Ys (pronounced “ease”) is a long-running Japanese action RPG, created by Nihon Falcom in 1987. Ys: Memories of Celceta is actually the fourth version of Ys IV, and the only one made by the original developer. Yes, it’s all a bit confusing, but all you need to know is this: Ys: Memories of Celceta is one of the greatest action RPGs ever created, and easily one of the PlayStation Vita’s best games.
At the outset of the game, series protagonist Adol Christin awakens in the town of Casnan, not knowing how he got there or even his own name. Luckily, the red-headed swordman finds an ally in Duren, a mercenary who tells Adol that he was last seen wandering into the Great Forest. Duren agrees to accompany Adol on his journey to regain his memories, but seems possibly more interested in money than helping out his fellow man. The local government wants to hire the pair to map out the uncharted territory of Celceta, offering a large reward. Adol will gain more companions on his adventure, for a total of six party members that offer plenty of combat diversity.
Speaking of combat, it’s easily one of the greatest things about Ys: Memories of Celceta. The combat system here is easy to pick up and rewarding to master, offering three different weapon types (Strike, Slash and Pierce) that each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Your party can have three members at a time, and switching characters on the fly, casting enchantments, and unleashing EXTRA skills on your opponents makes for fast, frenetic and most of all fun gameplay. While leveling up in some RPGs can feel like a true grind (*cough Final Fantasy cough*), the combat in Ys: Memories of Celceta is so engaging and well-done that it actually becomes kind of addictive. The controls for the most part are flawless, and touchscreen actions are never shoehorned into the experience. Refining ores and upgrading your equipment always feels like a great excuse to find the biggest, baddest foe roaming the open plains and obliterate them with your shiny new toys. The overworld of Celceta is a breeze to navigate, with a detailed map, waypoints for instant warping between locations, and a journal that keeps track of all of your quest progress and story details.
While there are many things that make Ys: Memories of Celceta a fantastic Vita game, it certainly isn’t a technical showpiece. While the game has very solid art direction, as well as interesting environment and character designs, there’s no denying that it looks a bit dated. It’s more akin to an up-rezzed PSP title when put up against graphical powerhouses like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Killzone: Mercenary. Despite the relatively low level of visual detail, there are times when the framerate drops noticeably, which is a bit ridiculous for a title with a fixed camera. Still, it looks nice for the most part on the Vita’s OLED screen.
Overall, Ys: Memories of Celceta is a must-buy for Vita owners looking for an RPG to sink some time into. As a newcomer to the series I was pleasantly surprised at the game’s fluid combat mechanics, interesting story and relatively vast world. If your Vita’s currently gathering dust, I highly recommend this.