The Comic Commish: Ys Origin

Hey all, and welcome to this special February 29th edition of The Comic Commish! As always, this is a brief LP and early impressions of a game that a kind soul was generous enough to gift me on Steam, followed by a complimentary comic penned and drawn by yours truly on the finest of MS Paint canvases. I'm always pleasantly surprised by the largesse of some of my Steam pals, and this is the least I could do. I mean, I could do a lot more, but what would be special about sending back a Steam gift of similar or greater value? Best that I go the free option. You know, to show that I care.

Check out the last twelve Commishes over here: Harvester - Long Live the Queen - Luftrausers - Papers, Please - NiGHTS Into Dreams - Syberia - Freedom Planet - STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl - Back to the Future: The Game - Undertale - Nuclear Throne - Grim Fandango Remastered.

Ys Origin

No Caption Provided

This month's game comes courtesy of fellow moderator and PC game nut @fisk0, who I believe is currently contemplating that new Early Access Master of Orion sequel/series reboot. Falcom's Ys (pronounced "ees"; it's French), of course, is another historically PC-focused series that managed to survive the general wave of apathy the Japanese PC game market went through in the 90s and 00s mostly on just how great a series it is. Starting way back in 1987 - a few months before Final Fantasy made its debut - the Ys series would center around a red-haired swordsman and his adventures in different yet vaguely familiar parts of the Ys world.

The Ys games, especially more recent ones, tend to be more demanding of a player's skill level than other RPGs, which rely more on testing the player's tactical ability and resourcefulness. The protagonist runs, jumps and evades around enemy attacks while choosing their moment to land a few of their own. Bosses tend to be huge and require a lot of endurance and patience to defeat, and the player suffers from a dearth of healing items to keep them in the fight. Challenging, yet satisfying all the same once those colossal beasts finally explode dramatically. Best part of any Ys experience is the incredible guitar buttrock music that Falcom produces for its adrenaline-filled boss battles: here's the music for the first big boss fight of this game for reference. (And here's one of my favorites from Ys Seven just because.)

I adore Ys, but I haven't actually played too many of the more recent remakes like the Ys III remake Ys: Oath of Felghana (it's on the backlog!) or the Ys IV remake Ys: Memories of Celceta. The ones I have played include the updated Ys I & II compilation, the original Ys III: Wanderers of Ys for Super Nintendo, the PS2 Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim and most recently Ys Seven for the PSP. This Comic Commish has given me an excuse to add another name to that list: 2006's Ys Origin, localized and added to Steam in 2012 for us westerners, which actually doesn't seem to feature recurring hero Adol Christin at all. Instead, the player selects between two protagonists (and a possible third, if the empty slot on the character selection screen is anything to go by) and plays through two concurrent stories set many centuries before Adol's journeys begin. The game is a special treat for those familiar with the story of Ys I and II, set as it is in the same region many years prior, which gives it license to riff on the lore of those games in a manner similar to Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

I might suggest that Ys newcomers looking to get into this series on Steam should start with a well-regarded entry like Ys: Oath of Felghana or Ys VI: Ark of Napishtim to see if it's for you - both are more or less standalone adventures, like the majority of the games in the series - before finding your way to Ys I & II for the necessary lore to appreciate Ys Origin. Just my advice as a semi-veteran of this franchise.

