Ys Origin is, for the most part, a fun game. With a simple story and enjoyable gameplay, Origins’s greatest downfall is its uneven difficulty that completely kills any enthusiasm you would have to progress.
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), PC
MonsterVine was supplied with a PS4 code for review
Ys Origin is a difficult game to describe, at least for anyone new to the franchise. With sprites and 3D models intermixed, and real-time hack-and-slash gameplay combined with RPG levelling, the game is a truly unique experience. While this proves to be a good thing for the most part, the game stumbles with balancing its difficulty, leading to something of an uneven experience.
Origin follows either Hugo or Yunica, two residents of the floating city of Ys that, alongside a number of high-ranking officials, are searching for two of their Godesses who have disappeared on the Earth’s surface. Outside of a couple villains, the side-characters aren’t especially interesting, and fall victim to clichés. While Hugo and Yunica’s stories are slightly different, they’re both interesting in their own right, with Hugo’s standing out as the more interesting one.
This is largely due to Hugo’s relation to one of the main villains, who can be played as once Hugo and Yunica’s stories are complete. While these playthroughs all give you different perspectives on the story, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself going back to each story. This is because of the ridiculous temporary difficulty spikes that are littered towards the end of each story.
“This artificial difficulty leads to frustrating segments of button-mashing or repeatedly fleeing and attacking from afar.”
As you near the end portions of each character’s narrative, you’ll find yourself blocked from progressing by transparent red walls that only fade when the highlighted enemies in the area are destroyed. For some reason, these enemies have ridiculously high defence when compared to any other enemies in the game, and substantially higher attack. This artificial difficulty leads to frustrating segments of button-mashing or repeatedly fleeing and attacking from afar. Even then, if you aren’t perfectly precise and incredibly careful, you’ll die, and have to start from your last save point again.
This staggered pacing brings everything to a halt in a frustrating way, and will likely turn off people who have no interest in dealing with random spikes throughout the game. It’s especially unfortunate since this is something that could have easily been fixed, but was likely left in simply to increase the game’s length.
Otherwise, the gameplay is unique and quite fun. For the most part, you wander around an open setting and use your special abilities to platform and battle your way to the next area. There are no transitions into battles, as they’re all real-time hack-and-slash fights, which is very much appreciated. Combat feels fast and smooth, as you’re in complete control of your character. This means you can make your own strategies for different enemies on the fly, which is rather satisfying.
“The abilities you obtain are all unique, and useful both in and outside of battle.”
The abilities you obtain are all unique, and useful both in and outside of battle. While your shield protects you from enemies, it also makes you float, making platforming or back-tracking easier. It’s a great way to keep you on your toes and ready to jump straight into battle, especially since it has a quickly regenerating energy bar, meaning you’re not tethered to a limited amount of MP.
The visuals of Ys Origin are surprisingly good for a game originally released in 2006. The main characters are pixel-based sprites, while the environments and large bosses are 3D models. The two styles blend together well, making the tower, where the game takes place, seem full of depth. The different areas of the tower, based on the typical themes of fire, water, and deserts, look alright, but only the fire area really stands apart from the others. The art for the characters has a pleasant simplicity to its style, which conveys the general personalities of the characters rather quickly. The bosses have the best designs in the game, with each standing out in its own intimidating way.
Ys Origin has a good, if not great, soundtrack. A lot of the themes are quite relaxing, providing the majority of the game with a certain ambience that makes Origin more relaxing to play, even if they aren’t overly memorable. The boss themes are exceptional, adding an incredibly catchy sense of hyperactive tension to each battle, whether it’s with a regular human, or an enormous centipede.
The Final Word
There are a lot of things to enjoy about Ys Origin, but it’s held back from reaching true greatness because of its ridiculous difficulty spikes and its story that requires three playthroughs to fully take in. Origin is a fun game to play for RPG enthusiasts, but those who are apathetic to the genre will likely find it to be less accessible than other series.
MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair