It’s JRPG week on Xbox One, what with Ys Origin, Earthlock and Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs, all releasing in rapid succession. I hardly need to tell you that JRPGs are few and far between on Xbox One, so it’s a welcoming sight indeed to see not one, but three of these games launching this week. Ys Origin is the first game in the long running Ys series to land on Xbox and just so happens to be the first game in the series, as far as chronological story telling goes, being that it’s set somewhat 700 years before the main series’ canon. Ys Origin does an excellent job at feeding players into the experience, too, making it one hell of a great entry point for newcomers and fans alike.
Starting out, the game gives you a choice between two playable characters, both of which offer up different styles of play. The choice lies between Yunica and Hugo. Yunica offers close-range melee via her powerful axe, whereas Hugo dishes damage with his magical staff. The difference in play style lends the game a great deal of replay value, though, it helps that the core gameplay and the structure of Ys Origin is so well rounded, too. The gameplay loop remains the same regardless as to which character you choose and the moment you’re set, the game throws you right into the action. However, with that being said, both Yunica and Hugo house their own stories and motivations, so there’s quite a bit of content within for those that enjoy max completion.
Both Yunica and Hugo are tasked with scaling a mammoth tower to save two goddesses, which amounts to some puzzle solving, heaps of combat and some light platforming. There’s a wide selection of enemy variants within, so much so that the game comes with its own monster-pedia (and character-pedia) for players to read up on. Boss encounters included, there’s roughly just shy of one hundred different foes to tackle, as well as over twenty five characters to meet and engage with throughout. Beating foes will grant you with EXP, which goes towards your overall level. There’s also the frequent chance that you can obtain temporary stack-able buffs and such, which further aids you on your quest.
These can be obtained by either defeating enemies or via smashing objects and vases that are dotted throughout. The game also houses a large number of chests, many of which contain inventory items such as weaponry and equipment, as well as artifacts that are necessary for progressing further in. The actual gameplay is fairly straightforward. You move and attack. It’s that simple. Thankfully the game remains fluid and tight throughout, ensuring that your attacks and movement remains accurate and spot on. Beginning at the base of the aforementioned tower, lower level enemies don’t tend to pose much of a challenge and will often give you their lives as you adjust to the parameters of play. That being said, I cant say there was a single moment of my time with Ys Origin when I wasn’t having an absolute blast.
Despite the linear progression, players are never forced to stay on the beaten path. On the contrary, some of the best items in the game can be achieved through exploration. Sadly there’s not a great deal of sidetracking within, but this is a twelve year old game so it’s easily forgiven. Gameplay typically consists of clearing a room full of enemies, all of which will respawn if you leave the room and return, to discovering how to overcome whatever obstacle the game throws at you. This typically means locating keys to locked doors, defeating huge bosses, or using some inventory items to uncover secret passageways. The game is without an over-map or quest system, leaving much of the adventure’s weight at the mercy of your intuition. This isn’t a downside by any means, but those that prefer more of a guided and meaty RPG, may be left slightly underwhelmed.
Enemies, as alluded to above, come in all shapes, sizes and capabilities. The first band of enemies that you encounter require nothing more than some button-mashing to overcome. However, higher up in the tower you’ll begin to encounter the game’s spiking difficulty curve. Ys Origin doesn’t come with a checkpoint system, nor does it offer up a manual save system. This means that if you fall in battle, you’ll be taken back to your last save point. Mercifully the game attempts to alleviate much of this frustration through its generous drop rate, seeing as though enemies often tend to leave behind buffs and health pick-ups at a nice pace. That being said, it still pays off to weigh up how capable your character is before you dive headfirst into a room full of foes, and at times, towering boss encounters.
Ys Origin likes to keep you on your toes at all times and as a result, it can feel truly empowering to clear a room full of nasty inhabitants, especially if they’ve been giving you trouble beforehand. Boss encounters remain interesting and often make an appearance every few floors or so. I quite enjoyed the design here and although the standard enemies are well developed and diverse, the boss fights easily take the proverbial spotlight. These encounters demand a great deal of skill, but typically appear once you’ve met a save point, so dying time and time again never really feels like a complete loss. It helps that the game controls like a dream. Everything is so precise and accurate. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; fighting a horde of enemies, trying to nail the perfect jump, or dodging environmental dangers, the game handles magnificently well.
Moving back to the items and skills that you can obtain, the game does this at a decent rate to keep the adventure interesting. You can locate items that will increase your overall health capacity, bump up the damage output of your weapon, as well as strengthen your defense meter. You’ll also come across key items that are necessary for progression, such as a mask that allows you to see hidden structures that house other items needed to progress elsewhere. The structure of Ys Origin is remarkable and certainly stands the test of time considerably well. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game and certainly plan on running the tower, which can take north of seven hours to achieve per-character, time and time again.
Hopefully we see more Ys on Xbox moving forward, because as it stands, Xbox is missing out on a lot of unique fun. Perhaps one of Ys Origin’s most alluring features is that it remains interesting from beginning to end. The gameplay loop may indeed remain the same, but the varying environments and the decent story (told through excessive dialogue) holds up. This is further bolstered by a stellar soundtrack which helps to set the tone of the game well. The one and only issue I’ve found with Ys Origin is that the framerate can sometimes drop when there’s a lot of action on-screen, more so towards the second half of the game. This doesn’t happen frequently, but it occurred enough for me to make a note about it. Still, when all is said and done, Ys Origin serves an adventure that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a game that remains as intriguing as it satisfying, from beginning to end.
Ys Origin is a remarkable JRPG that offers up a plethora of content for its generous price tag. There’s a great deal of variation within, from well designed environments to the wide selection of diverse enemies and interesting boss encounters. It helps that the game remains fluid throughout the entirety of play, despite some framerate issues later in. Simply put, fans of the genre shouldn’t overlook this nostalgic gem.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.