Welcome to Ys Origin! Did it always have achievements? Who can say. All I know is that I'm probably not going to play the game on Nightmare difficulty any time soon.
Welcome to Ys Origin! Did it always have achievements? Who can say. All I know is that I'm probably not going to play the game on Nightmare difficulty any time soon.
Your heroes are the naive axe warrior Yunica and the calculating ranged mage Hugo. Yunica seems like the beginner's choice, so let's go for her.
Your heroes are the naive axe warrior Yunica and the calculating ranged mage Hugo. Yunica seems like the beginner's choice, so let's go for her.
The intro does some interesting things with perspective blur, focusing on the peak of Ys. Ys, just like the real-life mythical country, was one of those enlightened ancient civilizations that saw its encroaching destruction from the forces of chaos and decided to peace out by lifting its whole landmass into the sky, leaving an empty crater behind.
The intro does some interesting things with perspective blur, focusing on the peak of Ys. Ys, just like the real-life mythical country, was one of those enlightened ancient civilizations that saw its encroaching destruction from the forces of chaos and decided to peace out by lifting its whole landmass into the sky, leaving an empty crater behind.
The intro goes on a bit longer, but it's a little spoiler-heavy if you haven't played the first two Ys games. It's mostly setting up the lore of the entire series: I guess folk anticipated that this might be the new launching point for newcomers, given that it's essentially
The intro goes on a bit longer, but it's a little spoiler-heavy if you haven't played the first two Ys games. It's mostly setting up the lore of the entire series: I guess folk anticipated that this might be the new launching point for newcomers, given that it's essentially "Ys 0".
We get a brief glimpse of our antagonists. These three are the only human characters we see who were left on the surface after Ys ascended. The other humans are those who have chosen to descend back to the planet to look for their missing goddesses.
We get a brief glimpse of our antagonists. These three are the only human characters we see who were left on the surface after Ys ascended. The other humans are those who have chosen to descend back to the planet to look for their missing goddesses.
Ys is very fond on the
Ys is very fond on the "small protagonist in large environments", and we'll see why in a little bit. The sprite scaling effects they get up to lets them create some impressive shots. Conversely, the actual character art is your typical take it or leave it generic anime portraits and "chibi" full body sprites.
I actually think this is a really attractive game, especially for 2006 (though I imagine some up-rezzing went down between then and 2012). As with Falcom's similar Trails in the Sky series, it feels like they focused on recreating a particularly good-looking PS1 or Saturn game, and it works. Say goodbye to the wise old Ruda Tree, by the way, because...
I actually think this is a really attractive game, especially for 2006 (though I imagine some up-rezzing went down between then and 2012). As with Falcom's similar Trails in the Sky series, it feels like they focused on recreating a particularly good-looking PS1 or Saturn game, and it works. Say goodbye to the wise old Ruda Tree, by the way, because...
...Ys Origin is set entirely within that tower over there, just like Ys 2. It's tall enough to carry the whole game, trust me. (Also how great does this shot look? It's all in-game renders too.)
...Ys Origin is set entirely within that tower over there, just like Ys 2. It's tall enough to carry the whole game, trust me. (Also how great does this shot look? It's all in-game renders too.)
You're immediately dropped into a fight upon reaching the tower, and the game offers a few quick tutorials for you. The default controls are keyboard and mouse - you use the mouse cursor to move around, and the Z, X, C and V buttons for various combat maneuvers. I believe this version of the game also has controller support, but my USB ports have been acting up lately.
You're immediately dropped into a fight upon reaching the tower, and the game offers a few quick tutorials for you. The default controls are keyboard and mouse - you use the mouse cursor to move around, and the Z, X, C and V buttons for various combat maneuvers. I believe this version of the game also has controller support, but my USB ports have been acting up lately.
A little busy here, but you can see the mouse cursor around the bottom left of the mass of bodies. Attacks are instantaneous and can be combo'd, but you're as likely to get knocked out of it if you just go in swinging. Still, though, there's no cooldown or anything to slow down your regular attacks besides other monsters sneaking up on you, so it's all a matter of spacing with these small fry.
A little busy here, but you can see the mouse cursor around the bottom left of the mass of bodies. Attacks are instantaneous and can be combo'd, but you're as likely to get knocked out of it if you just go in swinging. Still, though, there's no cooldown or anything to slow down your regular attacks besides other monsters sneaking up on you, so it's all a matter of spacing with these small fry.
