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June 2021

Ys Origin

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: DotEmu
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Ys Origin'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 25, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Ys Origin is a prequel to the previous installments of the Ys series, taking place 700 years before the events of Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished, and tells much of the backstory of Ys, Darm Tower, the Black Pearl, the twin goddesses, and the six priests.

Buy Ys Origin

Ys is one of the longest-running franchises in the video game industry. Original released for Japanese PCs in the late 1980s, it was a standout title that saw the very earliest days of the action-RPG genre and a heavy story focus, all based around ship-sinking, red-haired protagonist Adol Christin. Since then, new Ys games have come every few years, each offering more advanced gameplay. Ys Origin was originally released in 2006, and it was the first game in the series to not star Adol; it focused on the backstory of the world instead. The Nintendo Switch port is a very solid re-release of what is at heart a good — but not great — game.

In Ys Origin, the lands of Ys is being attacked by a horde of demons. To protect the people, the goddesses who watch over the land lifted the people into the air. The demons responded by building a giant tower to reach the people, and they continued the assault — just as the goddesses seemingly vanished. The endangered people now need to find the goddesses before they all meet their doom. Two heroes are chosen for this quest: Yunica, a powerful warrior, and Hugo, a cunning mage. One doesn't play Ys Origin for the story; the narrative contains some nuggets of enjoyment for longtime Ys fans, but it's mostly window dressing to explain the need to delve into dungeons.

The core gameplay of Ys Origin can best be described as a standard action-RPG. Like other games in the Ys franchise, Origin is built around fast-paced action that demands the player's attention and focus. More to the point, it's also a game that heavily rewards aggression instead of cautious gameplay. You can get a variety of bonuses as long as you keep moving and attacking, and staying back causes you to lose those bonuses. This means you're encouraged to put yourself at risk and try to stay on the assault, which helps the game feel more intense and exciting. The title is largely about mashing the "attack" button while avoiding enemy attacks, so it might not stand out much amidst similar offerings.

The major difference in gameplay is due to your chosen character. By default, you have access to Yunica and Hugo. Yunica is going to be the most familiar to fans of the franchise. She's a powerful melee fighter who deals a ton of damage with her weaponry, but she feels a fair bit slower when compared to Adol. On the other hand, Hugo is a ranged attacker who can fill the screen with dangerous magic. He feels more forgiving than Yunica, but he's also less satisfying in that chunky "hit things with metal" sort of way. There is also a third unlockable character, "The Claw," who you can play as once you've finished the game; he's a melee fighter who focuses on speed over power. He's my favorite of the three to play, and he's worth the effort to unlock. Each character also has an unlockable variant that slightly changes how they play, but it's mostly for fun instead of any significant impacts to the gameplay.

Ys Origin is a fast-paced game, so you can finish a single run in around eight hours, but there's plenty of reason to play as the other two characters once you've completed the first go-round. Eight hours might not sound like much for an action-RPG, but it feels perfectly paced. The game didn't overstay its welcome, and because the core gameplay is so basic, it keeps the experience from getting stale. If it only had one playable character, it would probably feel too brief, but multiple characters ensures that you're nice and occupied.

In addition to the main story, there's also an Arena mode where you can take on waves of monsters in increasingly tougher arenas. Completing each wave earns points that you can use to unlock more arenas, the aforementioned variant characters, and — perhaps most significantly — the series protagonist, Adol. While Adol can only be used in Arena mode, he's a nice addition even if his move set is pulled directly from other games in the series. Arena mode is mostly for those who enjoy the gameplay and want to challenge themselves further, but it's a meaty addition for those who want more Ys Origin gameplay.

Ys Origin is a port of an older game, and it shows. It doesn't look terrible, but the character sprites are basic, and the environments are plain. The simple art style means that it doesn't look bad, but it isn't going to knock off anyone's socks. Fortunately, this also means the game runs great — after all, it could originally be played on the Vita — and is absolutely perfect for the Switch's handheld mode. It can certainly be played on the big screen, but the visual flaws are more obvious there. Fortunately, like so many Falcom games, Ys Origin is carried by some extremely good music. The music is almost universally fantastic and helps set the perfect pace for the game. It's hard to complain about the visuals when the music is a genuine treat from start to finish.

Ys Origin is a solid port of a solid game. The somewhat dated visuals and basic gameplay don't hide the generally strong game design. It never reaches far beyond the level of "pretty good," but it's still a blast to play. If you've never played any of the Ys titles, then Origin is an excellent place to start. If you have, Origin might seem too basic compared to some of the more recent offerings, but it's still well worth a look.

Score: 8.0/10

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