by Zack Reese,
Released in Japan back in 2006, Nihon Falcom endeavored to flesh out a story that had started to become more and more complex and less appealing to those on the outside. Trying something new, Western publisher XSEED Games have decided to release the game on Steam, and that may be the best decision they could have made to reach the largest audience they could. I can say with absolute confidence that Ys Origin doesn't pull any punches when it comes to delivering a high-quality game that fulfilled every desire I had as a long-time fan of the series.
The clear distinction to be made here is that Ys Origin is not a remake of the first game. It is in fact a prequel that takes place 700 years before the advent of the series, Ys I. The Kingdom of Ys, once a proud and flourishing land, has suddenly been attacked by demons. In order to rescue its people, the two Goddesses Feena and Reah use a mysterious object called the Black Pearl, known as the root of all magic, to save the kingdom by raising it up into the Heavens.
In order to continue the war, the demons constructed the Darm Tower (called the "Devil's Tower" here), a colossal structure built specifically to reach the floating island. After discovering that the Goddesses have suddenly left the Solomon Shrine in the middle of the night, a search party is assembled and sent out to locate and figure out why they left in the first place. It is inside that tower where the entirety of Ys Origin takes place.
Throughout the game, players will come to understand some of the biggest key elements of the Ys chronology, including the Black Pearl, the Six Priests, and the Kingdom of Ys itself. Instead of starting off with series regular Adol Christin. players will decide between two new characters; either an axe-wielding fighter named Yunica Tovah who lacks the ability to use magic, or a loner sorcerer prodigy named Hugo Fact that controls two orbs named the Eyes of Fact and allows him to attack from afar (a third character can be unlocked after beating the game with both).
Granted, the stories for either character don't deviate far from one another, but in battle, both play remarkably different from one another, which only adds to the astonishingly high replay value inherent with this title.
The combat is exceedingly fast-paced as one would come to expect, and the simple controls allowed me time to focus on the action in front of me. This is importantt to note considering there are also plenty of platforming sequences found in the game that need to be navigated with a good amount of precision. Either character will learn a set of abilities that are upgradeable by finding items found in treasure chests that raise their levels and increase their effectiveness. The skills are also used to solve the many puzzles scattered around the tower.
And lest we forget that this is an Ys game, and as is typical of the series, those who dare venture above the Easy difficulty are in for one hell of a fight. Inside certain areas of the tower, I experienced a huge spike in adversity between myself and the monsters I was fighting. This was especially true during the boss fights, where I had to use all my wits just to manage to survive each bout, which admittedly often devolved into me running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Thankfully, Ys Origin has plenty of stackable power-ups to grab that temporarily increases stats such as strength, defense, and even experience boosts. This made even the longest and most arduous of battles very rewarding and the draw all the more appealing. I had a lot of fun and became fully engaged with the combat early on.
For a game that is nearly six years old, the game still looks remarkably fluid and the 2D character sprites are surprisingly detailed. While it certainly is starting to show its age and has some rough edges, Ys Origin is still pleasing to look out especially if your computer is capable of outputting the configuration at the higher resolutions. Even while comparing it to a lot of today's games, there really isn't anything fundamentally un-appealing about Origin.
Of course, the tower is the star of the show. While it may look like some old stone structure on the outside, while making my way up the 25 floors I came across a wide arrange of environments that were designed around fire, desert, water, ice, and even glass. Each location has its stash of items that will help make traversing them far more manageable, but all of these areas provided a good amount of variety in what would otherwise be another dungeon crawler.
Rounding off the presentation, we have to talk about the music. In trademark Falcom fashion, the soundtrack is mindblowing. Everything from the mind-melting guitar riffs to the orchestrated synth-rock, the tracks really set the mood for whatever is going on in the game, whether that happens to be a rigorous boss encounter or a tearful moment. As a fan of the series, I can say without hesitation that Ys Origin boasts one of the best soundtracks in the series.
Considering the story is meant to set in motion the historic events of the Ys universe, it is easy to recommend this game to both newcomers and diehard fans alike. With three character stories, five different difficulty levels, a boss rush mode and an Arena mode, there is near-limitless amounts of content to be had here. With its well-paced and incredible plot, fun combat, great music, interesting characters, solid translation, Steam achievements, and especially its low entry price, Ys Origin holds a lot of value and should be an easy purchase for any RPG fan. Now let's hope XSEED does to Ys I & II what it did to this game.