Ys: Memories of Celceta – Review
Control is extremely tight
Lots of collectibles
The soundtrack is awesome
AI is surprisingly astute
Storyline is a bit light
I’ll say it here before we dig in: I was a Ys noob prior to stepping into the world of Memories of Celceta. Before 2005 only three of the games in the series had been localized for an English audience, so I was aware of Ys, but never really invested any time in exploring the franchise.
Reading up on past releases revealed that the main hero Adol Christin has featured in every major-canonical game. There are only two other action-RPGs that jump to mind that have employed their hero for an extended period — Link from Legend of Zelda and Samus Aran of Metroid. I’m not sure why this fact stuck out so much. Perhaps it’s because I’ve ignored the series for so long even though it has an established hero and a canon that is well cared for by fans and franchise developer Nihon Falcom.
Memories of Celceta is actually the third iteration of what is considered Ys IV. Apparently the previous two attempts by Hudson Soft and Tonkin House weren’t up to snuff, so Nihon Falcom stepped in to make sure the story was finally told in a proper manner to fit with the overarching storyline of the series.
Even with all the history and back story, Memories of Celceta does an excellent job of welcoming newcomers like myself. During a brief intro we’re introduced to the red-haired swordsman Adol who, we come to find, is suffering from a bout of amnesia (oh hey look, we newbies know about as much as he does). We meet a friendly information dealer Duran who fills us in on a few details, including the fact that Adol had wandered into the vast unexplored forest before waking up without his memories. There isn’t much time to ponder these events. Monsters suddenly attack the town, the camera snaps up to the isometric perspective, and Adol and Duran dive in to save the day. All of this occurs within ten minutes of starting a new game, a refreshing departure from the hours long intros and tutorials some RPGs are prone to.
From there you’re set loose into the world of Celceta, being tasked with mapping the vast ocean of forest and finding Adol’s memories along the way. Someone searching for an in-depth story will be sorely disappointed; you’ve certainly seen and heard all of the tropes and plot twists used in Memories of Celceta, but it can be argued that the story is meant to play second fiddle to the action. The battle system is the star of the show here. You’ll be smashing your way through hordes of enemies constantly, employing the simple combo and special technique system to thwart any who stand in your way. A method of dodging and blocking is also available, and should be mastered if you have any hope of surviving later boss encounters.
Your active party consists of any three characters available to you. While you control one of the three, the other two act on their own, following vague orders that determine their disposition in battle. The AI does a good job of keeping your supporting characters alive, but you’ll find that you do most of the heavy lifting when beating down your foes. Still, it’s nice knowing that you don’t have to babysit party members in a fight. A major missed opportunity in Memories of Celceta was the lack of multiplayer support. The combat system and multiple-character parties would have lent themselves well to adventuring around with a group of friends, but alas, no such option is available.
Between fights you’ll be wandering around a pretty expansive world. Your adventure starts with the task of mapping the forest, but you’ll soon find that there is more to Celceta than just tree bark and greenery. There’s quite a diverse expanse of biomes to explore, although some are fleshed out more than others.
While the visuals aren’t anything to be offended by, they are noticeably rough around the edges. It’s a real shame since there are some beautiful vistas and locales that you’ll be wending your way through while exploring the map. During cut scenes I found there was a noticeable amount of clipping between characters and the ground. Luckily there are only a handful of scenes that focus the camera in close enough for you to notice, but once you see Adol’s feet disappear through the floor…well you’ll start noticing similar blemishes elsewhere. A bit of polish here and there could have helped correct these issues, but unfortunately they persist throughout the game.
During your quest you’ll be collecting all sorts of consumable and craftable items, which can be used to upgrade your party’s equipment. Adding certain combinations of items to your weapons or armor will imbue them with additional statistics or status effects and repellents, which come in handy late game. Farming was never difficult thanks to the detailed bestiary which keeps track of all of the beasties and their drops you encounter and where. Later on in the game you are able to fast travel to parts of the map you have explored, making gathering materials for crafting that much easier.
Another aspect of the game I wasn’t quite expecting was the quality soundtrack that thumps along during your adventure. While some of the tracks may become repetitive during prolonged play times, they are all on par with some of gaming’s greats. On occasion we forget that what we’re hearing is almost as important as what we’re seeing, and luckily Memories of Celceta does not disappoint in the music department.
So let’s put a nice bow on this one and wrap it up. Ys: Memories of Celceta is a fantastic companion to bring with you on the go. The light story and fast paced combat are easy to jump in and out of, and while it may look like an early PS2 era game, the fun factor vastly outweighs the visual discrepancies. A Legend of Zelda killer Ys is not, but it is definitely a good substitute for gamers relegated to the Vita, and a must own title for anyone with Sony’s handheld.