We saved these two doormats, Eolia and Dona, and their boss Father Superior Shion. They're part of the same search party that the two heroes joined to look for the Goddesses, and essentially act as support. Well, insofar as they chat with you if you're ever on the ground floor to visit.
We saved these two doormats, Eolia and Dona, and their boss Father Superior Shion. They're part of the same search party that the two heroes joined to look for the Goddesses, and essentially act as support. Well, insofar as they chat with you if you're ever on the ground floor to visit.
The game helpfully keeps a section of its pause menu for characters you meet, monsters and the various tutorial screens you've seen so far. There's a handful of characters roaming around in this tower of various levels of import, so it's handy to keep track of them all. Likewise, the monster journal entries can be helpful for tips.
The game helpfully keeps a section of its pause menu for characters you meet, monsters and the various tutorial screens you've seen so far. There's a handful of characters roaming around in this tower of various levels of import, so it's handy to keep track of them all. Likewise, the monster journal entries can be helpful for tips.
Shion's primary purpose in the game, at least so far, is to give you the most valuable item in the game: The Crystal.
Shion's primary purpose in the game, at least so far, is to give you the most valuable item in the game: The Crystal.
The Crystal purifies demon statues, turning them back into statues of the Goddesses. These act as save points, warp locations and as the closest thing the game has to a store. They'll also fully heal you, and healing is in rare supply in this tower. You'll find more of them as you ascend, often just outside boss fights.
The Crystal purifies demon statues, turning them back into statues of the Goddesses. These act as save points, warp locations and as the closest thing the game has to a store. They'll also fully heal you, and healing is in rare supply in this tower. You'll find more of them as you ascend, often just outside boss fights.
The
The "shop" is where you'll acquire blessings in trade for SP, which are found after defeating every enemy. Naturally, the more expensive the blessing, the better. Generally speaking. I could see some degree of subjectivity here: I'm partial to more enemy drops, but I imagine it'll take a while to earn 24k of SP. For now, it's best to use the points to upgrade any new equipment you've found.
Entering the dungeon proper, your progress is marked by how far you climb the tower. Certain floors have roadblocks, usually boss fights, and there are frequent Goddess statues for convenience. You can also use the crystal at any time to warp back to the start: it's a good plan to do this whenever you're low on health, and simply resume from the last statue again. Chances are, you'll go up some experience levels or get better at handling the monsters of that floor, allowing you to get further the next time through.
Entering the dungeon proper, your progress is marked by how far you climb the tower. Certain floors have roadblocks, usually boss fights, and there are frequent Goddess statues for convenience. You can also use the crystal at any time to warp back to the start: it's a good plan to do this whenever you're low on health, and simply resume from the last statue again. Chances are, you'll go up some experience levels or get better at handling the monsters of that floor, allowing you to get further the next time through.
Certain chests and doors are locked with this dark energy. It's simply a matter of murdering all the flashing enemies nearby. Worth doing though: this chest gave me a
Certain chests and doors are locked with this dark energy. It's simply a matter of murdering all the flashing enemies nearby. Worth doing though: this chest gave me a "max HP up" item, and they'll also be where you find all your armor and accessory upgrades.
Yunica has her basic attack, which is an axe swing that can be combo-ed endlessly but locks her into a trajectory until she stops. She can also mix in with her jumps to create a mid-air slash, a rising uppercut that devastates enemies directly overhead and a very useful down stab that will occasionally stun enemies.
Yunica has her basic attack, which is an axe swing that can be combo-ed endlessly but locks her into a trajectory until she stops. She can also mix in with her jumps to create a mid-air slash, a rising uppercut that devastates enemies directly overhead and a very useful down stab that will occasionally stun enemies.
There's also magic. Yunica can't
There's also magic. Yunica can't "use magic", to her chagrin, so her magic is actually stronger and elementally-powered versions of the axe swing.
The first of which, unlocked after the above item, is this whirlwind attack. As a magical attack, it works way better against certain enemies than the regular swings, but works less well on others. Each whirlwind drains the green bar on the bottom left, which refills quickly similarly to the stamina of a Souls game. You can't spam whirlwinds, therefore, but it's always available for mixing things up if you're judicious about it.
