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Ys Origin – Review (Switch)

by on January 17, 2021
 

Happy New Year everyone! Frost here! Hope everyone had a good holiday break. Now that the new year is here, I am back to writing reviews for the site. 2020 was a rough year to get through with all the events going on throughout the world. I’ll be doing my best to making 2021 a better year however I can, one review at a time!

Introduction

Long ago, Ys was a paradise that was ruled by the twin Goddesses, Reah and Feena. One day, monstrous demons appeared, killing the inhabitants and doing bad demon things. The people took shelter within a holy temple that was raised to the heavens by the Goddesses using the holy Black Pearl.

Amidst this chaos, the Goddesses have disappeared and a search party has been sent to the surface to find them. There they find an enormous tower built by the demons. Seeing as the rest of the world is now a wasteland, the party decides to scale the grand tower in the hope of finding Reah and Feena.

The Demon Tower

The Demon Tower in all its classic 3D rendering glory!

Ys Origin is exactly what the title suggests, its an origin story for the Ys franchise. This is one of those “its a sequel but a prequel chronologically” games. As a result, Ys Origin benefits from being played after the Ys I and II since it directly builds up to events that happen in those titles. I have not played a Ys game before and just wanted to jump right in regardless of potential story spoilers.

Defeating demons in an explosion of effects.

Gameplay

If you are looking for a simplistic action game to just dive into, Ys Origin is exactly that. This dungeon crawler (tower crawler?) pits the player against a 25 floor tower. The idea here is simple, you climb the tower. Run around a few rooms and find a locked door or area you cannot access. Turn around and look for the key or new power up. Kill the boss, then keep climbing that tower.

There are dialogue scenes here and there, but it is all rather straightforward. Quickly dispose of enemies with basic attack combos. Eventually, add in some special attacks with cooldowns. Despite being an older title, the controls are extremely fluid which made running around and platforming around the dungeon rooms a breeze.

The big highlights here are the boss fights. This is a game where you die and continue from your last save. You know when you find a save point before a room that things are about to get tough. Bosses are all about dying and learning from your mistakes. With each attempt, you learn to react to their attack patterns until you get beaten down again when you hit the next phase full of new attacks. Unlike all of the standard enemy goons, you actually need to think and plan ahead for these guys which is the kind of gameplay I prefer.

This is one of those huge demons that attacked Ys.

The boss I remember giving me the most trouble early on was a giant centipede. This boss utilized a 3D arena where the camera followed you as you moved around a pillar in the center of the stage. The centipede would crawl around the pillar while you attacked and destroyed points on each segment of its body.

As you destroyed more segments, explosive projectiles would appear on the field. Bolts of lightning would strike where you stood so you had to keep moving. In addition to dodging and removing these threats, the boss would crawl on itself or curl up roly-poly style and wheel its way around the stage. A neat boss design, but it sure was an endurance battle since each phase of the boss’s health took a few minutes to get through.

Outside of the boss fights, I did find the experience to be a bit too simple for my tastes. There is a story line, but everything felt fairly straightforward and not really interesting.

This isn’t my first RPG. I’ve seen the tropes and can guess most twists a mile away. While I was not expecting anything grand with the writing, the lack of an intriguing mystery or witty dialogue left little to really hook me in. The characters barely got any screen time. Between an hour running through the tower alone and two minutes of dialogue, I could not get attached to any of the characters. Gameplay was clearly the main focus here.

Visuals

Visually, I think the game still looks rather crisp for a game from originally released back in 2006. It looks fine. That is about all I can say really. The character art looks good and shows the details missing in the chibi character sprites.

Each area I ran through had this blue-grey look that, while making the tower feel cohesive, made the whole experience blur together. Everything looks mostly the same, even in different areas of the tower. Luckily, getting lost is not a common issue as area design made each room feel distinct enough for navigation.

One of the room types that uses 3D camera rotation.

The only thing that stood out was the use of textures and patterns everywhere from the environments to the UI design. The game as a whole has this dated, but distinctly Nihon Falcom look to it that is hard to describe. If you enjoy the Trails in the Sky games, you will likely see the similarities. It looks good enough, but not exceptional by today’s standards.

The character selection screen on a New Game.

Replay Value

At the start of the game, you can choose from two characters and three difficulty levels. Each character has their own story line, but they all climb the same tower.

Yunica is an axe wielding girl with rapid strikes. She eventually gets a sword and a few elemental attacks. Hugo is a mage that shoots magic projectiles and has two satellite drones that can can add to his firepower. There is also third character that unlocks after completing the game.

I played through most of the game as Yunica, but I did get a bit tired of her basic “hit things till they die” play style. I tried out Hugo on a new save and found their ranged play style to be a bit more fun and interesting. Since their stories start out similarly, I would recommend trying out both characters out and sticking with whoever you find more fun to play.

Conclusion

I am not sure if the Ys games, or at least the simpler games in the series, are for me. However, I can see Ys Origin in particular being a good action game to whip out and play while on the go. If you only have time to play for an hour or two, the dungeon is split up into floors which provide great opportunities to stop play sessions. You can also warp out of the dungeon and save at any time so you can quit at any time if needed. The 2D sprites in a 3D environment aesthetic has a unique charm to it that you don’t see all too often in games these days. Luckily, older gems such as this are still being ported to modern platforms for players to enjoy.


Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.

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Positives

- Controls are fast and fluid
- Challenging boss fights
- Multiple characters to play with different play styles and story lines

Negatives

- Has an overall dated look to the visual design
- Area could be more visually distinct from one another
- The main difficulty comes from the boss fights with little challenge elsewhere
- Poorly aged 3D elements in pre-rendered cutscenes

Editor Rating
 
Gameplay
B+

 
Graphics
C+

 
Story
C

 
Replay Value
A

Total Score
B

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Bottom Line
 

While it is beginning to show its age, Ys Origin is a simple, but enjoyable dungeon crawler with fast-paced combat, challenging bosses, and multiple character stories to play through.

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