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Ys Seven Review

Ys this the JRPG you're looking for?

Even the most die-hard JRPG fan might overlook the Ys series. Despite having been around for 30 years, it isn’t a household name overseas, and isn’t even amongst the most prominent franchises in its homeland of Japan. There’s a reason Ys has been around for so long, though, and with the slew of recent English PC ports the series has been getting lately, more and more people are beginning to discover why. Ys Seven, the second most recent English entry in the series, is a culmination of everything the franchise has to offer, and a strong case for why Ys has stood the test of time.

Ys Seven originally came out for the PSP back in 2009, but XSEED and Marvelous have given it a new lease of life with a revamped release on Steam. On top of giving the game a fresh coat of paint with new HD visuals and texture upgrades, they’ve also gone through and updated the English translation of the game.

The graphical upgrades might not seem like much if this is your first time looking at the game, but comparing them to the original PSP visuals quickly illustrates just how big a jump this is. Character faces and finer details were nearly indistinguishable on the PSP, and even drawn character portraits are displayed at a low resolution. This PC release makes everything crisp and vivid, and helps truly bring the world to life. That said, even though characters look beautiful and have hardly aged, environment textures still look a muddy, and even backgrounds and sky textures have a fuzziness to them, which shows the game’s age and origins.

One area of the game that required no changes was the gameplay, and this is where Ys truly shines. The Ys series thrives on real time action rather than turn-based gameplay. You encounter monsters, attack their weak spots and avoid their own attacks in real time. Ys Seven enables this through a handful of very basic controls for attacking, evading, and unleashing your special and ultimate attacks.

It’s a very basic control scheme that’s based around just three buttons and a trigger, and at first, I was a little confused by the lack of depth. I’d see an enemy, mash the attack button, and defeat them easily. Now and then I’d throw in a special move if I was in a hurry, but for the most part, enemies were simply a hindrance to me as I tried to make it to my next destination. This wasn’t helped by the basic, lacklustre music that played in the over world. Unlocking skills was at least engaging enough, with a system that sees you using new weapons until they release an equip-able skill, at which point you can un-equip the weapon and start using a new one. Beyond that, though, I wasn’t quite sure what was so special about this game.

Then, the boss fight happened.

Out of nowhere, a giant beast, which the game later classifies as a titano, appeared before me. Intense rock music with swelling violins began playing, and I was thrust into a fight a hundred times harder than anything I’d encountered up until that point. I needed to study the attack patterns of the beast, choose my attacks wisely, and evade its attacks by rolling around the boss arena like a rollerskater on a sinking ship. It was tense and I must have died and restarted the boss fight at least five times before finally inching my way toward sweet, sweet victory.

With that boss fight, Ys Seven won me over. I was suddenly a lot more invested in the characters and story on display, for one. The narrative begins with a pretty generic setup as your adventurers arrive in a new kingdom and the king of said kingdom asking them to investigate some mysterious nearby dangers. The story never really becomes a mind-blowing, genre-twisting experience, but that’s okay. The characters are basic, but fun, and the story is more tepid and uninspired than offensive or flawed.

The experience is perhaps the closest I’ve come to experiencing the JRPG equivalent of “comfort food”, and I say that in the most positive way possible. Exploring dungeons and hacking away at enemies until they explode into coins and items constantly flicked a primal switch in my reward-craving brain, while tough and tactical boss fights constantly kept my wits challenged, no matter how comfortable I got with my skillset. Meanwhile, the globe-trotting story and colorful cast of characters did a great job of bringing me from point A to point B, though the game does flounder a bit when it asks you to re-explore each area you’ve been to a second time with only minor layout changes.

Ys Seven still does a good job of avoiding fatigue or repetitiveness with its brisk 20 hour runtime. That’s a lot of hours compared to other genres, but when most JRPGs run four or five times longer, this gave me just enough time to invest myself in a game without having to feel like I’ve dedicated my life to it.

What’s Good:

  • Fun, flashy real time combat
  • Tense, nail-biting boss battles
  • Unique skill system
  • Awesome boss battle music…

What’s Bad:

  • …but yawn-inducing atmosphericmusic
  • Low quality environment visuals
  • Major backtracking

I honestly feel like an idiot for taking this long to play an Ys game, because so much of it appeals to me directly. The minor combat encounters are engaging but brisk, while the boss battles are urgent, hellishly difficult, and very memorable. Best of all, with such a short runtime for a JRPG, I was done with the game quickly, but never felt rushed or unsatisfied. Ys Seven is like a crackhead on a dirt-bike. It’s fast, and loud, and something you’ll probably never forget.

Score: 8/10

One Comment
  1. zb100
    Since: Aug 2008

    Thoroughly enjoyed Memories of Celceta on the Vita. Shame I lost the hardware not long after. Don’t mind replacing the handset but really not best pleased about paying the same for another 64Gb card. :(

    Comment posted on 29/08/2017 at 19:49.

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