I’ve never been moved to write about a game or game series, but Ys Seven (and the Ys series) has struck such a chord for me out of nowhere that I’ve decided to briefly chronicle my impressions of my playthrough of various Ys games throughout the spring and summer. This is part 2.
After completing Ys Seven and having a really good time with it I decided to the previous PC re-release, Ys Origin (at least I think that’s the order they came out on Steam). My original plan was to jump straight into Ys VIII, but the PC port is currently a raging trash fire. Hopefully they’ll get that straightened out, but in the meantime….
This game feels very different from Ys Seven (and from most of the Ys games for that matter). On the technical side Ys Origin is using the same engine as Oath in Felghana and Ys VI, which is well-animated 2D character sprites within a 3D world with overhead or “cinematic” fixed camera perspectives. This allows Origin to have a bit more detail and artistic flourishes in its environments.
When I first started playing it I couldn’t put my finger on what this game reminded me of. Then it hit me: this is Falcom making a Castlevania game. It’s a tangential relationship, but these things stuck out:
The use of a single location for the entire game. As opposed to the other Ys games this one takes place entirely in a tower constructed by demons. You work your way up the tower a floor at a time - not so such Metroidvania in nature, but the single location gives off “Symphony of the Night” vibes.
Also similar to SotN - the art style. The other Ys games are swashbuckling island adventure affairs with some medieval fantasy aesthetics thrown in. This game has much more a dark gothic motif, although the levels are still pretty colorful and vibrant. There are more magical elements involved as well, especially from the protagonists.Speaking of protagonists, you can choose between 2 characters at the beginning with a third unlocked after finishing the game. The element of choice and the character design themselves reminds me of the later portable Castlevanias (specifically Aria of Sorrow/Dawn of Sorrow).
All in all I liked Ys Origin - the only time any prequel really work for me is when the environment/story/characters are completely foreign and alien, yet elements of the familiar peek through (this is probably why I played Star Wars:The Old Republic well past its prime, although the “ties to the familiar” in that game are far from subtle). I didn’t enjoy it as much as Seven, but it’s still solid. It’s not a very long game, but the pacing moved at a good clip. The environments and enemy have a good amount of variation even for being contained in a “single location.” And the music’s still great.
HOWEVER - I’m compelled to mention one moment of this game that is so broken and ridiculous that it almost made me spot playing it. About halfway through the game there is a point where you must charge an “Evil Ring” with demonic energy in order open a door and progress.
First of all, the game doesn’t do a good job of telling what items to equip to achieve certain goals or even if you’ve equipped said item correctly. Second, even if you equip the ring you need, you ALSO have to equip a second item to insure that the demons you need to kill actually die (otherwise they pop back up like the skeleton Koopas in Mario games). Third (and this was the most frustrating part) when the enemies in question hit you, it takes about ¼-⅓ of your health. When you hit them, you only knock off 1 or 2 hit points. And they have a LOT of hit points. To make matters worse, you have to kill several of them to charge the ring. It was a slog - and even more of a slog if your character is Hugo (the wizard) who can’t use the more effective sword-based weapons. This whole section was straight BULLSHIT.
Otherwise the game is pretty good.