Back in the day, with the day being the late 80’s and early 90’s, I loved adventures and RPG’s. I recovered the Triforce time and again in The Legend of Zelda. I discovered the secrets of both Mana and Evermore. Earthbound was like a mother’s embrace to me. And don’t get me started on Final Fantasy II and III (or IV and VI for you picky people). I love the old school RPG, which is why I can wholeheartedly say that Ys Seven is a complete triumph. If you want something that takes you right back to “the day,” this is the game for you.
Now don’t be intimidated because this is the seventh Ys of the Ys series. By the way, I’m pretty sure its pronounced yeeeeeees. Anyway, Ys is a completely self contained story. It concerns adventurers Adol and Dogi, Adol being the red haired knight in shining armor and Dogi being the lovable giant who enjoys smashing down walls. The game begins as they hop off of a boat docking in the land of Altago. Faster than you can say “Chosen One” Adol and Dogi find themselves wrapped up in a quest to save the land from a certain indescribable doom by awakening five dragon gods. There are a few references to previous adventures sprinkled throughout the game, but on the whole you can come into this completely clean and still get what is going on.
Once you start up the game you quickly begin to recognize a whole bunch of familiar plot devices. Adol is, of course, the chosen one who can do all the super awesome things that nobody else can do. Dogi is the surly but likable best friend/strong man. There’s a princess who decides she wants to go adventuring with the heroes. There’s a moody loner with a troubled past who acts as the hero’s rival/companion. There’s the forest level, the fire level, the wind level, the water level. You get specific upgrades in each that allows you access to new areas. Yes, we have all seen this before. But this doesn’t feel like a retread. Ys Seven isn’t old hat. Its not repetitive, its comfortable. You like going to all these familiar places, doing familiar things and following a familiar plot because it is done well. Not to mention that the characters are written quite well. The feisty princess, for example, has been done in numerous other games, and often much more annoyingly. Here she isn’t irritating. She’s quite outgoing, but still written as an actual human being and not just a caricature. This is how the entire game is presented and was one of the big reasons I kept playing. I liked Adol and Dogi and the others and wanted to see what happened to them.
It also helps that the game is really fun to play. This is an action RPG in the style of Secret of Mana. You directly control one of three characters at a time. You can switch between each of the three characters at any time during play with the push of a button. You also have a stable of other characters that you can swap in and out of your current party. Each character has a different type of attack. Sword people have stabbing attacks, the bruisers do heavy attacks, bow and arrow people have piercing attacks and so on. This goes into the enemy weakness system. Each enemy is a different type. Different types of attacks work well against different types of enemies. For example, if a monster has a rock hard skin you couldn’t very well pierce it with an arrow. But get Dogi and his gigantic smashing fists of fury in there and that monster will go down in seconds. This makes you think on your feet, as combat, especially combat with the bosses, is fast paced and frantic.
And oh man the bosses. Can I talk about the bosses quick? I’m gonna talk about the bosses quick. These are some of the best bosses I’ve seen in any game in a while. The bosses in Ys Seven take the form of monsters called titanos. They are big. They are mean. They are creatively designed. They require you to think on your feet. You will be ducking and dodging and rolling out of the way of multiple attacks as your characters try to find the right time to scrape off just a little bit more health from this gigantic monster. And by the way, since I neglected to mention it earlier, your computer controlled characters are smart. They know how to stay out of trouble and rarely get themselves killed. You don’t have to babysit them as you would in some other games.
So when you kill monsters you get coins and experience. You also get various other bits, like monster bones and feathers and whatnot. You can use these things to synthesize new items and weapons at stores. That’s neat thing number one about the stuff you can buy in this game. Neat thing number two is what happens when you equip new weapons. Each weapon comes equipped with a skill. By equipping this weapon you equip this skill. By holding down the R button and pressing one of the face buttons you use whatever skill is assigned to that button. When you level up the skill, you can now use that skill with any weapon your character equips from then on. Each skill keeps leveling up the more you use it. I’d call this the game’s magic system, but its really more of a be-awesome-with-swords-and-stuff system. Either way its really fun to use. And once again showing how good the AI is, your computer controlled buddies use skills all on their own, leveling themselves up when you’re not in control of them.
It is at this point that I realize I haven’t even talked about the graphics or music. In short, they’re both awesome. The game looks fantastic on the PSP, with bright and vivid worlds filled with interestingly designed creatures. Yes, it does hit all the old standard environments, but they’re all well done. The music is perfect. There just isn’t a better word for it. From classical music to sad songs to the rocking electric guitar soundtrack of the boss battles, each note hits the exact perfect spot when it comes to setting the mood.
Ys Seven does not do that much in the way of new things. There is no mold breaking going on here. But what it does do is bring back everything that is fun about the classic old school RPG. In a way, its one of the best Super Nintendo RPG’s that was never made. Its exactly the type of game that I would have loved back in the day. Having now played Ys Seven my only regret is not having sampled what of the previous six that actually made it to America. I shall soon remedy this when XSEED Games releases Ys 1-3 on the PSP. And that, I think, is the best way to sum up this review. It made me want to play all the other games in the series. If you can’t call that a success, I don’t know what one is.