The first of which, unlocked after the above item, is this whirlwind attack. As a magical attack, it works way better against certain enemies than the regular swings, but works less well on others. Each whirlwind drains the green bar on the bottom left, which refills quickly similarly to the stamina of a Souls game. You can't spam whirlwinds, therefore, but it's always available for mixing things up if you're judicious about it.
Of course, if there's a jump button, there's going to be jumping puzzles. This is where using the keyboard and mouse controls for movement really fall short. That whirlwind we just picked up can be used to keep us in the air longer, though, so these puzzles are far from impossible. At least, so far.
Of course, if there's a jump button, there's going to be jumping puzzles. This is where using the keyboard and mouse controls for movement really fall short. That whirlwind we just picked up can be used to keep us in the air longer, though, so these puzzles are far from impossible. At least, so far.
Occasionally, you'll go through a door to exit onto the tower's many balconies. I really like it when vertical dungeons do this: just every so often give the player an idea of how high up they've climbed. So far the view is not particularly picturesque.
Occasionally, you'll go through a door to exit onto the tower's many balconies. I really like it when vertical dungeons do this: just every so often give the player an idea of how high up they've climbed. So far the view is not particularly picturesque.
This room introduces the Roos: cute little magical critters that I somehow managed to avoid screenshotting. By feeding them ruda fruit items you find in the dungeons, you get paid valuable items in return. This time, I got some ore that improved my weapon's strength.
This room introduces the Roos: cute little magical critters that I somehow managed to avoid screenshotting. By feeding them ruda fruit items you find in the dungeons, you get paid valuable items in return. This time, I got some ore that improved my weapon's strength.
It might be hard to make out, but there's a few colored bars above my portrait right now. Enemies don't really drop items you can carry around with you, they tend to be of the
It might be hard to make out, but there's a few colored bars above my portrait right now. Enemies don't really drop items you can carry around with you, they tend to be of the "then and there" consumable variety. Along with SP and health restoratives (which are distressingly rare), you'll find temporary stat boosts. The bars tell you how much your stats have been improved by, usually a percentage, and will slowly drain as they run out. It's an elegant way of handling buffs and their durability. (The last one, the orange XP boost bar, is based on combo length instead of item drops.)
Anyway, the item we found in the Roo room was needed for this crescent-shaped hole we found earlier, and that unlocks the next part of the tower. Keys are usually the source of strife in this place.
Anyway, the item we found in the Roo room was needed for this crescent-shaped hole we found earlier, and that unlocks the next part of the tower. Keys are usually the source of strife in this place.
We have the misfortune of bumping into two of the human antagonists from the intro, who are in the process of eliminating any of us interfering Ys types from our rescue mission.
We have the misfortune of bumping into two of the human antagonists from the intro, who are in the process of eliminating any of us interfering Ys types from our rescue mission.
Being too badass for us to deal with right now, they kindly oblige us with a lesser fight against this demon. This is the game's first boss fight, but it's not really anything significant: the boss transforms into packs of invincible bats every so often, and you simply have to wait for it to reform before swinging at it. It sets the basic rhythm for boss fights to come, however: avoid, strike, avoid, strike.
Being too badass for us to deal with right now, they kindly oblige us with a lesser fight against this demon. This is the game's first boss fight, but it's not really anything significant: the boss transforms into packs of invincible bats every so often, and you simply have to wait for it to reform before swinging at it. It sets the basic rhythm for boss fights to come, however: avoid, strike, avoid, strike.
We get a key, i.e. the progress item, and something else.
We get a key, i.e. the progress item, and something else.
That something else would be the Mask of Eyes, which is a brilliantly-conceived item that displays secrets but makes all the enemies invisible. Naturally, it'd be very dangerous to wander into hard level areas without clearing them first, but it's worth giving each zone a sweep before moving on.
That something else would be the Mask of Eyes, which is a brilliantly-conceived item that displays secrets but makes all the enemies invisible. Naturally, it'd be very dangerous to wander into hard level areas without clearing them first, but it's worth giving each zone a sweep before moving on.
Case in point, Rico here is behind an invisible wall in a small dead-end corridor which is accessed via the key we picked up. He gives us another key item that we need, and reveals more about the tower and its defenses. The journal says he's one of Hugo's best friends as well as a fellow sorcerer, so it's possible he plays a larger role in that story.
