Review: Ys Seven

In the classroom at JRPG High, Final Fantasy sits in the front row with his collar popped and sunglasses on inside, Dragon Quest is giving the teacher a nice shiny apple and waaaaay in the back by himself, reading a magazine about a Japanese computer you’ve never heard of is Ys. No one really talks to him except a few people but if you ask anyone else in the class you might get a, ‘Oh that guy? Yeah I’ve heard of him. Eeez or Yees or Yes or something? Wasn’t he on the TurboGrafx 16?’

While a lot of Americans haven’t played a Ys game, it’s managed to be one of the most enduring and endearing series in gaming history. In 23 years it’s shown up on pretty much any console you can think of from the Sega Master System to the SNES and now the PSP. If you aren’t a fan of the series, Ys Seven provides a great jumping on point. Some references to previous games are made early on in the story but you won’t be lost in the narrative because of them. I really hope the game does well because I’d like to see more of the series come to the states. In addition to this sequel we’ll be getting two more Ys games on the PSP very soon. The first two games are being remade (again) and following that we’ll get a remake of the third game. Hopefully we’ll also get localizations of the games that never came to America.

I’d even go so far as to say it’s a great intro to the world of JRPGs. The game moves at a very brisk pace with real-time combat and the handiest way of switching between characters. With a push of the Circle button, you flip from one of the three people in your party to another to use the game’s Rock-Paper-Scissors battle mechanic. Depending on what weapon your character is holding he can attack different enemies. Adol’s sword is a Slash weapon which he can use on soft enemies, Dogi’s fists are a Strike weapon to be used on hard enemies, and the archer characters like Aisha have Pierce weapons for birds and fast enemies. This way of combat not only moves the game along but also can make grinding a breeze. And that’s from someone who will stop playing a game if it makes me grind. The only time you need to grind in Ys Seven is for the bosses.

Each boss is wonderfully designed. Every time one showed up I got pumped but that wore off soon. The game seems to be confused by the difference between a difficult boss fight and a loooOOOOooong one. Bosses can run from 15 to 20 minutes while you ping away at their health. This can be quickened a bit by leveling but the game sort of tricks you into thinking you don’t need to grind by providing a dungeon full of weak enemies, some of which take one hit, then a terribly long boss. With so much going on in the fight you’ll think, ‘Oh man, he has to be almost done.’ Only to look at his health bar and see it’s barely a quarter way down. I don’t know about you guys but I’ll always take a hard, short boss over a long easy one. And they are pretty easy. The only time I died in the entire game, except for twice when I drowned because I’m an idiot was at the final boss. Or should I say, bosses. At the end of the game they throw three of these fights at you in a row with no chance to restock your items or save. This can be incredibly irritating after the game trains you to go get items and waste them all in a fight.

The quick pace of the game also makes the story suffer. With under-produced cutscenes that take place in-game with text and are pretty short the plot as a whole seems pretty shallow. In a 20 hour game I really only got attached to two characters and that was because I thought they look cool. The main character Adol is the biggest problem. I’m fine with the silent JRPG protagonist, especially with the classic feel Ys Seven pulls off so well, but he comes off as very one-dimensional and boring compared to the others. Rather than Adol just talking or expressing all of his thoughts through expressions and ellipses like Chrono, Link or Cloud, a third party narration fills in. It can be jarring when in the middle of a conversation with full dialogue from most of the characters it suddenly switches to “Adol explains what he thinks about the plan.” Why not just have Adol tell us? This lead to me playing as the other characters more. In my game, Dogi was the main character, which makes a lot of sense because he really carries the story with dialogue. I’m aware of the fact that the Ys series has always been like this but maybe it’s time for a change.

The trailer boasts this game as a ‘New beginning’ with a new story but maybe it doesn’t feel new enough. For such a young guy, Adol’s been through a lot. They even make mention of it when the plot is being laid out and Dogi mentions how ‘often this happens’ to Adol. But mentioning how ridiculous something is doesn’t make it not ridiculous.  And the handling of the ‘villains’ is just awful. It’s one of the worst examples of mustache twisting, ‘It was ME ALL ALONG!’ I’ve seen in a game. And there’s no red herring to throw you off so the entire game I’m thinking, ‘Which one of these assholes is gonna betray me.’ But I was also thinking there may not be a villain and the adventure was about the quest and the goal which could have been very refreshing. But alas, I knew that was too good to be true. Some really interesting things happen in the narrative toward the end but most people are probably skipping all the cutscenes by that point.
The trailer and game box also boast the game being ‘built from the ground up’ for the PSP and they deserve to be proud of this. The game is gorgeous for a portable and has a pretty big world map. It’s certainly a landscape worthy of the cloth map that comes with the special edition. If you pick up the game I highly recommend this edition. With a cloth map, soundtrack and artbook, it’s a beautiful package that’ll look nice on your shelf. And it comes in a big box so it’ll look like you have more than three PSP games.
Overall, Ys Seven is a great jumping on point for the series. Though the story is pretty forgettable, the combat and brisk pace of the game will keep you playing. It’s a gorgeous game that comes in a gorgeous package if you get the special edition. And look out for the two remakes. It’s a good time to own a PSP.

B-

Buy it. Fun combat and great enemy designs with a shallow, forgettable story and characters.

  • grolt

    Thanks for the review, this looks and sounds really good. I’ve missed the boat on the Ys games lately, but was and am a huge fan of the Master System port of the first “book”. Honestly, I really dug the “run into guys” fighting mechanic…it separated the game from all the other Zelda clones of the time.

    I’m not a portable fan, but damn, the PSP sure does get a lot of good RPG ports to it, doesn’t it? I wish this one would come to home consoles…I’d be all over it. Until then, I’ll just listen to the Master System Ys intro on loop!

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