- Entertaining boss fights, solid synthesis mechanic, outstanding soundtrack, very low load times
- Lacks depth due to shallow customisation, animation is jerky
It won't be hailed as 2010's deepest role-playing experience, but what Falcom's Ys Seven lacks in narrative and character depth it more than makes up for in entertaining and engaging combat-heavy gameplay.
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I'll admit, I'm happy for Ys fans. After years of missing out on even remakes like Ys I & II Eternal for the PS2, XSeed's decision to localise not one but three Ys games must seem like mana from heaven. Even better, the latest game in the series is a solid RPG in its own right, and certainly a worthy entrant in the long-running series.
Ys Seven marks the latest adventure of Adol Christin, the red-haired protagonist who has appeared in every game save Ys Origins. This time around, Adol and his companion Dogi roll up on the distant land of Altago -- roughly equivalent to the real-world's Carthage -- and soon get caught up in the local politics. In time, Adol discovers that an ancient evil has been awakened, and that it's up to him to stop it.
What I just described is pretty much every Ys game ever, but the Ys series has never been one for complex narratives. All you really need to know is that it's a standalone adventure that doesn't require prior knowledge of the other games to enjoy. That said, longtime fans will be happy to be reminded of the events of Ys VI, along with a few other minor references.
Where Ys Seven differs from past games in the series is in its new party mechanic. Whereas Adol previously worked alone, he's now accompanied by up to two other companions. Each character serves as the party's rock, paper, or scissors, potentially doing additional damage or none at all depending on their weapon affinity. The exception is Adol, who can eventually take on different roles by equipping different weapon types.
The new system does little to slow down the action, as it's possible to switch between party members with a quick press of the square button. Bosses also remain fairly tough despite the extra leeway afforded by the additional party members. All of them sport fairly complex patterns and a wide range of attacks, so I couldn't just hack and slash and hope for the best. They could be frustrating at times, but I found them to be the most memorable part of the game outside of the music, which is as fast-paced and entertaining as always.
The 20 to 30 hour adventure as a whole moves at roughly the same pace as its soundtrack. Overworld monsters explode into colourful gems at the rate of roughly one every ten seconds, and the story wastes precious little time on distractions like exposition. If there's any negative to this, it's that it has the effect of making the experience feel a little shallow at times, particularly given the lack of any real character customisation.
The customisation mostly revolves around buying, uncovering, and synthesising new weapons, which yields new skills for each of the game's nine playable characters. Beyond that, the only consideration is which skills to plug into the individual slots. Skills gain experience along with the characters, but the game doles out the XP quite liberally. And once a skill has gained a level, it's no longer attached to a weapon and can be used freely.
But what Ys Seven lacks in depth it makes up with energy. There's little downtime, making it a good fit for a portable platform, and the boss fights are just fun enough to keep things from getting tedious. Best of all, it seems as if Falcom has finally figured out the PSP, as load times are at a minimum.
Falcom has served up a very solid action-RPG in Ys Seven, and for once North American fans don't have to wonder whether they get to play it.
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