It might surprise most of you to know that the Ys series has been going a LONG time. If you ask most gamers about Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, they would likely be able to tell you that it started in the 80s. As it happens, Ys did too, so it has a long history of releases and plenty of games to play with only a couple being Japan only releases. And that ends the history lesson.
Ys: Memories of Celceta was initially released on PS Vita back in 2014 in European territories so it’s one of those titles that made enough of an impact with the fans to be greenlit for re-release on PS4. And I can only say at this point, that I’m so glad that it did.
The story, like many of the Ys titles, follows the escapades of series protagonist Adol Christin. He starts the story wandering aimlessly around the town of Casnan and without any recollection of who or where he is. As it turns out, Adol recently made a trip through the Great Forest of Celceta, a place as mysterious as it is dangerous. For reasons unknown, Adol has amnesia and what ensues is an epic adventure that follows Adol’s exploits as he tries to recollect and discover what caused his memory loss.
After trudging through the town Adol passes out in front of the inn and following a short respite, meets up with Duren, a silver haired rogue type with plenty of pep who claims to already know Adol. Following the games introductory dungeon in Casnan’s mine, the local Governor-General Griselda tasks Adol and Duren with exploring the great forest of Celceta and charting a map so that the Romun Empire may travel the lands freely.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is an ARPG that features a real-time battle system. Combat is a fairly slick and fast paced affair and one I actually really enjoyed despite its simplicity. You have access to basic attack, as well as the ability to dodge and guard. You can also transition between characters in your party seamlessly with each character having their own damage type and skill set. Dodging and guarding at the right time before an enemy attack opens them up to a ‘Flash Attack’ where the enemy becomes almost frozen, allowing Adol and other party members to dole out the punishment.
You also have access to various skills across each character and an EXTRA skill too (an ultimate attack), with each being easily accessible through use of shortcuts on the controller. Skills are tied to your SP which is generated through battle or resting and through use of your skills, you’ll also generate progress towards your EXTRA gauge. Despite the systems ease-of-use, I did at times get a little bit frustrated with the lack of a well needed lock-on, though I suppose that after some time I was skilled enough to not need it. It doesn’t take anything away from how intuitive the battle system is, it just would have been an addition that could have taken something great and made it exemplary.
To add a bit of flair to dispatching monsters, you also have combos that you can pull off. These vary between skill finishers, aerial combos and excellent kills. Skill finishers are a result of using a skill to make the final blow on an enemy and will restore half the SP you used in the attack. Aerial combos increase damage and give extra gold, SP and health and excellent kills are a result of defeating enemies that are weak to the characters damage type resulting increased gold drop and potentially rare items. It’s a great idea, because it takes Memories of Celceta out of the region of hack-n-slash into something that requires a bit more skill if you’re going to maximise your gains.
Some monsters have vulnerabilities, and these can be easily identified by pressing an analogue stick that will bring up a window with the enemy’s level and weaknesses (if any). Monsters that do have weaknesses to particular damage types will be easier to defeat with particular characters. For example, Adol has the slash damage type, so defeating enemies with that weakness will be a breeze for him and equally, this is the only way to achieve the excellent kill combo. It’s important to know enemy levels too, because some early areas include monsters that are several levels above you.
Most of the time you’ll be free roaming around the forest maps with enemies littered about the place. The forest itself has a day-afternoon-night cycle too, with enemies resetting reasonably often which makes levelling considerably less grindy. The town areas act like hubs for shops, and you’ll also have access to quests through the noticeboard at the inn. These vary from typical fetch quests to defeating mini-bosses or even running a shop for a day. There’s some interesting ones in there to be sure, and I actually think the quest system brought a lot to the game with some of the more quirky ones being a lot of fun.
Several characters will join Adol and Duren on their journey, each having their own stories and strength to bring to the party. Everyone has their own personality and it’s easy to grow to love them, even if I did feel at times that they lacked emotional scope. Though that’s pretty hard to convey when each character only has a couple of lines of voiced dialogue. Characters also have particular skills which makes them handy. Duren, for example, can pick locks on otherwise inaccessible chests which is a requirement in certain parts of the game, and Ozma can destroy cracked walls allowing you to access areas unavailable to you without him. What I particularly loved about the characters and their battle AI is that they will go out of their way to pick up items for you, meaning that you don’t have to spend your time worrying about collecting the various drops that spill out of enemies. It’s a small touch, but it is so important to the overall experience that I’m glad it’s there.
