Ys Origin – Xbox One Review
Discover the origins of an epic saga
As soon as you start to play Ys Origin, its apparent you’re playing an old game, but one that’s been tarted up a bit for a modern console. Don’t let that put you off however, as with the large amount of remasters and retro games on the market, this sits nicely amongst it competitors. If like me you’ve not played any games in the Ys (pronounced “eese”) series, Origin is just one of 16 titles that have been released on more consoles and gaming machines that you can shake a stick at dating all the way back to 1987. This game, as its name suggests is a prequel to all the other games and was originally released for Windows PC back in 2006.
The game kicks off with a dramatic opening animation that reminded me very much of 90’s action cartoon, with characters staring across landscapes, all heroic poses and hair blowing in the breeze. The bombastic soundtrack you’d expect from a Japanese game of this type is present, with electric guitars and orchestral bursts doing their best to give a sense of something epic. An over lengthy cut scene then sets the story, which is set 700 years before the rest of the series. The land of Ys was on the brink of destruction as demons appeared in vast numbers and forced the twin Goddesses. Reah and Feena who ruled the land to evacuate their subjects away from the surface, up into the safety of the clouds. The demons we’rent to be foiled and built a huge tower in pursuit. The battle that raged upon the ground had begun ascending for a second round up above in the clouds. You play the part of a hero journeying upwards in a tower to save the goddesses. You have two choices when choosing your hero, so if you prefer a close combat melee style you can pick Yunica and her mighty axe, or alternatively go for Hugo, who does damage with his magical staff.
The gameplay is nice and simple, which means its dead easy to get to grips with the basics. Its basic hack and slash fare where you fight hordes of monsters on your way to boss battles, using simple move, jump and attack controls, with the odd combo move thrown in. The gameplay might be stereotypical but its elevated above average by the quality of the enemies you come up against. Although mostly easy to beat, they at least look original and interesting. The enemies have distinct attacks and movement styles, and with some parts of the story making you backtrack across levels you’ll see the monsters respawn in the same places ready for you to take on again. This running back and forth is because each level of the tower is set like a puzzle, go one way to activate a pressure pad, opening a door for you to go back through, to get a key, that opened a door at the other end of the level. There is a lot of that which is a clever mechanic from the developer that gives you a lot more game play for each level than if you were to just go in one direction. It might seem a little frustrating having to backtrack a lot but there’s enough variation in the look and movement on each level to stop it becoming tedious. A handy mechanic are the statues, that once activated can teleport you to another statue in the game you’ve already visited. This fast travel system certainly lessens the tedium of the back and forth across the level that’s needed to progress.
The boss battles, which crop up every three or floors were a bit of a let down for me, as although each of the big beast looks unique and mostly unlike you’ll have seen in other games, the strategy to beat them didn’t involve much variation between bosses. They do get progressively harder to beat but once you get the hang of the technique its more a case of grinding away than using skill.
There is very little in the way of a loot system on offer, just standard rewards on each level, and character development is also less that you’d expect from an RPG. You level up by gaining experience points for killing monsters and win money that will buy skills and powers but there are no skill trees, so character advancement is linear and automatic with not much input from the player on how your character develops.
The graphics have been updated nicely for the xbox one, aminly with the addition of complex textures and rich colours on the walls, floors and inanimate objects, although you never quite forget you’re playing a twelve-year-old game, mainly because it’s not in full widescreen, but in a format made for old style tv’s and monitors. The sound is disappointing and repetitive, aside from the dramatic opening that is, and again its something that gives away the age of the game.
For a game made so long ago in gaming terms, Ys Origin stands the test of time very well, with its all-action hack and slash style and good storytelling keeping you interested far longer than other similar games. It’s a great introduction to the Ys series for the Xbox player, and I’ll be interested to see if Origins is successful enough to warrant releases of some of the other games in the canon.
Many Thanks to Indigo Pearl for the review copy.