Review – Ys: Memories of Celceta (PS4)

Ys VIII may not have been the first game I’ve played in the series, but it surely was the one to make me like it and look forward to playing its other iterations. While we’re patiently waiting for the Western release of Ys IX: Monstrum Nox (and who knows when that’s going to happen), developer Nihon Falcom and publisher XSEED have finally decided to port Ys: Memories of Celceta to the PS4.

Originally released for the PS Vita more than seven years ago, the game received really high reviews, but it faced the unfortunate fate of, well, being a Vita game. That means that not a lot of people played the game when it first came out, which is a shame, as this is actually a damn fine JRPG. Now, right at the end of the current generation of consoles, the game will finally have an opportunity to be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

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Friendship is magic.

The Ys series is known for its very confusing timeline, especially regarding the fourth game in the franchise. There are actually two games called Ys IV, and to make matters worse, they’re not even the official fourth game in the franchise’s canon. Nihon Falcom did not develop these games, therefore they don’t properly consider them an official part of the franchise’s lore. Ys: Memories of Celceta is actually the fourth canonical game in the series, according to Nihon Falcom themselves… but it’s set between the second and third games. If this information is giving you a headache, don’t you worry, we’re in this together. I’m only thankful that the story in this game is actually very simple and straightforward to make up for all this convoluted mess.

In Ys: Memories of Celceta, the series’ staple red-haired protagonist, Adol Christin, arrives in a small fortified town on the verge of passing out, suffering from a mysterious case of amnesia. After waking up, befriending a “information dealer”, and saving a couple of miners from a monster in a nearby cave, Adol meets the region’s local ruler and is tasked with exploring the gigantic forest of Celceta and crafting a map of it. It’s a straightforward setting that is simple to grasp, but becomes more and more complex as time goes on, as the place is riddled with light shards containing bits of Adol’s memory.

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You could probably fool someone by saying this was actually a Gamecube JRPG that only a handful of people played back in the day.

The plot flows at a steady pace, with new areas to explore, new party members to befriend, a nearly nonsensical amount of crafting materials to collect, and bosses to defeat. It’s not a particularly long game, especially for JRPG standards, as you can beat it in around twenty to twenty-five hours, but you can extend the playtime by partaking in sidequests and just mindlessly killing monsters in the forest.

The combat mechanics in Ys: Memories of Celceta are as fast-paced and entertaining as the mechanics featured in Ys VIII. I’ll say the same thing I wrote in that other review: killing enemies is so fun that you’ll end up wanting to grind for hours on end just for the sake of it. It won’t be a chore at all. Memories of Celceta features the same action RPG controls and rock-paper-scissors weakness system first included in Ys Seven. Monsters will either be weak to slashing attacks, piercing attacks, or smashing attacks, and it’s up to you to select the specific character in your team who wields the appropriate type of weapon in order to defeat them with ease. It’s simple, and yet so fun, as you can swap between the members of your team with the press of a button.

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This is probably the easiest boss in the whole game.

Everything’s pretty good for the most part, but let me remind you once again that this is a Vita game being ported to the PS4. It does take advantage of the console’s vastly superior hardware in order to provide slightly improved post-processing effects, a higher resolution and a much higher framerate… but it still looks like a Vita game. Better yet, I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing a JRPG for the Gamecube, as the character models and environments don’t look much better than the ones featured in games for that console. The strong art design does make up a bit for this limitation, though.

This also means that the sound design, while pretty good in its own right, is limited by what the Vita could offer almost ten years ago. Ys games are famous for their great soundtracks, and while the same can be said here, Memories of Celceta‘s soundtrack is somewhat hindered by underwhelming instrumentation and sound compression. Surprisingly enough, there is a bit of voice acting in here. The number of voiced dialogue scenes is small, mostly limited to more important dialogue exchanges, but it’s actually quite good. In fact, it’s better than Ys VIII‘s borderline “so bad it’s good” voice acting.

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I am pretty sure I used to own a Yu-Gi-Oh card that looked just like this water monster.

The last “hindrance” inherited by Memories of Celceta‘s Vita origins is its camera. This is not a game that allows you freely move the camera around. The only thing you can do is zoom it, in case you want to completely ruin your experience by not being able to see anything in front of you. It’s weird at first, especially when you’re in a slightly more “open” area, but you can get used to it. Just try to remember that, even though you are playing this game on a PS4, this is still a game from 2012, developed for much less ambitious hardware.

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Oh, the cringe.

I’m really glad Nihon Falcom and XSEED have finally released Memories of Celceta for the PS4. This might be a less complex game with a somewhat uninteresting plot at times, but its fantastic combat mechanics more than make up for those issues. Whether you’re an Ys fan eagerly waiting for the series’ ninth mainline game, or just a JRPG fan in general, there’s a lot to love in Memories of Celceta. Very few games like this are fun enough for me to actively want to fight and grind for hours on end. What else do I need to say?

 

Graphics: 6.0

It runs at a very high framerate, it’s colorful, and it’s on a high resolution, but let’s be honest, this is a PS Vita, and one that didn’t even try to push that system’s hardware to its limits. The strong art style helps mitigate this a bit, though.

Gameplay: 8.5

It’s a simple combat system, but one that works pretty well due to how fast-paced it is. Killing enemies for the sake of grinding isn’t a hassle as a result. The fact you can’t rotate the camera can feel awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it.

Sound: 7.5

The soundtrack is pretty good, but you can clearly notice it was composed on cheaper software. There is also a bit of voice acting. Characters don’t talk very often, but it was still more than I was expecting from a game like this.

Fun Factor: 8.5

A lighthearted JRPG that might not have the best plot out there, but makes up for it with its excellent combat mechanics and emphasis on exploration.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Ys: Memories of Celceta is available now on PS4, PS Vita and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Ys: Memories of Celceta was provided by the publisher.