Ys Origin is not a new game. This PC prequel to the popular Ys action RPG series was actually released in 2006 for computers in Japan. Running on a modified version of Ys VI and Ys: The Oath in Felghana's engine, Origin is something of a change of pace for the series. Featuring a single explorable location and three playable characters, those familiar with Ys might be surprised with how much seems to have changed.
At its core however, Ys Origin is very much the Ys you know and love, complete with platforming action, high speed combat, massive bosses and some of the best music in Japanese gaming.
Ys Origin is a game that any self respecting fan of Japanese games owes it to themselves to at least try. Follow me after the break to read why.
Ys Origin (PC)
700 years before the ancient civilization vanished, Ys was a prosperous land. One day, demons and monsters began to invade, forcing the two goddesses and the six priests of Ys to raise the remains of the kingdom into the sky, far away from the creatures' reach. Refusing to give up, the monsters built Darm tower; a massive and ominous structure that stretched into the heavens. Ys rose ever farther into the sky, ending the conflict temporarily. One day, the twin goddesses vanished from the city with an ancient artifact called the Black Pearl. The six priests send a search and rescue team down to the tower to locate them, but the party finds that there is more at stake than they initially expected.
The Ys games are known to be relatively brief experiences (sans Ys Seven), running you anywhere from five to ten hours on average. What this means is that you get an experience that doesn't overstay its welcome and in that regard, Origin is no different. My first playthrough with the sorcerer Hugo took me a little over six hours to complete. Where this prequel surprised me was with the quality of its narrative. The Ys games hardly tell awful stories, but most of the time they're just there to remind you of how much of a badass series protagonist Adol can be.
Falcom decided to step up their game with Origin by bringing in a large cast of characters with varying motivations. The length of the game actually proves to be a positive in this regard, ridding the story of any excess fat it might have had. Having three playable characters also allows Origin to tell a more fractured story; completing the game with Hugo was satisfying but left me with a few questions that the other characters' tales ended up answering.
Origin's tale benefits from having main characters that actually speak (shock!), meaning that Hugo and Yunica have fully developed personalities and goals. Hugo is a sorcerer from a long line of renowned magic users. He's exploring the tower in hopes of locating the goddesses but appears to have an ulterior motive. Yunica was close friends with the twin goddesses, making their disappearance all the more hard on her. She joins the team in hopes of reuniting with her loved ones. I won't spoil the third playable character's story, but his is easily the most interesting, telling a tale that is quite different from the others. His mode unlocks once you beat the game with one of the other two characters. While Origin is no Trails in the Sky, I think it'll surprise a lot of players who go in expecting the typical Ys yarn.
While subsequent playthroughs of the game with other characters don't have you exploring new areas, each hero plays differently. Hugo plays not unlike a bullet hell shooter, with long range magic that can be fired rapid fire to keep enemies at bay. The knight-in-training Yunica uses her battle axe to strike down enemies, playing the most similar to series protagonist Adol. The third playable character is all about getting close in, making his mode the most difficult of the three. I would personally recommend starting with Hugo and ending with the secret character; the story makes the most sense this way and Hugo is a good starter character.
None of the above would mean squat however if the translation was weak. Fortunately, XSEED Games delivers the goods. Not unlike the scenario surrounding The Oath in Felghana, XSEED purchased the rights to a fan translation of the game, cleaning it up and editing things here and there. The result is a polished localization that reads well.
While Ys Origin takes place entirely within the confines of Darm Tower, the interior is nothing like it was in the original Ys. Each set of floors has a different theme, with traditional RPG mainstays like the fire stage and water stage making appearances. In some ways, it almost feels like a Metroidvania game in that the whole tower is interconnected; backtracking is super easy thanks to having the ability to teleport between save points. There are in fact missable items and equipment, so the lack of backtracking purely on foot is welcome.
If Ys Seven for the PSP is the only game in the franchise you've had experience with, Origin is likely to confuse you on a few levels. You only ever have control of a single character and your list of usable spells and abilities is significantly smaller. The game is designed around this though, so you'll never have an ability that you don't use often. Everything has its use and it's up to the player to figure out the best way to take advantage of an attack. The game also features plentiful platforming sections, so you'll be doing tons of hopping and gliding throughout stages. Some of these sections can be a little bit frustrating at first, but the game is never brutally unfair; there aren't any death traps.
Ys Origin runs on the same game engine that powered Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys VI, so it's not going to blow any minds. That doesn't mean it can't look good however, as Origin impresses with a steady 60fps. In a game like this the frame rate is king. Enemy designs are interesting and the giant boss monsters never fail to amaze. Keep an eye out for call backs to some of the bosses from Ys and Ys II. Like in previous entries of the series, killing monsters is extremely satisfying; seeing body parts fly all over the place never gets old.
For those of you with older computers who aren't sure they can run Ys Origin properly, fear not. I have a late 2011 Macbook Air running Windows 7 and I was able to play the game at its highest settings with no problem. There was a dip in frame rate during a couple of the boss introductions, but nothing game breaking. Unlike Oath, Ys Origin supports true widescreen mode which is a thing of beauty.
There's no voiced dialogue in Origin, which is probably for the better as poor voice acting could have ruined what is actually a very solid script. The music on the other hand is filled with memorable tunes that will get you in the mood to kill things. If you've never played a Falcom game before, you're in for a treat. In my opinion, nothing in Origin is quit as good as Valenstein Castle from The Oath in Felghana, but I would argue that the overall quality is more consistent. This is definitely a soundtrack worth purchasing and hopefully Falcom brings it to iTunes sometime soon.
Being a Steam release, Ys Origin comes with all the bells one has come to expect from games on the platform. There are forty one achievements to unlock, ranging from simple to extraordinarily difficult. The game itself also features a boss rush mode with a special cameo from a certain red haired hero. Depending on how much you like Origin, you could very well spend quite a few hours on the game even beyond the story modes. For those of you dreading the idea of playing on a keyboard, game pads are supported and I played through on one with no problems.
Ys Origin is not without its problems; I wish that each storyline had new locations to visit and puzzles to solve. But at the end of the day, these are minor when compared to the amount of entertainment there is to be gleaned from Hugo and Yunica's adventures through Darm Tower. The action is satisfying, the music maddeningly catchy and the story surprisingly compelling. If you enjoy action RPGs and haven't grabbed Ys Origin already, what are you waiting for?
These monsters aren't going to annihilate themselves.
9.0 – Fantastic. Negligible flaws. Otherwise very, very good; a fine example of excellence in the genre.
From other sites around the web