Recently, I’ve discovered the wonderful company that is Falcom. Having been around for a very long time (longer than Square, even), Falcom is pretty much one of the Japanese giants. However, unlike Square, their games never caught on as much outside of Japan, as they never set up a Western branch. Additionally, until recently, they only ever developed games for the PC, and handed out licenses to third parties for console ports (which almost always wind up being quite bad).
Anyways, so the Ys series of games is pretty famous for pretty much pioneering the action RPG genre. While Ys I and II did a good job of detailing what happened to the land of Ys in the past, Ys Origin takes a further look into what went on, and specifically, concerns itself with climbing the immense tower and coming up with a solution to Ys’ demon problem. So how is Ys Origin? Is it worth throwing $20 (or whatever insane price it’ll be at after some Steam sale) at your computer screen? Well, despite constantly comparing it to Ys: Oath in Felghana (an excellent remake of the third Ys game), I’m having fun with it.
Well, to be quite honest, it’s not hard to compare it to Oath in Felghana. Origin pretty much uses the Oath in Felghana style (which is also the style Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim uses). You can select from one of three different characters at the start, and play through their story. It’s kind of like how Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep handles things. The first character plays almost exactly like Adol does in Oath, so if you’re familiar with Oath, you’ll feel right at home with Origin.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, basically, you run around really fast and attack things, either with physical attacks or magic, platform, and fight hard bosses. Before I get into the meat of the gameplay, I’ll just get the platforming out of the way by saying it’s just about the same as Oath’s. For the record, I had no problems with the platforming ordinarily, but sometimes, it can get really tight.
Origin also has quite a bit of plot. While I would describe Oath’s plot as an excuse to run around really fast and kill things, the plot in Oath is pretty outdated. Origin’s plot is quite a bit more fleshed out, with quite a bit of mystery involved. Though I’m still only on the first route, I imagine with the other characters, there’s a decent amount of perspective. While I wouldn’t say Origin’s plot is award winning, it’s decently engaging, and if you’re interested in the history of Ys, the background Origin provides will be pretty interesting.
Compared to the gameplay, all that other stuff doesn’t matter that much. Just how is the gameplay? It’s pretty fun, actually. Though that’s not a surprise, the Oath style lends itself to being rather awesome. The style is really engaging, as it can also be hard for the. Running around at high speeds and attacking things while observing what’s going on around you, and asking for your full attention in general, is pretty engaging, and makes Origin a blast to play. Unfortunately, Origin occasionally breaks the flow by putting in some small amounts of backtracking. It’s not too much of a problem, as you can teleport to all the check points you’ve reached. This was also sort of a problem in Oath, but, well, it gets annoying from time to time.
Bosses, like in Oath, are ridiculous. How so? They’re really fun, and are really engaging. At the same time, the bosses are really fucking tough. They’re like puzzle bosses, only they ask for a really ridiculously high amount of skill to beat. However the bosses in Origin seem to be endurance tests moreso than in Oath. I’ve fought quite a few bosses in this game that last much longer than bosses in Oath would, only because you can only attack them at certain times, or you have to prevent them from healing, or you can only use ranged attacks. On average, I found it easier to dodge things in Origin than I did in Oath, but I believe that these attacks were more readable because they wanted you to last a lot longer in these endurance battles (did I mention that you can’t heal at all?). While I would normally have no problems with this, having to fight a ten minute boss battle, only to lose at the very end, and try again can certainly get frustrating.
Now it certainly sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m not so sure. There was one particular boss that was giving me plenty of trouble, and would even heal faster than I could do damage if I wasn’t doing everything perfectly. How did I win? It wasn’t through skill, no, but when I upgraded my weapon, I started doing ridiculous amounts of damage to the boss. The idea that a weapon upgrade gave me such a huge boost in prowess disappointed me, and left me wondering if my struggles against other bosses were any similar. Despite that, however, I still had a blast with the boss battles, as they’re always edge-on-your-seat fights that are never too hard.
If there’s one thing I think Ys Origin doesn’t do well at all, it’s the environments. They start out bland enough, but pretty soon you’ll come across a water level with submerged sections, a fire section with lava and stuff, and a desert-themed place with quicksand. I’m sorry, but these are some pretty overused areas, and I can excuse them if they fit, but I don’t think I can buy sticking all these elements in a tower. While you do get to see some nice parallels to Ys I, one of my favorite floors in the original’s tower does not show up in Origins. Still, you do get to see some interesting areas later, some that are more unique. However, for a rather long time, I couldn’t find myself liking the environments.
Overall, despite my complaints about environments, boss frustrations, and upgrades, my overall impression of Ys Origin (so far) has been pretty positive. Is it worth a buy? I think it very much is, but I think it’s more for those who are already fans of the franchise. If you’re new to the series, I’d recommend going through Ys: Oath in Felghana first, which you can get for cheaper, and possibly Ys I & II (preferably Chronicles, which is the cheapest version), which do play very differently, but represent the series’ beginnings well, and offer some really nice parallels to Origin (or vice versa). However, if you already played Oath of Felghana and liked it, I very much recommend Origin. And if you’re already a fan of the series, you should probably get it, as well.