Long gone are the days when everyone joked how the Vita had no games. It’s almost two months in 2014 and Vita users were already spoiled rotten, first with Danganronpa and now with Toukiden: The Age of Demons and Ys: Memories of Celceta. And I’m pleased to say that the new Ys is one of the most enjoyable games I played on Vita to date.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is actually the fourth Ys IV game. While the overall plot is similar there are a ton of differences that make the story a whole new experience. The story was reworked and many elements are unique to Memories of Celceta. The game starts with our protagonist, Adol, like every RPG main character having amnesia. You soon join up with Duren a character very similar to Dogi from the past games. After saving the locals from a monster attack you are given the task to explore and map out the forest from which rarely anyone returns alive, a forest that you made your way back from, but have no memories of.
The story isn’t this game’s strong point. Most of the game consists of you exploring new locations and finding out that you have already been to there when you had your memory. In the second half the plot picks up, but by then everything feels a bit rushed. The ending is especially disappointing since you aren’t rewarded for your efforts and you don’t even see the characters you spent the whole game with.
Fortunately the exploration and amnesia tie in quite nicely to the gameplay. As you explore the dungeon you will automatically map out the land. And from time to time you can return to the city in order to pick up a reward. As for Adol’s amnesia, you will collect orbs scattered throughout the world. Once touched, you will have a flashback revealing a bit more of what happened to Adol in the past.
Character development is also a bit on the weak side. Most of the characters lack a distinct personality and you will rarely have conversations with them. I might have been playing too many visual novels lately, but it’s a shame that the majority of characters don’t have any hidden agenda nor are they constantly waiting to stab you in your back.
The villains are also a letdown. You meet them a few hours into the game, but after that you don’t really see or battle any of them them until the final showdown. This seems like a wasted opportunity, since you never feel like they are developed, never being imposing as they should be.
What makes Ys: Memories of Celceta an awesome title is not the complex plot or deep characters, but the excellent fast paced gameplay. Like in all other Ys games the combat is breathtaking. You have a variety of attacks and skills at your disposal. Since skills use up SP you will have to attack with your normal attacks in order to fill the SP gauge. Waiting a couple of seconds charges up a special attack which when used greatly fills you SP, allowing for another wave of skills. This back and forth between standard attacks and skills really keeps the combat flowing.
You can have a total of four skills equipped, each mapped to a button. They are swappable so you can customize the way a character will fight. Each skill levels up individually so it’s smart to swap them out once they are maxed out so you can continue to level up other skills.
A lot of elements from Ys Seven are back. You can swap between three characters whenever you want. Each character attacks either with slashes, strikes or pierces. Since some enemies have specific weaknesses you will have to constantly be swapping your characters in order to match those weaknesses. While the AI does its best to keep up, for more precise maneuvers and combos you will have to take control in your own hands. Add the fact that you have chains, juggles and EXTRA skills you will start to understand how deep the combat system really is.
The world of Celceta is vast and there is quite a lot to see. Regions are distinct, each having its own town and wildlife. From lush forests, to icy mountains, to enormous towersan the game has everything you would expect in an RPG. This is the first Ys game to feature a day and night cycle. While only used in some areas, it’s still an interesting addition and one I hope will appear in future titles.
There are branching paths from time to time and you will often backtrack in order to collect materials or complete quests. Backtracking is far from dull, since the combat system makes it a breeze to retrace to old areas. But if you are in a rush there is always a quick travel option which allows you to warp to the same colored monuments you have uncovered. Exploring every nook and cranny is really fun since there is always something new to see. Also, the reward for completing a part of the map is a nice motivation for your OCD to never leave you alone.
Throughout the game you will come across many items that will aid you in your journey such as a dwarf bracelet, that allows you to shrink yourself in order to pass through tight spaces, or hydra scales, that give you the ability to breathe underwater. While used sparsely they are a nice additional since they encourage backtracking and allow puzzles in later dungeons.
Ys: Memories of Celceta also has a terrific mining system. I usually detest mining sections in games, but Ys makes it fast and easy. You just need to beat up a specific bunch of rocks, flowers, or any specified point on the map for that matter. The resources fall out like candy from a broken piñata and your characters automatically pick them up. These points respawn after some time and many of them give you multiple types of pickups, so you will never run out of resources. Crafting also allows you to mix weaker materials into ones that are actually useful when upgrading gear.
The game isn’t too hard even on the highest difficulty. You will be rarely left with little HP and even then you can heal by just standing in place. The only challenge you will have is with bosses, which will require you to perfectly time your skills, dodges and defense. This is also the only time you will deplete all the potions you stocked up on. Outside of these boss battles I never was forced to retry.
For an RPG it is a bit on the shorter side. It took me just under 27 hours to complete the game. This included exploring every single location and completing 100% of the map, collecting all memories and finishing every side quest in every town.
Unfortunately the graphics are a mixed bag. The sub-native resolution never allows the game to look sharp and the texture quality could have been a bit better. What makes things worse are the frequent frame drops when things get hectic. While not detrimental to the gameplay, it is quite unexpected for a game to be cutting so many corners in terms of graphics and still have issues keeping the frame rate stable. On the other hand, considering how fast and addictive the gameplay is you will soon overlook any graphical blemishes that may come up. Also alleviating things up are beautiful locations and excellent draw distances. You will be amazed when you climb up a mountain path and see a whole village in the distance, with buildings that actually exist.
While the game may be lacking in graphics quality, it is a whole different story in the sound department. Ys always had a phenomenal soundtrack and this game is no different. The game has a lot of remixed soundtracks from the original Ys IV titles. It also features some of the best tunes in gaming and it never gets boring throughout the entire journey. From the hard rock during the boss battles to more soothing music while you are in a town, the game always hits a perfect note. On a side note the game is void of voice acting. Which is a real shame considering the original PC-Engine game from 1993 had voices with full lip syncing.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is an extremely enjoyable game and is perfect for when you just want to relax after a hard day. The game is especially fun in short bursts and it is here that its simple story and characters go in its favor, allowing you to pick up the game whenever you want, never getting lost or forgetting what happened. While the visuals aren’t impressive they do little to take away from the hours of entertainment you will have with this title. From start to finish, there is never a boring moment, making it one of the best games on PlayStation Vita. If you were a fan of Ys Seven or even if you are just looking for an action packed RPG whose focus is on fast-paced gameplay then Ys: Memories of Celceta is perfect for you.
Ys: Memories of Celceta was released on the 21st February exclusively for the PlayStation Vita.