Falcom – NIS America – Out Now on PS Vita & PS4 (version tested)
Ys (pronounced ees, for those that are unsure), is a series that has been around since the days of the PC Engine/Turbo Grafx, with numerous spin offs, remakes and sequels since then, although not all of them have graced the European region, as was usually the case with this genre in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Therefore, it’s not really a series that’s as popular as it could have been round these parts. The latest entry into the Ys series could be a good starting point for those who are unfamiliar with the games, as although it has recurring characters, it starts off with decent introductions, and a self contained story, that doesn’t require you to have any experience with the series so far. Initially taking control of series regular Adol, you’re working aboard a ship as a sailor in exchange for passage to an exciting new adventure. It’s not long however, before adventure finds you, in the form of a kraken, which destroys the boat, leaving you stranded on an Infamous island, in search of other survivors. This is where the main bulk of the game kicks off. As you progress and come across the other survivors of the ship wreck, you all pitch in to make a temporary home and the more people pitching in, the better things become.
The island is massive. At first there doesn’t seem a lot to it, as you’re asked to partake in a little cartography, charting the local area and making note of any landmarks, and if you just happen to stumble upon another stranded soul, then you will get them back to the village, too. You’ll find that you end up going back to the Castaway Village quite often, as not only is it to introduce new members to the residents, but it occasionally finds itself under attack from local beasts, so every now and then, there’s a brief arena battle as you fend off a few waves of nasties from the shore line. Normally heading back to the village would be an absolute ball ache, as the local areas are almost labyrinthine in design, but luckily you happen upon giant crystals or camp sites that serve as fast travel points, meaning toing and froing between the village and your current position doesn’t pose much of a problem. And it serves to go back often anyway, as you are rewarded for uncovering new and unexplored areas on your map by speaking to the ship’s captain. Also, once enough people are rescued, shops will start opening so you can start to trade any items you’ve picked up along the way, for goods, weapons and accessories.
The music in Ys VIII is fantastic, especially if you’re a fan of JRPG’s in general. There’s shades of Xenoblade Chronicles and Final Fantasy, with some excellent orchestral music as well as some fantastic guitar riffs thrown in. These add to the already great atmosphere and give it an extra degree of excitement and rose tinted nostalgia that all the best JRPG’s do. Visually, it’s not quite up there with its contemporaries, so it’s assumed that this was originally built with the PS Vita in mind, but don’t let that put you off, as it more than makes up for it in the playability department. Namely it’s the character models and the environments, as they wouldn’t look out of place on a PS2 game. If you prefer your RPG’s to be more hack ‘n’ slash than turn based, this will be a treat. The moves start off quite basic and then as you progress, you unlock a few more and then have to adopt different strategies dependent on who you’re fighting. When you do fight, you can change between characters at the press of a button, and the variation of characters help when up against different adversaries.
While it’s not going to push anything to its limits, Ys VIII is a fanatastic JRPG with hours on hours of gameplay and tons of enviroments to explore. If you are a fan of the genre you will be doing yourself a disservice to not pick up this gem of a game.