Tuesday, December 31, 2013

GOT 'IM - Ys Origin

Here we are: the review of my final game in my late-2013 Ys binge.  Ys Origin.  It's the last Ys game I played in 2013, but I'll be starting on another later this week.  Haven't quite kicked the obsession yet. 

So, Ys Origin.  It was made after Ys: The Oath in Felghana and it plays in what seems to be a refined version of Felghana's engine.  It's an action-RPG where you control a single character, navigating large 3D dungeons and using a surprisingly deep selection of attacks, spells, and utility skills like dashes and double jumps. Defeat monsters, collect small stat boosts and money ("SP" in Origin), find new equipment, and beat enormous bosses.  The one major distinguishing factor that Origin has over its predecessors, though?  No towns, no sidequests; just one giant 25-floor tower.  You start at level 1 and the final boss is at the summit.  Ready, set, go. You can teleport between any save point you want and use SP and ores to upgrade your weapons and armor on floor 1.  Other than that, it's just a giant dungeon. 

Ys Origin is unusual among Ys games in that it doesn't star Adol Christin.  Origin takes place 700 years before Ys I and Ys II and sets up the conflict of those two games by giving us our first glimpses of Dalles, Zava, and several other demon bosses from Ys I+II.  Many of the puzzles and plot event flags in Origin use items and situations from the first two Ys games as well.  If that didn't make it obvious that these two 25-floor towers are the same, several characters in Origin are ancestors of the Six Priests of Ys (whose descendants are met in Ys I+II), notably Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact, and [SPOILER], the three playable characters in Origin.  Wait, three playable characters?  Let me start over. 

The basic background of Ys Origin is that the denizens of Ys live on their floating continent, far above a world overrun by demons - they raised Ys and the Solomon Shrine above the mainland relatively recently.  The demons have built a massive structure, Darm Tower, in an attempt to reach Ys floating above.  However, the two goddesses of Ys that bless its citizens with magic and prosperity have gone missing, so three teams descend to the overworld to locate the goddesses and rescue them - a group of priests, a group of knights, and a group of sorcerers.  Yunica Tovah is a young apprentice knight who grew up loving the goddesses like sisters; Hugo Fact is a prodigy-level sorcerer.  Both are grandchildren of two of the Six Priests of Ys, the community's ruling body. 

Yunica and Hugo are very different characters who play totally differently; you choose one when you start a new game of Origin and that one is your only playable character for that playthrough.  The third character (who has a major story connection to the Ys world in general) is unlocked after you beat the game once with Yunica or Hugo.  I beat the game with Yunica and started new games with Hugo and 3rd guy (avoiding spoilers) - it looks like the plot doesn't really change in a major way going between Yunica and Hugo (with a few differing bosses and that's it), but the third character has a very specific background and story setup.  I think he (3rd guy) is the "canon" version of the story, because 3rd guy's name shows up in Ys II, unlike Yunica or Hugo. 

Yunica controls very similarly to Adol.  Basic melee attack with three magic spells (obtained by magic items) for extending jumps, breaking walls, and attacking at range.  Her melee attack changes when she has the fire spell equipped.  Using Hugo is almost like playing a shmup, as he has a shooty projectile as his regular attack and some close- and mid-ranged moves as his spells.  I didn't get very far using him, but it's much different from Yunica and I'm not sure I'm a huge fan.  You can't move and fire in different directions at the same time when using a controller, and I generally resorted to button mashing while retreating when I used him.  The third character is way fun - extremely fast attacks and movement but low damage per-hit.  I imagine the endgame bosses are way harder using him, but the early game at least is extremely fun.  Three characters, three different sets of dialog (and possibly stories), all of them at least competent in combat. 

The tower itself is an impressive beast, with 25 floors (just like the same tower in Ys I) with the nature of the floor changing every 2 to 4 staircases (a very welcome change from Ys I).  The tower is stuffed full of hidden items and treasure, and its puzzles aren't as elaborate as those in a Zelda or even a God of War game - like other Ys games, Origin's puzzles are mostly of a "bring item X to place Y" or "use your new skill in location Z" variety, but a few of the environments - the sand-filled and the underwater portions of the tower in particular - are really interesting.  The game is beaten in roughly eight to ten hours, but I wish it was a little longer; I would have liked a few more "dungeon floors" to check out.  I think Origin is shorter than Felghana in large part because it's meant to be beaten multiple times to see the stories of each of the three characters.  Too bad I'm stopping at just one run-through, for now. 

Darm Tower's full of enemies ranging from goblins to scary knights to weird plant things to teleporting ghost magi.  The bosses are (as I mentioned earlier) re-imagined versions of bosses from Ys I and Ys II, but man they're impressive.  The toughest of them all was the mantis boss from the first Ys, who's still a blade-slinging terror but this time adds an army of mini-mantises and laser beams and giant lances mounted on its shoulders to his arsenal.  Took me like six tries to beat him.  Great stuff.  There are a few new bosses - Dalles and Zava are pretty much entirely redone, and two new human-sized bosses are appropriately fast and tricky.  Since Yunica's controls are so incredibly solid and she's a little more versatile and powerful than Adol, these enemies were a little easier to deal with than those in Oath in Felghana.  The difficulty curve was average, and I beat Origin with a little less grinding than it took me to beat Felghana. 

Visually, Origin looks like a cleaner version of The Oath in Felghana.  Hell, two of Yunica's spells are cooler, prettier versions of two of Adol's spells in Felghana.  The two games clearly share large amounts of code, but Origin looks quite a bit smoother and I mean that as a compliment.  The sound effects aren't anything particularly awesome, but the music, mostly remixed tracks from Ys I and Ys II, is excellent.  A few of those tunes will stick with me and are somehow enhancing my not-always-positive memories of the first Ys.  But what can I say? Ys always has a stellar soundtrack. 

Honestly, I'm not sure which game is better between Ys Origin and Ys: The Oath in Felghana.  I liked the town of Redmont in Felghana and missed those typical RPG situations missing from Origin (townsfolk, shops, a world map), but I can't deny that Origin has slightly better controls and better boss battles.  I guess I still prefer Felghana overall, since the most important thing in an RPG is its core cast of characters (say that five times fast), and Adol, Dogi, Chester, and Elena are a more entertaining core than Yunica, Hugo, and [SPOILERS].  Still, I wholeheartedly recommend Ys: Origin to anyone remotely interested in playing the Ys series. 

Games Beaten: 2013 Edition
1. Persona 4
2. Pokemon White Version 2
3. 10,000,000
4. Persona 4 Arena
5. Persona 3 FES: The Journey (NG+)
6. Hexyz Force
7. Persona 4 (NG+)
8. Psychonauts
9. Tales of Vesperia
10. Guacamelee!
11. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
12. Final Fantasy VI Advance
13. Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4
14. inFamous 2 Evil Finish
15. Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
16. Torchlight II (Classist)
17. Donkey Kong Country Returns
18. DuckTales Remastered
19. Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga
20. Diablo III
21. Ys: The Oath in Felghana
22. Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen
23. Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
24. Ancient Ys Vanished: The Final Chapter
25. Ys Origin

Targets: 6/13


Well, I'm going to do the exact same thing I did last year - extend my deadline by one day.  I'll  play a ton of Metroid Prime tomorrow, and hopefully beat it.  I did it last year for Valkyria Chronicles, so I feel this is allowed. Plus, come on.  I have plans later tonight.  Which is New Year's eve. Because you probably aren't reading this the day it came out. 

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