Ys Seven

PlayStation Portable
Reviewed: 8/24/2010

Ys Seven departs from traditional Ys titles in several ways. First off, this is the first title in over a decade to not be developed as a PC game, and then ported to another system; Ys Seven was developed for the PSP. Regardless of any changes, Adol Christin is still the lead of the game, and once again the player takes him through another part of world of Ys.

There are three key areas where Ys Seven excels: its speed, its boss battles, and its music. These should be a model for other developers when making an action RPG, and something players should expect from the genre.

This game is fast. Ys Seven was built for speed in every aspect. Combat is fast-paced, and a few times I even lost track of my lead character due to combat speed. The support items in the game often support the speed in combat, such as gaining extra SP, filling the EXTRA gauge quicker, increasing the radius in which items are collected, etc. These are fairly stereotypical items in others games, but made much more effective when used in conjunction with the combat system. Collecting items is also fast, and MMOs could learn a thing or two from Ys Seven. As stated above, the plot moves along very quickly so the player can get back into the action. As both an action RPG and a handheld game, this game’s speed shines through.

All characters have a quick step available, in addition to an odd feature the game does not seem to reference: the flash guard. Holding the ‘R’ button and pressing the ‘L’ button lets the player guard against an enemy’s attack. Precise timing is needed, though. If successful, the player will take no damage from the attack. If unsuccessful, the enemy gets a critical hit.

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Boss battles in Ys Seven are epic, and they’re made even more intense by the small item capacity. The maximum amount allowed for healing items is five for individual healing items and three for whole-party healing items. There’s no using 99 healing potions to weather the storm in Ys Seven. Additionally, bosses do a lot of damage with their attacks. They also have tons of hit points; even with the best gear available, the player is merely shaving bits of HP off. One must always be on the move during boss fights, looking for attack signals and patterns to avoid getting hit while attacking and counterattacking when able. These bosses will change tactics or the pace of battle, too, meaning they’ll require a combination of recognition, reflexes, and timing not seen in most other action RPGs.

The third thing in which Ys Seven excels is its music. The regular overworld and dungeon music is very well done, but the boss pieces are amazing. When the player hears the boss music begin playing, the music makes the moment feel epic. There’s a fight coming — a damn good one — and you’d best not mess it up. I am not very skilled with action games, but the boss music alone convinced me I stood chance to beat these monstrosities. I cannot think of another game that did such a thing for me.

A big difference in this new iteration of Ys is the lengths the game goes to set up its plot. Previous games released in America were content with handing a quest and sword to Adol and kicking the player out the front gate within fifteen minutes of hitting start. Seven takes a little over an hour before combat rears its head — a slow start that will be detrimental to players looking to get into action part of this action RPG. As a portable game, an hour lead in is a little much, but Ys Seven‘s slow start is one of very few weak points.

Ys Seven‘s plot is almost identical to that of Lunar: Silver Star Harmony, and to players of both, Seven does not do a good job of hiding this. But the twists in Ys are just as enjoyable, if less dramatic. Fantastically presented, the story does not put the player out of action for more than a few minutes, outside of two spots.

Despite its similarities to Lunar, Ys Seven does have good moments that make the player stand up and take notice. At one point, Adol is forced to fight alone, and the scene beforehand offers a simple glance of honesty into the country of Altago. The people and their settings lend Altago a very nice picture of their world, even if that world is broken up in typical JRPG fashion. Altago City merchants are complete jerks, by the way.

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One thing that some may find irksome about Ys Seven is the inclusion of names of real life individuals as the NPCs. Few things detract from a fictional world based on Turkey quicker than running into Michael Wooton or Zak McShane. It’s understandable these people either helped with the game or were big fans who might have won a contest, but most of these people bearing these names were quest givers with whom the player has much interaction with. It was kind of off-putting to continually run into this sort of thing, especially given the rest of the NPCs in the game are not normally named, just described using a perceived trait by Adol.

XSeed’s localization is solid, as characters actually speak in a modern fashion outside of the dragons. There are times when the dialogue causes shudders with the addition of some popular-yet-lame saying, but these moments are thankfully uncommon. The dragons attempt to emulate the “dost” and “thouests” of a far yesteryear are very odd, but for the most part work, especially in the final context of the dragons.

