The Ys franchise is a widely acclaimed Japanese action role-playing series that has been around for over 25 years. The lack of localization has hurt the popularity on the North American shores, but still developed a following with fan translations for the titles that originally didn’t see an English release. Thanks to Xseed and original series creator Nihom Falcom, I had the opportunity to explore the forests of Celceta with everyone’s favorite red headed adventurer: Adol Christin.
First and foremost, the series is pronounced “ease”, which is a common mistake for anyone seeing it for the first time. In fact, Memories of Celceta just so happens to be the third iteration of Ys IV, the first two are considered non-canon sequels; coming from different developers. A PlayStation Vita exclusive, we pick up with Adol slowly limping his way through a town square after returning from yet another adventure, but this time something is off: he has no recollection of where he was and even anything about his past.
As fate would have it for Adol, he runs into Duren, an old friend of his, at a tavern who is able to jump straight his memory slightly. At this point, Adol remembers that he is indeed an adventurer, but doesn’t recall anything else. Soon after they are tasked with mapping the forests of Celceta in its entirety, a task not for the weak. Progressing through the game, you’ll explore dangerous dungeons, endless forests and massive open plains. Scattered throughout, you’ll come across rifts that will “awake” portions of his memory. While the amnesia ridden protagonist trope has been overused at this point, Memories of Celceta rewards players that actively seek out to recover his memory with additional gameplay elements, such as permanently improving Adol’s stats.
As an exclusive title for the Vita, I was expecting more from the dated visuals in the game. Textures are noticeably muddy and everything is lacking in finer details, but the use of bright and rich colors and the designs of the towns and both enemy and playable characters help alleviate the lack of technical prowess.
Engagements in Memories of Celceta are fast-paced, as they should be for an action RPG. Parties up-to three can be formed with the AI taking control of the additional two characters. Basic attacks can be combined to pull off combos and are also used to build up the special attack meter. By not pressing any buttons for a few seconds, you’ll charge up your next attack for an increase in damage. Special attacks can be swapped in and out per character, providing various types of attacks for multiple or single enemies. Finishing off enemies with special attacks yields additional bonus loot and health items. Eventually you’ll come across enemies that will force you to play defensively. Timing a block perfectly not only negates the damage, but also guarantees your next attack will be a critical hit, while dodging at the right moment will slow down enemies in the vicinity for a few seconds.
Each of the characters are limited to one specific type of attack: slash, pierce or strike. Enemies have both strengths and weaknesses to the attack types, which is why you want to be constantly switching control from one character to another. The AI does an adequate job of moving around in battle, but if you are like me, you’ll want direct control of the best character in every engagement.
Towns offer the chance to pick up additional side missions, upgrade/purchase equipment and items. Upgrading your equipment early in the game is crucial, but a few hours into the game, I tended to use the newest looted equipment instead. Side missions are typical fetch/kill quests that have plagued role-playing games for ages.
Strangely enough Ys: Memories of Celceta doesn’t innovate the action RPG genre or bring anything new to the table, reusing tropes and clichés that developers can’t seem to leave out of their game. What it does do however, it does really well. I felt compelled to keep playing thanks to the engaging combat system and my sense of exploration, trying to map the entire Great Forest of Celceta.Note: Ys: Memories of Celceta was reviewed on PlayStation Vita. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.