There’s something about the pursuit of knowledge that gives me a feeling of joy. Picking up a book, catching up on news and learning about new discoveries are things I enjoy doing because the world is just fascinating. I presume that same hunger is what motivates Ys: Memories Of Celceta’s main character, Adol Christin, also the star of other Ys titles. This instalment is considered to be the third iteration of Ys IV. There are many questions that would go through the mind of the young adventurer like “What will I find?”, or “Which direction shall I travel first?” However Adol’s journey here starts with a much different, and scarier question.
“Who am I?”
In Ys: Memories Of Celceta, both Adol and the player start on an equal footing, because the young adventurer is suffering from amnesia and in the beginning of the game finds himself weary and weak in the town of Casnan. From here things start moving pretty quickly and you’re soon thrust into fighting monsters and exploring the world. The fact that the game keeps pushing you forward and leaves you to discover what’s around the next corner, instead of forcing you to stay in a small area to grind is very welcome. Now, I don’t mind grinding but I just love the enthusiasm, as the game drags you by the arm to see the next great thing. It really plays into the spirit of exploration.
In the beginning of the game, you’re tasked with mapping The Great Forest by Governor General Griselda for the records of the Romun Empire, and that’s it. There’s no major threat to thwart or monster to hunt down, just gather some supplies and go exploring. The catch is that Adol has been in the forest before but can’t remember, and his forgotten adventure has had an impact on those within the sea of trees. For the first few hours all you’ll be doing is wandering around, fighting through small monster types while the map slowly fills up, tracked by a percentage.
As you wander around you’ll also find stone monuments that act as warp points, effectively allowing fast travel. There is a twist in that you can only travel between monuments that are the same colour, so there’s no warping from halfway through the map then back to the starting area. These clusters of monuments split the map itself into distinct areas, for example there is a pair which links from Casnan to the end of the first major wild area. None of these stones can be accessed further on from the warp menu.
It’s a system that works because it also makes you look at the map and properly study the paths too. Using the map becomes second nature, and I found myself consulting it a lot to get my bearings and plot my next move.
You will come to a couple of very distinct areas, effectively mazes which need to be solved, and once these are conquered the story really starts moving forward. From this point, a real threat is introduced spanning gods and power-mad humans with the fate of the world itself at stake. This next chapter also brings in new party members, all who have their own skills and uses. While majority of these don’t have voice acting, when it is there it is done well and adds a depth to characters. With their introduction, new story threads grow too and occasionally one of these secondary characters will briefly take the main spot as their personal quests unfold.
Parties can be made up of three members at a time, but switching members in and out is a simple affair, especially thanks to the touch screen implementation. When in the Party screen all you have to do is touch one character and then another to swap them around. Of course, you can also use traditional way of selecting things with the buttons too. What’s also good inclusion is that characters gain experience and climb levels even if you weren’t using them, keeping them roughly on par with the enemies you encountered and the main team.
Switching party members is key to moving forward within Ys, as different areas require certain skills to advance past. For example the first main companion, Duren, is the only one who can pick locks. When a lock is presentm a silvery circle highlights it and then you can either press triangle or touch the circle for him to interact with it. This is how each interactive point of interested is represented, but if you’re controlling the wrong character then that circle will be red.
Playing with the party set up is also a good idea when coming to battles, with different tactics having to be used against various monsters as their stats and design affect a character’s attack power. Adol, for example, is weaker against enemies with armour and as a result his attacks are generally weak. Combat itself is fluid where you can just run into an area and start slashing away at opponents using the square button.
Of course, just relying on hitting the enemy will soon have the game over screen arrive, so it’s also an idea to evade attacks using X, or guarding using triangle.
Characters have special skills too which are activated by pressing R and a corresponding face button. The use of these skills has to be earned through fighting which eventually fills a gauge. Skills use varying amounts of points meaning you could use a weaker one, depleting the gauge slowly, or use a more powerful one which gets rid of half the points. Using these moves fills another, smaller gauge and once that is filled you can unleash a special attack that inflicts a lot of damage, though this is affected by the weapon’s stats. You can also set how your party approaches a battle switching between an attack or evasive focus. This is done by using the back touch panel swiping in or out to switch.
As with any RPG, you can visit different places and acquire new gear such as weapons or armour, which themselves can be improved by the raw materials collected. These materials can be taken to a relevant merchant who will turn them into stronger versions, for example 10 filthy liquid can be converted to one clear liquid. The conversion rate is largely the same through all the elements available. These elements have different effects like giving a weapon the ability to poison or freeze an opponent, whose weaknesses you can access by just touching them, which brings up a small information window.
For me the main plot with some side quests took around 24 hours to complete on normal difficulty. There were some side quests I missed, which vary between finding a resource or killing a certain monster, though I did get 94% map completion. That means there’s at least a few more hours of content above the time I did it in. After completion there is a New Game Plus mode where you begin with all the equipment you finished with, the skill level reached and the portions of the map explored visible. However, the locations of warp points and treasure are wiped, so they have to be discovered again. You also can’t go back to finish any side quests you may have missed.
There’s also a Time Attack mode unlocked where you can challenge any boss and try to defeat them as quickly as possible. Here the items you receive are determined beforehand depending on which boss you fight. You can choose to fight a single boss or try and tackle the Boss Rush mode, which really tests your combat ability. In Boss Rush you have to climb as far up the ladder as possible with limited supplies. It’s a good side attraction to try out and adds more longevity to the game, especially if you want to beat your own times.
Visually the game looks really nice, with a whole host of environments being trotted out from the greenery of the forests to the snowcapped mountains, and the ruins which are crumbling away. It isn’t the most graphically intense game even by the Vita’s standards, but the large spectrum of colour really makes the game stand out. The soundtrack is also a good listen from classical pieces to more rock-inspired tracks, and a funky track in there too.
If you’re a fan of action RPGs then Ys: Memories Of Celceta is something you should definitely pick up. The different characters and how their individual stories all come together really craft a great narrative. In a couple of places, there are points which seem to have been added just for the sake of it, but overall it’s a very enjoyable journey. The game is fair to you and can have its time taken with, allowing appreciation of the world that has been created.
I truly believe that Ys: Memories Of Celceta could be one of the strongest Vita titles introduced since the console’s launch.