Case in point, Rico here is behind an invisible wall in a small dead-end corridor which is accessed via the key we picked up. He gives us another key item that we need, and reveals more about the tower and its defenses. The journal says he's one of Hugo's best friends as well as a fellow sorcerer, so it's possible he plays a larger role in that story.
Here's the reason we needed Rico's necklace. This trap warped us to another part of the tower last time, but now we have just enough juice to resist it and attack the four enemies at the corner of this room which are its cause.
Here's the reason we needed Rico's necklace. This trap warped us to another part of the tower last time, but now we have just enough juice to resist it and attack the four enemies at the corner of this room which are its cause.
After that, we bump into our commander Ramona and our fellow knight apprentice Roy. I'm sure they'll be as important to our success as the clerics below, which is to say not very.
After that, we bump into our commander Ramona and our fellow knight apprentice Roy. I'm sure they'll be as important to our success as the clerics below, which is to say not very.
Easy to miss, these. Boots are the second defensive item along with armor: there's room in the inventory for many more items of both types, but it helps to find each one early when they're going to be at their most beneficial.
Easy to miss, these. Boots are the second defensive item along with armor: there's room in the inventory for many more items of both types, but it helps to find each one early when they're going to be at their most beneficial.
Naturally, I walked into this jail cell to find it close behind me, leaving me with these tank-like knight enemies. They can block attacks from the front, which isn't usually a problem when you can get around them. It's a little more cramped inside here though.
Naturally, I walked into this jail cell to find it close behind me, leaving me with these tank-like knight enemies. They can block attacks from the front, which isn't usually a problem when you can get around them. It's a little more cramped inside here though.
I'm at the fifth floor and... yeah, this might take a while. Oh well, onwards and upwards.
I'm at the fifth floor and... yeah, this might take a while. Oh well, onwards and upwards.
The first real boss of the game makes itself known on the fifth floor. Velagunder is definitely an intimidating boss, but Yunica's not about to let some 20 foot demon get in her way. The bigger they are...!
The first real boss of the game makes itself known on the fifth floor. Velagunder is definitely an intimidating boss, but Yunica's not about to let some 20 foot demon get in her way. The bigger they are...!
I was too busy avoiding its attacks to screencap them, but the goal here is to hack at the mouth at the bottom of this monstrosity. It does no appreciable damage to the boss health bar (top left), but what it eventually does is stun the creature.
I was too busy avoiding its attacks to screencap them, but the goal here is to hack at the mouth at the bottom of this monstrosity. It does no appreciable damage to the boss health bar (top left), but what it eventually does is stun the creature.
While stunned, you can then run up its arms and hack away at the head, which is the enemy's real hit box. You don't have much time to do this, and the arms are hard to navigate with mouse controls, but you can get in some real damage before it recovers.
While stunned, you can then run up its arms and hack away at the head, which is the enemy's real hit box. You don't have much time to do this, and the arms are hard to navigate with mouse controls, but you can get in some real damage before it recovers.
Especially if you've been saving up whirlwinds. Just unleash as many as possible.
Especially if you've been saving up whirlwinds. Just unleash as many as possible.
Boy is that satisfying. Especially since this boss took five or six tries. They don't go easy on you in Ys games, even on normal difficulty. Anyway, this seems like a great place to stop: I have a whole lot more tower to climb.
Boy is that satisfying. Especially since this boss took five or six tries. They don't go easy on you in Ys games, even on normal difficulty. Anyway, this seems like a great place to stop: I have a whole lot more tower to climb.

I'll be playing more of Ys Origin after this article goes up, though I'm going to have to figure out how to fix all these broken USB ports and get a controller working. The mouse controls are, so far, the game's only detriment in my view. I really appreciate how streamlined the dungeon-crawling is in this game: it's like Persona 3, where it's all about the ascent of a single tower dungeon, and you can keenly feel your progress as the upper floors shift and change and the danger increases. The singular tower dungeon has been a JRPG mainstay of years of course, but Ys Origin executes on it particularly well with its narrow focus on monsters, puzzles, treasures and great boss fights like the above.

Before I leave to climb the tower some more, here's the comic for Ys Origin:

No Caption Provided

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