Ys: Memories of Celceta - Review  

Memories of a Better Time
by Michael A. Cunningham

Ys: Memories of Celceta
20-40 Hours
+ Fast, well-paced combat
+ Great cast of characters
+ Outstanding soundtrack
- Lacks visual polish, especially in combat
- Starts a little slow
- Full fast travel needs to open up sooner
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   While the order can be confusing to keep track of, the Ys series is great about having each game be a standalone experience. Sure you're likely to get more out of the games if you know backstory, but most of the Ys titles are fine to jump into cold. Ys: Memories of Celceta is no exception to this, as it is a great point to start with the series. Easy to play and featuring a great cast of characters, if you ever wanted to dive into Ys, this is as good a place as any.

   Combat in Celcelta performs wonderfully, as players control one of three party members at a time, but can easily swap between any of the characters with a single button press mid-combat. Those who played Ys Seven will be very familiar with this setup. Each party member has a weapon type that is effective against certain enemies. For example Adol has slash damage that hurts non-armored foes and Duren does strike attacks which are useful against armored enemies.

   The game is balanced well enough that you don't have to worry too much about this until you get up to higher difficulties. Even then learning to block or dodge at the right time is more efficient, as timing this right activates a Flash Guard or Flash Move respectively. When executed properly these skills negate damage and offer players a significant advantage in battle, especially against bosses. Characters also have a variety of combat skills, each offering varying levels of damage, speed, and range. There are also powerful EXTRA skills — think limit breaks — that deal large amounts of damage, but can't be used as often. All of these help players feel completely in control during battle, even when things get chaotic.

He is always trouble. He is always trouble.

   Since combat in Celceta is where players will spend most of their time, it's a good thing it's fast paced and easy to control. That said, party AI for non-active members can be a little awkward, as characters will often dash off to attack a mining point instead of the next enemy or will run mindlessly in circles instead of picking up dropped items. Thankfully, it rarely causes a problem and never hinders the character the player is controlling. Progression balance is steady throughout the game and helped by the fact that inactive characters level up even when not in the party. What the game lacks in AI it makes up in quality interaction.

   In Memories of Celceta the story starts off a little slow, as Adol is amnesiac and confused as to his recent actions, so he must retrace his steps. As he and his newfound friend Duren are sent out to map the forest of Celceta, pacing seems a little off and the plot a tad shallow. After a few hours and a few reunions, that changes as the game really starts to pick up and the pacing feels right from then on. Adol might be the strong, silent type, but his supporting cast is very personable. Duren is an interesting companion and nice contrast to Adol, and Karna is a strong supporting female character who helps to lighten the mood without being annoying or cheesy. The rest of the game's characters, villains included, all receive a decent amount of development, and it's nice to have a game where all the characters feel like they serve a purpose. Celceta accomplishes that very well.

   Mapping the great forest of Celceta is a core focus of the game, and Falcom has given players a decent illusion of freedom as far as exploration goes. There are certain areas that cannot be accessed until key items are found, but the world rarely feels closed off as there are plenty of other locations to investigate. The best part is that it feels natural to wander into a new area and find the next story point. For times when players need to revisit an old location, a quick travel system allows for easy transport to and from previously visited areas. Players have to find special stone monuments to teleport between, and early on the game limits which can used, but in the latter half of the game it's simple to pull up the map and revisit any with ease. While backtracking is rarely required outside of trying to fill in the map, there will often be treasure chests or other rewards to be found by doing so.

Action is fun if not pretty. Action is fun if not pretty.

   As far as visuals go, Memories of Celceta will not win any awards. While the art style is great and characters look fine up close in story scenes, in action they look small and blurry. It doesn't really take away from the overall experience, but isn't very impressive. What the game does really well as far as graphics go is the high level of detail found in the game's locales. Lighting effects and the use of shadows in the forested areas are lovely, as the sun shining through the trees adds a lot of depth to the world. It's good enough to help balance out the lack of detail on the character combat models.

   On the other end of the quality spectrum is Celceta's soundtrack. From the opening movie's music to the varying world themes to the rocking boss pieces, the soundtrack is fantastic. It shifts from fast-paced music during boss fights to suspenseful pieces during story events. The range the game offers as far as music is quite diverse, and much like the level of visual detail in the forest areas, it adds a lot of depth to Celceta's environments. These pieces of music also work just as well in the game as they do outside of it.

   Ys: Memories of Celceta has a lot going for it. The game's battle system is fast and very engaging, the story really takes off in the latter half, and the soundtrack is engrossing and memorable. The lack of visual quality during battles and slow pacing early on are about the only complaints I have, and both of those are rather minor. For those who played Ys Seven, expect a very similar experience here, only much tighter. Whether you've played every Ys there is or are tackling Memories of Celceta as your first, you'll be met with a solid gaming experience.

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