Ys: Memories of Celceta Vita
With four Ys titles (five if you include Chronicles as the two separate games) gracing the PSP, it was only a matter of time before this action-based RPG series was going to jump to the Vita. I had fun with two previous entries in the Ys series that appeared on Steam, The Oath in Felghana, and Origins, so I was stoked to hear that Memories of Celceta would be getting an English release. I just wanted to see how Falcom would adapt the series for Sony’s more powerful handheld. What I can say is that this is certainly more Ys, and that’s fantastic news for fans of the series or newcomers wanting an RPG for their portable system.
Memories of Celceta has an interesting history behind it, because this is actually a re-imagining of Ys IV. In fact, this is the second time Ys IV has been retold, but it’s the first time that the series’ creators, Falcom, has had the chance to do their own take on Ys IV, due to the fact that the other two versions were developed by Hudson Soft and Tokin House. Memories of Celceta also marks it as the first time that the fourth iteration of the series has officially been translated into English, which is great for people who have become fans after playing the PSP titles over the past few years.
Veteran protagonist of the Ys series, Adol Christin, once again plays the main hero in Memories of Celceta. Soon after returning from the Great Forest, Adol runs into his friend, Duren, and explains that he can’t remember anything. Duren tells him who he is, and after saving some miners trapped in a mine, the duo are sent on a task to map the uncharted Great Forest for a tasty money reward that will make them millionaires. Obviously, this is a task that no one has ever succeeded in doing before, so the duo step in to the Great Forest with a seemingly impossible challenge in front of them, while at the same time seeing if they can find out what happened to Adol and his previous adventure in the Great Forest.
Amnesia is something that often happens to protagonists of JRPGs, but, while the trope might be one that is overly used in the genre, it’s not really a concern for this game. You are often finding glowing spheres that bring back specific memories of Adol’s past (which is something that hasn’t been explored in the Ys games), but it isn’t the main drive to get you motivated to the next story scene. The story isn’t exactly Oscar material. In fact, it’s the weakest aspect of Memories of Celceta, not because it’s particularly dreadful, but the gameplay is where most of the attention has been aimed, and the story is just there to add a bit of flavour to the game.
The speedy combat of Memories of Celceta will feel familiar for anyone who has played Ys Seven on the PSP. This is because the game employs the same three member setup (with a total of six characters to pick from to form the team) that was first crafted in Ys Seven, with each hero having their own special combat style. Adol is a master at slashing with his sword, while Duren likes to smash foes with his fists. Karna, on the other hand, specialises in keeping at a distance and throwing piercing knives at the enemies. The gameplay is crafted so that enemies will either take normal damage from these attack types or be strong against two of them and weak against the third, meaning that players need to keep a look out for the blue damage numbers coming off the enemies, which tells the player that the monster is strong against their weapon type and another character should be switched in. Members of the team are easily switched with a quick press of the circle button, moving the next person to the front and moving the previous leader to the back of the line – simple and efficient.
For the two characters that aren’t being controlled by the player, they will become controlled by the AI. This allows them to fight enemies and pick up fallen loot at will, but if they stray too far, they will teleport back to the character in the lead, keeping the group together and making it easier for you to keep a track of what’s going on the screen. With three people hacking away at enemies, it can get very hectic. As for as how good the AI is, the characters are great for picking up various loots, but when it comes to hitting enemies, the AI is forced by the game to be noticeably weaker than when controlled by the player. This is obviously a ploy by the game designers to get you to switch to the correct character attack style. While this weakening mechanic might feel a bit cheap, it’s not like it’s a hassle to swap characters, because it happens so instantly without any hiccups.
The great thing about Ys’ combat is that it manages to be deep and balanced enough to be absorbing. At first it might seem that Memories of Celceta is easy, as you tap attack and slash your way through a bunch of enemies in real time, similar to the top down Zelda titles, but at hyper speed. It soon becomes clear that you need to switch characters often, learn to dodge with the dash and guard at the right time to do the flash guard – a special skill that manages to bypass damage and put the character at an advantage over the enemy – to truly master the combat.
