STAFF REVIEW of Ys Origin (Xbox One)

Monday, May 28, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

Ys Origin Box art I knew the Ys series has been around for a while, but I didn’t realize it debuted over thirty years ago in 1987. I’m normally very well versed on my JPRG’s, but for some reason or another I’ve never actually gotten around to playing a Ys title before, despite owning a handful of them. Now that developer DotEmu has decided to bring the series to Xbox Fans for the first time, I dove in head first with the newest release, Ys Origin. While this title was released for PC back in 2006, then on Steam in 2012, it’s now making its console debut with a few bonuses for Xbox fans who may want to jump into the series.

Taking place 700 years prior to the first Ys title, Origin serves as a prequel, so no prior knowledge of the series is necessary, though Ys fans with keen eyes will notice some fan service. The world is at peace until one day an invasion of demons wreaks havoc on the lands, constructing a massive tower, aptly named the Devil’s Tower. The land of Ys is ruled by twin goddesses, Feena and Reah, but they mysteriously go missing once the invasion begins, so naturally, it’s up to you to find the goddesses, restore order in the land and destroy the demons plaguing your home. Of course nothing is simple, and the search party gets separated from the Holy army, thus leaving you on your journey, one which begins at the base of the Devil’s Tower.

You’ll begin by choosing your difficulty level, ranging from Easy, Normal to Nightmare, then you will choose between two characters to play as, Yunica or Hugo, each of which has their own complete playstyles and abilities. Yunica is a young and eager apprentice knight that is unable to use magic of any kind, so she uses her large axe to attack and has quick mobility. Hugo on the other hand is the magic user, shooting magic from afar, but he is much slower. Both play vastly different and their stories are separate, even if they result in the same end point. This promotes multiple playthroughs and allows you to see a different point of view, which is always welcome.

The majority of your gameplay involves exploring the tower’s many levels and floors, searching for levers, items, and whatnot, while encountering hordes of enemies along your journey. Actually, you’re whole adventure takes place in the tower, which I thought was just going to be the beginning area, but alas, you’re stuck inside the almost never ending tower for your adventure.

I was initially disappointed about this, but your environments will change while inside the different sections of the tower, so while it may not be a large overworld map you’re exploring, the scenery does alter, even if it does all take place indoors. You’ll come across water based floors, fire and more, as any typical RPG would employ.

You’re going to need to find keys to open doors, find switches to move platforms, and even search for hidden secrets. While the general layout of the floors isn't terribly confusing, there’s no map system included, so it is possible to get lost if your memory isn’t sharp. I wish this wasn’t the case, as it seems like an oversight, nevertheless, rooms will respawn full of enemies every time you zone out and go back in, so it is possible to grind some levels and experience should you wish.

Speaking of combat, it’s pretty basic and plays more like a hack and slash than a traditional turn based JRPG, as you simply maneuver and attack, something I didn’t expect but really enjoyed. Controls were spot on, attacks felt powerful and it’s always fun to see an enemy explode into EXP gems, items, SP and more. As expected, enemies in the beginning will pose little threat, but as you progress further up the tower, things becomes much trickier, especially when it comes to the bosses.

When you come across a Goddess statue, they will not only serve as save points, but also teleportation spots and where you’ll spend your gathered SP. There are upgrades that will improve your equipped armor and weapons, run speed, abilities, resistances and more. It’s an interesting change of pace from the norm and really forces you to grind quite a bit if you want the highest tier of upgrades. Luckily rooms fully respawn when you re-enter them, so it’s a matter of finding the most efficient spots to grind in, which I highly suggest, as bosses will surely challenge you with their interesting and unique battles.

When you do make your way through the six hour or so campaign, you are treated to some new game modes that unlock, all of which add some replayability and longevity to the game. Time Attack is pretty self-explanatory, challenging you against the clock. Arena Mode will have you facing waves of various enemies from the different floors, unlocking new arenas as you progress. What’s really cool are the two Xbox One exclusive additions: Blood option, which was previously a hidden PC setting, and Speedrun Mode. Speedrun is more than just the time attack, as the dialogue can be skipped, you can’t use save points, and certain glitches were intentionally left in for those that want to utilize them for quicker runs.

Visually, Ys Origin is absolutely gorgeous. To be honest, I was worried it was going to have that 'mobile remake' style of visuals that updated remakes have been getting lately. These aren't as pleasing as classic traditional sprites, but that’s not the case here. Even though all of the environments are set indoors, the variety in the visuals is quite decent and looks pleasant. Backdrops, enemies and characters are all drawn wonderfully. The audio is just as good, and even though I wish it was voice acted instead of text bubbles, the music is very fitting to the mood of the floor you’re exploring.

I really only have one negative to point out throughout my experience, that being that it’s very difficult to tell where you are on the Z-axis when trying to fight enemies, bosses and crossing platforms. While using shadows helps one to figure out where one's placement is, having to run up the back of a boss is quite difficult simply because you aren’t easily able to tell where you are in relation. Not a deal breaker by any means, but something that I was occasionally running into.

At $20, Ys Origin is priced perfectly with the amount of value you get within, allowing for multiple character playthroughs and unlockables to be discovered. The story and characters are interesting, the gameplay is solid, boss fights are interesting and memorable, it looks beautiful, and the gameplay is fantastic. Fans of the series will enjoy seeing some backstory while new fans, like myself, now have an entry point to start from, bringing them into the series.

Overall: 8.6 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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