Ys Seven - Staff Review  

Ysy to Recommend
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Ys Seven
20-40 Hours
+ Fast-paced and fun to play
+ Great soundtrack
+ Nice variety in party members
- Story starts off slow
- Nine item stack limit
- Visuals not super impressive
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Few series have as long and as confusing of a history as the Ys series. Beginning in 1987 in Japan on the PC-8801, Ys has seen many releases across multiple platforms via a handful of different developers. Now, twenty or so games later, series creator Falcom has brought Ys Seven to the PlayStation Portable. This marks the second game in the series to hit Sony's portable, but it is the first developed by Falcom exclusively for it. Ys is a series that has seen few releases in North America, but now XSEED Games has teamed with Falcom to release a trio of series titles here starting with Ys Seven. For those, like me, who are new to Ys, this is a great introduction.

   As with all Ys games, the story revolves around the red-headed hero Adol Christin. Adol and his long-time pal Dogi arrive on the continent of Altago only to discover that the land has been experiencing strange events as of late. The king asks Adol and Dogi to look into things and soon the two are swept up in a grand adventure. Initially, the story seems pretty straightforward and simple, but as the game progresses enough twists and turns pop up to keep things lively. The cast of characters Adol meets along the way are very personable and charming, helping players to care about what's going on in the world. While the overall plot is not extremely original, the story is told in a way that is clear and does not try to overshadow the game's even more enjoyable aspects such as combat.

   In battle is where Ys Seven really shines. The action never slows down as players travel around the world of Altago, venturing through plains, dungeons, elemental temples, and more. Combat is rather straightforward. Players have the option to attack, dodge-roll, use a special skill, block, or switch characters. Using the d-pad or the analog stick to move around both work well enough, so it's just a matter of personal preference. Adol's party of characters help add some variety this time around with up to two people helping him in battle at any one time. A simple button press will swap between the trio of characters, which is sometimes a requirement for combat as some enemies are weak to slash attacks, but strong against piercing and so forth. This rock-paper-scissors style of combat means that having a good mix of party members is a must, but thankfully players can change the party via the menu anytime except in the middle of a boss fight, so things are flexible.

run! Run for your life!

   Each character has their own specific weapon type and each weapon has a specific combat skill that can be learned from it. Once this skill has been used enough, it will level up, becoming more effective, and allowing the character to equip the skill even when using a different weapon. These skills use SP which can be regained by simply performing standard attacks. Extra skills are also available, providing characters with a super powerful attack using a meter shared by the whole party, so players should make sure the right character is active when using it. The overall combat system is not extremely deep, but can be very addictive due to its speedy nature and unique collection of party members.

   While battling around the world, players will have to find special items in order to progress into new areas. These items might be something that allows breathing under water or the ability to freeze lava in order to walk over it. Such items help add a bit of a puzzle-solving element to dungeon exploration. There are other useful items available, too, such as one that draws all loot to the player, cutting down on having to collect dropped items and coins.

   Ys Seven is a very accessible game. Just about the time that traveling around the map starts to seem like it might be a chore, a teleport feature becomes available. There is also a handy mini-map that can be brought up at any time and an accessory becomes available later on that shows all items and enemies on it. Synthesis is also very useful as players can take found items and create powerful equipment that's cheaper than buying new ones. One thing that might seem odd is the limit on items, as players can only stack a maximum of nine of any recovery item. However, those playing on easy or normal should find that nine of these items should be enough to make it by. Those who play on hard or nightmare might find that the item limit helps add to the challenge. The game is made even more gamer-friendly by adding a feature to save anywhere along with a retry option if killed, though thankfully the challenge seems rather well-balanced all the way through.

I'm not going first... I'm not going first...

   Ys Seven features an impressive presentation. Though the lesser of the two areas, the visuals are still very smooth with detailed character sprites and colorful locations. Most areas offer a unique, creative view along with new enemy designs. Most of the game's cutscenes steer clear of CG and instead focus on making the most of the in-game engine. It works quite well in this case, though the PSP is capable of much more. A real standout of the game is the soundtrack. The Falcom Sound Team has received lots of acclaim from fans over the years and now it's understandable why. The music fits really well with the fast pace of Ys Seven, offers very little repetition, and is more than memorable enough to warrant a listen outside of the game.

   For those looking for a fun little RPG to jump into, Ys Seven fits the bill. For a good twenty or more hours, players will get a very fast-paced, well-balanced, and simply fun title. Ys Seven is charming and goes much deeper, both in terms of story and gameplay, the further you get into the game. The music is grand and helps to compliment the battle system, which is by far the highlight of the game. The speedy combat is addictive and goes beyond mere button mashing, so while Ys Seven might not be a AAA release, it is a solid title that deserves a shot.

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