumps.
-You can’t pause during boss fights. I know I praised this a bit earlier, but it’s not a great decision. Granted, yes, it does raise tension during a fight and forces you to pay attention, but it’s just inconvenient. There have been several times when someone tried to call or text me, or someone in the room was trying to talk to me, but I was fighting a boss so I couldn’t pay attention until I either won or died. What if you had to use the restroom or answer the phone? It’s just a matter of simple convenience.
-Lack of towns and sidequests can make the game feel too linear. It moves about at a breakneck pace, but there aren’t meaningful distractions. Some may enjoy the fact that the game is straightforward and without filler, while others may think that it’s too linear.
-Character sprite animations are decent, but admittedly most of the environments are just ok. Remember though, this is a six-year old game, so set your expectations accordingly. I still feel that most will find this game pleasant to look at.
I had to struggle to find negative points to harp on for this game. I had so much fun while playing that I lost track of time, which is the highest praise I can give! While longtime fans may not rank this entry as his or her favorite, it is just excellent. With a price tag of only $19.99, I can’t think of any reason to pass on this one. It comes highly recommended.