The playable characters are decent to be around, but not as well hashed out as a stereotypical RPG. Outside of the final antagonists, Dogi, and a returning character from Ark of Napishtim, there just isn’t much about to the characters to feel for. Adol and Dogi have had several games to characterize themselves with, so these two are well taken care of. Dogi’s a joker/smartass type of character, and his lines are mostly pleasant to read. Adol is a twist on the mute protagonist. He has dialogue to give, but it is presented as a description of what he is saying. “Adol expresed his gratitude” is a good example. This allows the player to interpret Adol a little more closely to themselves if they wish, while still retaining Adol’s perpetual ability to be the good guy, or Adol’s sense of “self.”

Graphically, the game is very nice. Colors are bright and the characters animate well. Many characters have portraits and cut-ins which occur during cutscenes. Its developers haver certainly put a lot of effort into the beautiful land of Altago, giving it tons of stuff in the background to look at. The Wind Altar and Earth Dragon Dungeons are spectacular to behold, especially when the player first steps foot in the Wind Altar.

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On a similar note to graphics, the level design in the game is superb. Paths intertwine and connect, and often the player will see parts of the dungeon in the distance and then access said parts later. This enhances the exploration aspect of the game. The dungeons are long, and typically completing these parts of the game will give the player a shortcut to the end of the dungeon. The dungeons are also the right amount of length for this type of game. Long enough to be interesting, but not too long to complete. Some of the dungeons, with their twisting paths, seem much longer than they actually are. The game does have its share of backtracking, which will lend to the size of the dungeons.

Quests tend to focus on harvesting items or bringing back plot items to certain NPCs. Synthesizing requires harvest items and enemy drops. Synthesizing armor and weapons is a heck of a lot cheaper and more stat-boosting than buying the equipment outright. Needless to say, the best items in the game are only available through synthesizing. Due to the game’s challenge, some of them are quite necessary. Quests and synthesizing, outside of three optional boss battles, make up the bulk of the game’s optional stuff to do.

The amount of items available is staggering. Expect to replace eqipment very, very often — sometimes within five minutes of getting it. If it weren’t for the rapid availability of everything else, this might be an annoying factor.

Weapons in Altago have abilities in them. Characters can learn special abilities by equipping a weapon and using that ability until it reaches level one. Abilities are fueled by SP, which is regained by hitting enemies normally, or much quicker with a charge attack. Abilities are keyed to the four face buttons plus ‘R’ and can be swapped out on the equipment menu. There is also an EXTRA gauge which fills when special abilities are used., and each character has a unique EXTRA attack.

Adol is not alone in his adventure, as two additional party members help him out. Party members typically have a weapon type — piercing, heavy, or slash — which determines how they damage an enemy. The three types of damage form a rock, paper, scissors relationship with enemies. Structuring the party to fulfill each of these roles is ideal. Players can switch between partners at any time on the fly to directly control the damage output. This is very helpful, as only the party lead does any real damage against an enemy. The damage output of the other members is severely reduced, but in exchange the damage the other party members take is also severely reduced. On normal, they damage they receive is almost nothing. The party members also help out by collecting items that drop once all the monsters are dead. Party members AI can be set to very simple commands, but even though the characters do take minimal damage, they also know how to get the hell out of the way of attacks. A player can learn something about dodging from them.

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This is the first time Adol has had active party members with him at all times. All the action on the screen took some time to get used to. On a personal level, it may have been better to allow Adol to toggle weapons a la Ark of Napishtim, but the other characters do have their uses, especially considering how hard the game can get. It’s nice to have another character to switch to and save your butt.

Ys Seven offers little in terms of replay value outside of attempting the game on another difficulty. The game has all four difficulties available when the player selects a new game. Normal mode is plenty challenging, but for hardcore gamers the Nightmare mode might be a little more their speed. For anyone attempting the harder difficulties, do master the flash guard. It’s a necessity. I do question the lack of a boss rush mode, present in several other Ys titles.

The game’s load times are very quick on the UMD, and even faster with the PSN download. The save speed of the game is excellent — sometimes so fast, it didn’t even seem right.

In the end, any problems Ys Seven has are blown away by the plusses of the game. The speed, boss fights, and music are exemplary among both action RPGS and games. The design fits the portable gaming market fantastically. If there had been more replay value, more characterization, and the streamlining of the equipment and inventory systems, the game could be considered peerless. I literally could not put the game down. Ys Seven is fantastic, an easy recommendation, and an example to everyone on how a game should play.

-Russ Ritchey

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Excellent
Story Good
Graphics Great
Sound/Music Legendary
Replay Value Low
The Verdict: Excellent