Levelling is your standard fare, with experience coming from defeating enemies. Skills are levelled through use, and there’s some handy accessories that can be found throughout the adventure to help expedite their increase. Naturally, with each level and skill level increase Adol and the gang get stronger, giving better power and skill range. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it fits so well with the combat system that it’s still worth mentioning.
There’s plenty of materials to collect on the adventure too, with various fauna, ores and beat materials to collect. These aren’t just loot though, as you can use these to improve your weapons and armour through reinforcement. In something that’s almost Dark Souls in it’s approach, reinforcing equipment with particular materials will add specific stats too them. For example, some will add stat boosts, elemental damage or status effects to your attacks. Equally, armour reinforcement can add stat boosts, health regeneration, or status nullifying effects. The entire system is wholly enjoyable and gives plenty of reason to do some monster hunting for the rarer materials. A lot of enemies will drop less useful boosting materials too, but these can be exchanged en masse for better quality ones. The crafting experience is really well done and its inclusion makes Ys: Memories of Celceta the better for it.
Exploration is the name of the game in Ys: Memories of Celceta, with map completion being important to your progress. Every time you enter a new area the map will be shrouded and it’s up to you to uncover it, with a percentage tally being shown on the map screen. You’ll also be occasionally heading back to Casnan to update Griselda on your progress, who will shower you with goodies as your coverage increases. One of the things that this game does well is rewarding the player for exploring, and I very much enjoyed discovering the various environments and enemies that you come face to face with throughout Adol’s journey. There’s plenty of things to find too, with the maps being strewn with resource nodes, chests and memories for Adol to uncover. Memories are important because they explain elements of the story that Adol has forgotten, as well as providing a handy little boost to one of his stats.
Ys: Memories of Celceta isn’t a one trick pony though, as dungeons also have the occasional puzzle to keep you on your toes. These aren’t tough by any stretch of the imagination, with most being simply completed. That said, they break up the typical ‘clear the dungeon of enemies’ monotony that RPGs are sometimes guilty of overusing. You’ll also come across powerful artifacts in your travels that will bestow abilities on your party and provide means of access to unreachable areas. One of the first artifacts you get your hands on is water scales, that will allow you to submerge in water and swim around, giving you access to areas of the forest that you couldn’t get to previously. It does add backtracking to the game’s areas but honestly, I loved discovering new abilities and the sudden joy at realising I had new areas to explore.
Visually the game does have some dated elements but is no less charming for it. The environments have seamless transition and are varied enough to keep exploration interesting and fun and despite the sometimes-awkward running animations of Adol and some blockier polygons, I never felt distracted by it. As I mentioned earlier, only some dialogue is voiced and whilst this does take a little away from the range of the characters, there’s enough there to get an idea of personality.
The music, however, is some of the finest I’ve heard in an RPG. The tracks are both memorable and beautifully done in equal measure and I regularly found myself humming them whilst playing. If I’m being totally honest, I find myself humming them even when I’m not playing and it’s this that shows how powerful they are in underpinning the story and adventure as a whole.
There’s plenty to do in Ys: Memories of Celceta, with the story taking roughly around 25 or so hours to complete. If you wanted to do absolutely everything, I’d likely say that way take you more into the region of 40+, so for the completionists out there there’s plenty to get stuck into. It’s a wonderful story, and the gameplay is so well executed that anyone who does decide to give the game a bash will no doubt come away feeling satisfied with the experience.
With its great storytelling and intuitive battle system there’s no wonder why Ys: Memories of Celceta saw such success six years ago, and why it still has that staying power today. It offers a well thought out and engaging ARPG experience that I’ll remember as one of the best.
Sure, certain visual elements haven’t aged well, but there’s so much quality that Ys: Memories of Celceta has in spades that these are minor road bumps in a wholly enjoyable game that offers so much for the player to do, that you won’t even notice it.
You’ll find a wonderful tale of memories lost in Ys: Memories of Celceta, but the experience will be memorable for years to come.