Apart from the basic move set, each character can equip up to four skills that use a varied amount of skill points depending on their strength. These skills are automatically levelled up the more they are used, up to three times, to make them more useful. Skill points can be built up incredibly fast, as killing foes rewards small blue orbs that fill up the petal metre situated around the skill buttons on the bottom right of the screen. Characters also come with a sort of ultimate move, a powerful attack that is limited to activation every so often, since it deals a destructive blow, making it great for wiping out a gang of small enemies or using it on a boss to deal massive damage. The ultimate move has to be recharged by killing more enemies and performing skilful manoeuvres.
With so many enemies littering the Great Forest, one thing that players will notice is the unbelievable amount of loot that drops from foes or breakable environments. While the variety of loot isn’t massive, you’ll build up a huge collection of the same materials, which are used to combine into richer materials, swap for other items or used to upgrade equipment. Standard upgrades cover the improvement of attack and defence, but you can also get items that will add stat modifiers to weapons, such as dealing poison damage. There’s plenty to discover within the game’s crafting system, although, I’ll be honest and say that I often found better gear out in the wild, rather than purchasing them from stores.
Exploration has been put to the forefront in the game’s level design, so you’ll often spend most time in the Great Forest, and the game clearly indicates to the player how much of the forest they have discovered. There’s excitement in discovering what is hidden in this rather large foliage, with towns and secrets tucked away in all corners, while dungeons are around to offer puzzles to solve and bosses to take down. Towns often contain shops and a quest board that offers side-quests to gain extra money and materials. Quests are often the typical “find and kill x amount of enemies,” but there are a few inventive ones, such as stalking a cow-like animal and milking it before it detects you – how it doesn’t know you’re milking it until you’ve finished still boggles my mind.
If there’s one thing that stood out for me in Memories of Celceta, it’s that the title was fairly easy for a Ys game. In previous games, there have been times where I have hit a difficulty spike and had to either do a bit of grinding or get my focus in check to overcome a difficult boss. None of the bosses in Memories of Celceta felt hard, which I feel is down the fact that your team is made up of three life bars and the bosses don’t seem to be built around the idea of switchable characters having their own health, making it easy to move onto someone else when one hero is killed. There’s a harder difficulty, which might bump up the challenge, but on normal this certainly isn’t on par as the other games when it comes to the difficulty.
One thing that stands out above all other Ys titles is the visuals. While it’s not demonstrating the Vita’s full potential, it’s a very colourful game with a good art style and respectable detail, if a little blurry, that makes Memories of Celceta the best looking Ys game yet. The art style is now more similar to anime, rather than the chibi character design in the previous games. Unstable frame rate does spoil the overall presentation, as slowdown often crops up during heavy action scenes, which really shouldn’t happen with visuals like this. Memories of Celceta features a great score, with some catchy tunes and rocking pieces of music that fit the action, from fast-paced guitar riffs to the calm soothing melodies. The scale is diverse and it sounds fantastic.
Ys: Memories of Celceta plays it safe with the series’ tried and tested formula, but it’s great that Falcon decided to follow in the footsteps of Ys Seven and make a game that improves mechanics started in that PSP game – having multiple characters adds dynamic action to the game’s already great fast-paced combat. In fact, this type of game makes Memories of Celceta a perfect handheld experience, since the story isn’t important and the action is so easy to grasp that you can pick this up for 20 minutes, hack some fools, put it down and come back later to continue your journey into the great world of Celceta. I can easily recommend Ys: Memories of Celceta for anyone looking for an adrenaline filled action RPG for their Vita.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is a solid, all round, action RPG that anyone can pick up and get into. And for fans, well, you’ll be happy to know that this is up there as one of the better entries in the franchise.