The Ys series (pronounced “ease”) has been around for decades, with the first game releasing in 1987 on the NEC PC-8801, a home computer I didn’t know existed until I looked it up on Wikipedia.
This makes me a relative newcomer to Ys, having only recently played the PSP ports of Ys I & II and Ys: The Oath in Felghana this past November. Better late than never, I suppose.
Since then, there have been a number of remakes and revisions to the Ys library, with the latest being Ys: Memories of Celceta, an updated version of the fourth game in the series.
But enough about the past. We live in the present, and the present is now! Let’s get to it and talk about Ys: Memories of Celceta for the PS Vita.
In Ys: Memories of Celceta, you reprise the role of Adol Christin, the red-haired protagonist of the Ys series. It begins with an amnesiac Adol collapsing at the gates of Casnan City, where governor-general Griselda decides it’s best to task a clueless stranger with mapping Celceta while he recovers his lost memories. Although the story broadens quite a bit beyond this core concept, it at times feels like nothing more than a means to wrap things up once you’ve explored Celceta in its entirety.
This applies to the cast as well, and if you were hoping for deep, provoking character development, you’ll want to look elsewhere. Though highly likable, the cast of Ys: Memories of Celceta is generally flat and devoid of any significant growth as the story progresses. Interactions among characters are little more than exposition to keep you moving through the game. Don’t get me wrong; while the story is average, a few scenes are laugh-out-loud funny (a series of quests where you field test weapons for an apprentice blacksmith had me rolling)
As you travel, you’ll trudge through murky swamps, crawl through ancient ruins, and climb to the top of an icy mountain. Each area presents new foes to clobber and simple, yet enjoyable puzzles to solve. Ys: Memories of Celceta never lets you stagnate, keeping things interesting from start to finish.
Much like the other Ys games, combat is fast and fun. Controlling your crew has never been easier, and the Vita’s touch screen is a godsend, making it easy to navigate menus, select items, and zoom in and out of the map (which you’ll view frequently). I found myself using both the touch screen and buttons in tandem, saving a ton of time when healing characters during battle or switching equipment. The controls are perfect, making Ys: Memories of Celceta a pleasure to play.
Attacks are blocked and evaded with a single button press, but proper timing scores you a bonus that nullifies damage and slows down time, allowing you to score a few extra hits on your enemies. Likewise, you’re encouraged to use different characters to combat different enemies, as certain weapons are more effective against specific foes. Fortunately, switching between active party members is equally natural, managed with a tap of the Circle button.
Each new town presents you with a number of side quests, ranging from hide-and-seek with some lost chickens to reviving a deceased knight so you can battle him and set his spirit free. The quests are enjoyable, providing a breath of fresh air when you need a break away from exploration or the main story.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is a completionist’s dream, and if you play for Trophies, you have your work cut out for you. The Trophies encourage you to experience everything Ys: Memories of Celceta has to offer. To be honest, using the Trophies as a benchmark helped me slow down and enjoy the game versus rushing it with a single, over-powered character.
Do keep in mind that there are missable quests and events in Ys: Memories of Celceta, so you might want to play using a guide or take extra care to check back on the towns you’ve already visited if you hope to minimize the number of runs it takes to 100% the game. I won’t spoil too much for you, but akin to other games in the series, clearing Ys: Memories of Celceta opens additional modes of play, giving you a chance to take on new challenges and add those last few Trophies to your virtual trophy case.
Graphics & Audio
From the jaw-dropping character designs to the dazzling battle animations, Ys: Memories of Celceta puts on quite a show. If you enjoy anime or manga-inspired art styles, you’re going to love everything about this game. The hand-drawn character representations in dialogue boxes, the party menu, and certain cutscenes are outright gorgeous. The animations, special moves, and ultimate attacks for each character are equally stunning, surprisingly varied, and make it worthwhile to experiment with each party member as you journey through Celceta.
Each new area is completely unique, with transitions that feel natural as you travel from region to region. With the core premise centering around exploration, this kind of variation is welcome and thoroughly enjoyable.
Players familiar with Ys are already aware of the incredible music gracing its discography, and Ys: Memories of Celceta fails to disappoint. The music is just as energetic as the gameplay, matching the environments and atmosphere perfectly.
While the obnoxious and repetitive chimes of your party gathering items and shouting as they slay enemies run the risk of becoming annoying, they never bothered me. Plus, the sound of a “Flash Guard” or an “Excellent Kill” is empowering, making battles all the more entertaining.
Buy It, Try It, or Skip It?
Buy It – Whether you’re a long-time action RPG fan or simply need another excuse to pick up your Vita, Ys: Memories of Celceta will win you over.
Dynamic gameplay, beautiful environments, and well over 40 hours worth of content will keep you delighted as you explore the forests of Celceta. Fans of games like Star Ocean and Dynasty Warriors will feel at home, as Ys: Memories of Celceta seemingly combines the best elements of both while imitating neither – Ys was here first, after all.
As one of the best games currently available for the Vita, it’s also one of the few that I feel comfortable recommending to nearly anyone.
While the story and characters lack the depth and development some might hope for in an RPG, I don’t think Ys: Memories of Celceta is about that as much as it is about the sensation of adventure and discovery experienced when exploring the unknown.
If you do happen to pick this one up, you’ll to want to revisit Celceta again and again. I know I do.