RetroReview: Ys: Memories of Celceta (Vita)

By Philip Orona

The Ys series has been with us nearly as long as such legendary RPG titles such as Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, however it doesn’t have nearly the same notoriety as it had the distinct disadvantage of debuting on a smaller niche system, The NEC PC-800. The series would go on to be ported to the just-as-fringe Turbografx-CD. Ys wouldn’t hit a mainstream system until Y’s III for Super Nintendo. This was my first experience with Ys, a side scrolling slasher with action RPG elements. It would be over a year later that I would get my hands on Ys 1, to discover that it was a ”Zelda-like” with an overhead view and non-linear travel. Later games would adopt a more modern isometric view with 3d rendered graphics as the series was continued on more up-to-date systems like Playstation 2, 3 and 4. 

 This brings us to Ys: Memories of Celceta which itself is a remake of Ys IV: Mask of the Sun which had 4 different versions on different systems and they all played differently for each system. For example, the character Leo in the Super Nintendo version isn’t even given a name and does next to nothing towards the plot. In the Vita and TurboGrafx versions, the character is very active in the background and is fleshed out. This is not out of the norm from the rest of the series as many of the games were published and re-published in the forms of remakes and remasters by 7 different companies over the years. It’s safe to say that Ys has a checkered history.

Screenshot from Steam

In Ys: Memories of Celceta, you play as the series protagonist Adol. The game opens in the Town of Casnan and Adol stumbling into town with no memory of the past several days. The story continues with Adol being hired by Griselda, a high ranking military official, to explore the great ancient forest while he and his increasing cast of companions try to help him remember what happened the last time he went into the forest. It’s a story filled with political drama, ancient secrets and gods who bestow humans with knowledge of the future. 

The cast is likeable and each party member has different abilities and fighting styles which make it worth while trying them all for more than a few minutes. It is a 3 person party system and you can switch out any party member at any time (excluding boss fights) with a reserve character as more party members are acquired throughout the story. While Adol himself is the typical silent protagonist, the game does a good job of putting you in his shoes with dialogue choices that pop up during conversation that elicit appropriate responses from the other party members. I don’t think that it changes the outcome of anything however but it does provide some world building banter.

Screenshot from Steam

This modern remaster changes up the gameplay from the original release’s overhead Zelda like to the 3d button mashing battle system later introduced in Ys 7 and refined in Ys 8 to make the action more interactive and lively. The result is an action RPG with lots of depth in the combat system leading to a very enjoyable adventure. The dialogue moves the story ahead to great effect without being overly dominating. One of the few aspects of J-RPGs that I cannot stand is when there is a massive block of dialogue that takes 30 or so minutes to mash through, only to get a few minutes of game play then to be blind sided by another 10 minutes of reading plot (Persona and Sorcery Saga I’m looking at you!). Thankfully, Ys moves the exposition and plot along rather expediently yet, giving you all the information that you need to know for what comes next. What comes next is usually a dungeon crawl, followed by a boss fight. It’s pretty formulaic RPG stuff. 

The soundtrack is great with a typical J-RPG vibe. The graphics are really good considering it is a Vita release. The game isn’t exactly a wide spanning world as it is an open map that is full of monsters and mineable resources for upgrading weapons and armor. Each area of the ancient forests is unique and wonderfully colored and rendered with great detail. Throughout the ancient forests you will discover new towns complete with their own part of the overall story and optional subquests. Since the forest is a bit of a maze with multiple winding and branching paths, there are specific shrine spots which you can use to teleport from one location to another, making backtracking much easier to do.  The enemy types vary from location to location with their own elemental properties along with specific strengths and weaknesses. Each party member gets super attacks that can be assigned to a move slot. Many of the techniques are elemental specific, so pay attention to those affinities! The boss battles are tough without being monotonous and there are plenty of them as each given dungeon or cave has a guardian of some sort to protect its secrets and treasures. Each boss has their own attack pattern and skill set that requires strategy and, at times, patience. Unless you are playing the game in its easy setting, blindly slashing at bosses will not get you a ‘W’.

Overall this game takes about 40 to 50 hours to complete depending on how much of a completionist you are for side quests and collecting items, which is on the low side for a modern day J-RPG.  There is plenty to keep you busy here, however, the amount of side quests is not overbearing, there are only a few per town.  There is also a new game plus that allows you to start over once you beat the game with your character progress intact, which makes playthroughs on more difficult settings easier to digest. Despite being a less known franchise, the Ys series is one worth experiencing and with so many remasters and re-releases, the older titles are not difficult to get a hold of.  Memories of Celceta is a must have for Vita owners who also love J-RPGs, in fact it is in my top 10 of all time Vita games. If you have a Vita and haven’t played this yet, Do it. Now, it’s time to boot up my Turbografx-16 mini and play Ys Book 1 & 2.

Things that I like:
Great combat system

Good story

The exposition isn’t too wordy

Excellent art and design

Things that I don’t:
Final Antagonist isn’t very thought provoking

Feels a little short

None of the previous or later games fit exactly together despite recurring characters.

Recommended Alternatives:

The Grandia series

Lunar 1 & 2

The Breath of Fire series

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s