Ys: Memories Of Celceta
I've always been partial to a good action RPG. Personally, I enjoy pressing a button in order to attack, and find it more engaging than the alternative turn-based battle. While the original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 really hooked gamers and brought the genre to the living room, the Ys (pronounced "ease") series has been a solid alternative for over 25 years. Ys: Memories of Celceta for PlayStation Vita is actually a re-make of Ys IV: Mask of the Sun, and is a complete overhaul in terms of moving the game graphically onto a 3D plane instead of the familiar 2D overhead Zelda-like view.
The story in Ys is nothing we haven't seen before. Our hero, Adol, is struck with amnesia, and in order to figure out who he is, he must embark on the adventure of a lifetime and recover his memories. Keep in mind that the game was originally released in 1993, so at the time, the idea of an amnesiac hero trying to regain his memories was not as recycled as it is today. Since I've personally never played the original, the story gripped me throughout. There are enough twists and turns that it stays fresh and keeps you coming back for more. The translation is also nicely done, as the conversations and the story flow so well that it feels original.
Along the way, you'll encounter several companions to aid you in your quest. Each of these companions have different skills and attributes. There are three different weapon types that you and your allies wield; slash, strike and pierce. By tapping an enemy on the Vita's touchscreen, you'll be able to discern what type of weapon the enemy is weak to. You'll be able to use three party members at a time, so it's wise to go with three members that have different weapon types to strategically take down beasts.
Outside of the main quest, side quests are available. However, these are typical "fetch this" or "kill this" affairs. They can net you some hefty rewards in the form of rare items and gold, so they're worth the effort. They can all be found in a specific area of the town you're in on a bulletin board, streamlining the game where you don't have to look all over the place for them. This is just another example of how the game keeps its fast pace throughout. In the main quest, there's almost always a blue flag on the map showing you where you need to go next, so you're not aimlessly wandering the world of Celceta. There are also tons of loot to be had. Your typical enemy drops several items, treasure chests contain valuable find and orbs scattered throughout the world fill you in on Adol's story. Even stacks of rocks and plants can be attacked with your weapon for multiple items and elements.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is swiftly paced, play-wise. Your team of characters quickly move across the battlefield, and while using the X button, you can dash even faster. Combat is done with the square button, and there are several skills that can be mapped to the other buttons in conjunction with pressing the R button. Skills are learned through combat, and upgrade the more they're used; the O button quickly changes the character you're controlling. While the touchscreen is utilized, it doesn't feel shoehorned into the game, like it has in past Vita titles. The only forced touchscreen use is in changing your party from an attack focus to an evasive one. This is done by placing two fingers in the middle of the rear touchpad and moving them outward, and vice versa.
The touchscreen can be used for menu navigation as well, if you prefer, but that and pretty much everything else can be done with the controls if you choose to go that route. Unfortunately, there is no button mapping for quickly using potions in the event that you need them. There's also no camera control, which after playing games like Tearaway (which has the camera mapped to the right analog stick), I felt like it would have helped in some situations, but the game for the most part gives you great views of the action.
Ys also gets the little things right, like putting hero and enemy energy bars below said characters. You'll also find that the game has somewhat of a "Metroidvania" feel, in that you'll gain new abilities that will help you get past points that you couldn't previously. Leveling up your character, weapons and armor almost becomes a game in itself. There are so many different types of items and materials that you can exchange for higher quality materials, or simply use them the way they are to upgrade your weapons and armor. Combat also employs a dodge move, that when done at the right moment, temporarily freezes the enemy to give you the opportunity to hack away. On the other side of things, you can also block and get a flash guard, which allows you to parry an enemy's attack. Those moves become essential, especially on the higher difficulty levels, for which there are four in all: Easy, Normal, Hard and Nightmare.
Menu navigation is simple and straightforward. You'll find everything you need with a simple press of the Start button, including the map, where more of the game's large environment is revealed as you play. You can also fast-travel to various checkpoints that you visited throughout the game. Early in your adventure, you'll be limited to travelling to only the checkpoints of the same color when you visit them; although later in the game, you'll acquire an item that will allow you travel to any checkpoint.
The Graphics in Ys: Memories of Celceta may not be the best, but it's not that big of a deal, especially when you get caught up in the game itself. The aesthetics are bright, colorful and vibrant. It looks like a higher-end PSP game, but it works. Celceta is definitely a place you'll enjoy exploring, and if you're like me, you'll get lost in the story and frantic combat.
Music and sound are exceptional in their own right, 80s style power guitar riffs and all. Past Ys games have been renowned for their soundtracks, and this entry is no exception. There's not much spoken dialogue, so you'll read the majority of the time, but it's not a deal-breaker. Once in a while the characters will speak, usually when you first encounter them, and only a few words. There's also conversations where Adol will receive an opportunity to respond to an NPC. For the most part, choosing a different response doesn't seem to affect the story, but there are a few conversations where it can. This seems like something the developers could have fleshed out further, but since it's a remake, there's only so much they could have done without completely altering the game.
Despite a few negatives, Ys: Memories of Celceta stands on its own as one of the best action RPGS this generation, and a great game for those on the go. Additionally, there are 52 trophies and a platinum, for those of you trophy hunters out there. If you own a PS Vita, you owe it to yourself to get this game, especially if you like action RPGs.