Falcom’s Ys series has been a Japanese role-playing game staple for a long, long time now. They’re some of the best action JRPGs available, with some of the most fun combat in the genre you can find and a penchant for incredible soundtracks.
Ys: Memories of Celceta (or Foliage Ocean in Celceta if you translate the Japanese name, which sounds way better) is the latest Ys game, just released on PlayStation Vita. With updated graphics for the modern era, another incredible soundtrack, and multiple playable characters, Celceta is a lot of fun to play. However, there are also a lot of problems with it.
Let’s start with the biggest offender; Celceta’s story is your typical anime-style amnesia affair. Main character (Adol, in this case) stumbles out of the forest of Celceta into a town, where he blacks out. Upon awakening, he has no recollection of his memories prior to leaving the forest.
He meets a man named Duren (another playable character), who seems to know him. Upon rescuing some miners in the town he woke up in, the local military authority sets him the task of mapping the forest of Celceta, and Duren agrees to help him, in hope that he’ll rediscover his memories along the way. Commence adventuring.
The plot is incredibly clichéd, and it’s not even a good version of the amnesia trope. It’s extremely vague on story for the most part, and when you do actually get story sequences (in new areas, towns or memories etc.), it’s not at all interesting or compelling – it’s not even really worth paying attention to. You’d probably be better served skipping most of the story sequences (as long as they’re not animated cut scenes, which we’ll get to in a bit) to get to the main attraction, i.e. the action.
Judge this book by its gameplay
And that’s worth pointing out. This game is not one you should go into for the story, that’s not the main attraction here; that would be, without a doubt, the gameplay. The Ys series has always boasted some of the fastest, most fluid JRPG action available, and what may seem like a simple hack ‘n’ slash combat system is incredibly deep. Each character you gain will have a different fighting style and move set, utilising different weapon and skills.
With a fast and varied combat system with so much variety from character to character, I found myself constantly switching back and forth between them (which you can do simply by pressing the circle button). Of course you’ll always have a style that you’ll find favourable over the others (Adol’s was mine), it’s still fun to switch between them for periods of time. And you’ll need to constantly switch if you want to get the most out of the game.
Each character has a certain weapon type they use, and different types are effective against certain enemies. Adol’s Slash type and Duren’s Strike type are the two you’ll become familiar with early, but as the game goes on you’ll find other characters and be able to use the Pierce type.
You’ll get bonuses depending on what types of weapons you have in the party, for example having three different weapon types will give you a bonus to finding rarer items and materials, while having more than one of the same type will give that type a damage bonus. Finding the weaknesses of enemies and using the different types of weapon to defeat them carries significant advantages, in the form of quicker fights, better experience/items and filling out the bestiary, which adds to that all important completion percentage. Completing the map is also something that’s significant, as it’s not only related to the story, but you’ll also get rewards for every ten percent of the map you explore, so make sure you walk into every nook and cranny you see.
Another big part of combat is the use of skills. Each character has various skills they will learn as they level, which can be assigned to the right shoulder button and any of the face buttons. Using skills fluidly in combat is essential for maximising your damage, and knowing when to use them is key, as they’re tied to the SP resource. Spam your button presses too much and you’ll find yourself unable to use any until you start bopping some enemies again. Finishing off enemies with skills will also net you bonuses when you defeat them, so keep that in mind.
Tale of two senses
It’s a good thing the combat is so good, because it’s probably the only technical aspect of the game that is. Celceta is clearly not running at native resolution on the Vita; it looks quite blurry and a bit washed out at times, and what’s worse is that doesn’t even get you a solid, consistent framerate. It’s really poor, it chugs in open areas and even worse in towns, and it’s all the more infuriating when it happens during combat. One would have to wonder how much worse it would be if it was indeed running at native resolution. Perhaps it’s the open environments or the amount of enemies on-screen, but I have seen better looking games the seem more intensive on the hardware that run better.
Thankfully, the music is as good as ever. It’s a given with Falcom games; if you’re playing a Falcom JRPG it will have amazing music. Celceta is thankfully no exception. From the roaring guitar solos to even the mellow tracks, the soundtrack for Celceta is nearly perfect. It does an amazing job of creating hype around battles, exploration and bosses. This is one where you’ll want a nice pair of headphones with the volume turned all the way up… just try to ignore the voice acting while you’re at it.
I think it’s fair to say I enjoyed my time with Ys: Memories of Celceta. It’s immensely fun from a gameplay standpoint, and the score is amazing. However it’s not something I’d recommend without reservation.
If you’re coming at it looking for something that’s a lot of fun to play and you don’t really want much else, then go for it; as it’s one of the most enjoyable JRPGs on the Vita. However, if you’re expecting a decent story to go with it and you want a more technically proficient game, there are better games on the Vita than Celceta.