Review – Ys Origin (Switch)
Ys Origin was originally released for PC a whopping fourteen years ago and at first it didn’t cause that much of an impact. It was only available in Japan, so we poor folk from the West paid little attention to it. It took a while for the Ys franchise to once again become relevant in the West as it once did back in the Sega Master System days. Although once it did, we eventually got a translated version of the 2006 hit spinoff, as well as a remastered version published by Dotemu a few years ago. It took them a few more years to finally release this version on the Switch and I can safely say it was worth the wait.
Despite its name, Ys Origin can easily be appreciated by anyone without any prior knowledge of the franchise. It is equally a prequel and a spinoff to the main series of games, but its story isn’t exactly that important or complex. It’s really easy to grasp. The game starts off with a lengthy intro cutscene explaining everything you need to know, from the setting, characters, and the one tower you will be constantly climbing. You’re then greeted with what I’m already noticing to be a staple in every modern Ys game: an anime music video showcasing the cast of characters. After a brief scene involving talking to a tree (yeah, I’m still wondering what the hell that was), I entered a nearby tower, where the entirety of the game is set in, and my journey truly began.
I’ve previously played Ys VIII and Ys: Memories of Celceta, and both of them were traditional action RPGs heavily influenced by Zelda. That’s not exactly the case in Ys Origin. While the game is still an action RPG at its core, it felt more like a metroidvania due to its level design and overall character progression. You can only explore one single tower, which granted, is immense, but that means that there aren’t sidequests, villages, or a lot of NPCs. You go from floor to floor, killing enemies, grabbing new items, and solving puzzles with said new items. In no way, shape or form this is a bad thing, however. Ys Origin‘s gameplay is actually fantastic. I loved it.
I’ve always praised the Ys games for their fast-paced combat, but Ys Origin takes the cake. I downright adore mowing down enemies in here. Killing monsters is so fun that I don’t mind grinding at all, just like in previous installments. The difference is that this game’s control scheme is even more reminiscent of a hack & slasher, favoring button mashing and fast-paced combos. That, combined with the ultra-smooth framerate and complete lack of loading times, makes Ys Origin a blast to play, especially in portable mode. It shocks me that this was originally released on computers fourteen years ago, as it feels right at home on the Switch.
Its presentation is also pretty good, considering its age. Ys Origin has obviously aged a bit in terms of its visuals, but it’s still quite nice to look at, especially when playing it on-the-go. Just like Octopath Traveler more than a decade later, it features sprite-based characters interacting on a 3D, polygonal environment. The developers did improve the aspect ratio and resolution to a more acceptable 2020 standard as well, making the game even more pleasing to the eyes. Looking at you, Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The only big issue with the visuals is the fact that the entire game is set inside a tower, therefore there isn’t a lot of variety when it comes to environments to explore. They do a good job at inserting lots of different traps and themes in each floor, but it still gets exhausting after a while.
Just like in any other game in the franchise, Ys Origin‘s soundtrack is great. It’s not the best I’ve heard so far, with Ys VIII taking the gold medal, but it’s still pretty good. All of the series’ staple sound effects are featured in here, including the lovely jingle that’s played whenever you acquire a key item. There is no voice acting in here, but considering the previously underwhelming performances in Ys VIII and Memories of Celceta, I have to admit, I’m glad they straight up skipped including any voicework whatsoever in this one.
Finally, while Ys Origin isn’t exactly a long game, it is actually very replayable. You can beat a campaign in about eight to ten hours, but put into account that there are multiple characters to choose from at the beginning of the game, each with vastly different attributes and gameplay styles. One is focused on magic spells, while my favorite character in the game, Yunica, is a weapons expert, playing similarly to Adol in previous Ys games. Once again, let me remind you: think of this game as a metroidvania first and foremost, not a proper RPG.
Ys Origin is a phenomenal fit for a system like the Switch. I loved its deliciously rewarding gameplay and metroidvania-esque gameplay loop. It might be the most underwhelming game in the franchise when it comes to plot and characters, but I didn’t mind that at all. For a game released in 2006, it’s amazing how well it has aged in pretty much every single aspect. This game isn’t only recommended towards Ys fans, although they’ll be the few people who will actually understand what the hell is going on with the story. If you’re also into hack & slashers or metroidvanias, go for it, this one is a must-have regardless.
This is a game from fourteen years ago, so it has definitely aged in some ways, but it still looks pleasant to the eyes thanks to its fusion of polygonal backgrounds and sprite-based characters. It looks great in portable mode, and the framerate is excellent.
It’s not a complex action RPG combat system, and that’s for the best. It’s very easy to learn, it’s fast-paced, and it’s incredibly rewarding. The rock-solid framerate also helps.
Not the most memorable Ys soundtrack, but still pretty good, with some standout tracks here and there. The lack of voice acting is actually a plus, considering how underwhelming Ys VIII‘s voice acting was.
Fun Factor: 8.5
It’s not long and its story and characters aren’t exactly as memorable as the ones featured in other entries, but Ys Origin‘s gameplay and smaller scope are a fantastic fit for a portable like the Switch.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Ys Origin is available now on PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Ys Origin was provided by the publisher.