Monday, January 11, 2016

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Ys: Memories of Celceta (Vita) Review

Time for the first review of 2016... and it's for a game that released in 2013! Okay, just two years and two months late. That's why this is a Better Late Than Never review! I adore the Ys series, and have been playing through them when I get the chance. While I like the Oath in Felghana platforming-heavy approach more when compared to this Ys Seven-style, Ys: Memories of Celceta is still a well done game. See my complete thoughts with this review.

A wondrous stroll down memory lane

With information that the eighth mainline game in the Ys series is receiving more news this year, it seemed like an appropriate time to finally dig into the PlayStation Vita entry of the storied Ys franchise, Ys: Memories of Celceta. Considered a remade version of the fourth Ys entry from long ago, Western gamers finally get another chance to take over the role of famed adventurer Adol Christin in another epic action-RPG adventure worthy of taking a walk down memory lane for.

And that is literal too. Memories of Celceta begins with an extraordinarily weakened Adol Christin slowly strolling into a town with no memory of who he is or where he's from. He happens upon Duren, an information dealer, and someone who knows Adol. After taking it upon himself to rescue workers trapped in a mine, an impressed general hires Adol to chart out the unknown that is the Great Forest. With Duren in tow to guide him, Adol ventures into the Great Forest, coming across memories along the way to find out what he was doing when he lost his memories, how he lost his memories, and what his role is in Celceta's future.

Ys: Memories of Celceta features the cliche anime trope of the main character having amnesia, but how the story pieces things together, revealing Adol's encounters with people before losing his memory, is pretty interesting. These memories are gained through touching special glowing objects in the world, and the scenes themselves don't reveal too much as they are context-free. You only learn the situation behind Adol's past encounters later in the game. What it all ends up being is an engaging story from beginning to end with plenty of twists to keep players involved with Memories of Celceta's tale.

It is this town that the story of Ys: Memories of Celceta begins.
Memories of Celceta plays more similarly to Ys Seven than games like Ys Origin and Oath in Felghana. Unlike the latter two games, there is no platforming to be found in Memories of Celceta, which is disappointing but expected since this game follows Ys Seven's gameplay to a "T", Combat is party-based with up to three party members on screen at the same time that can be switched between at will via the Circle button. In total, there are six party members in Memories of Celceta, and outside of specific event battles, party members can be shifted in and out of the active duty members via a pause menu.

Party members in Memories of Celceta each possess an attack type that can be organized into one of the three types: either Slash, Strike, or Pierce. Certain enemies are weaker against one type than they are another, with some being strong against specific attack types. While Adol uses Slash attacks, Duren utilizes Strikes. Defeating an enemy with an attack type they are weak against will award you with an Excellent Kill, having the foe let loose rarer materials than they would otherwise.

A yellow number means your type of attack is strong against this enemy.
There's more to Memories of Celceta's combat system than basic attacks. As you defeat monsters and enemies, you're bound to unlock new moves called Skills. Through holding the R button and pressing one of the face buttons, you can unleash one of these Skills at foes. As you continue using Skills, they level up in power, much like Adol and friends level up from defeated foes. However, despite there being so many Skills that can be learned, you'll find yourself using a few favorites most of the time, as not every Skill is as useful as you'd like. Skills can't just be used willy-nilly. Each Skill used costs points to use, and while points quickly regenerate, you can't just spam a Skill twenty times in a row, which is a good way of keeping the player honest.

Use Skills to dish out more damage than you would otherwise.
The last form of offense for Adol's party is the EXTRA ability. Through delivering attacks and taking damage, a meter fills on the bottom right corner of the screen. Once it has been filled, a press of the L button will unleash a devastatingly powerful series of attacks that will stop all enemies in their tracks and allow your party to attack with tremendous ire.

While a good defense is a oftentimes a good offense, sometimes a good defense is simply a good defense. Adol and friends can dash not just to sprint across areas of the world quickly, but also to evade certain attacks. In addition, they can put up their weapons and guard attacks to lessen the damage received. However, even better, if either a dodge or a guard is activated with perfect timing, just as an enemy makes contact with them, either attacking for double damage for a temporary amount of time or slowing down the enemy immensely will take place. In later difficulties, these types of guards and evades done smartly will make the difference between a victorious battle and a game over. These defensive abilities might make it easy to cheese certain battles and scenarios, but overall, they're nice to have, and one feels like a defensive god if they can continue doing well timed guards and evasions one after another.

Duren gets up close and personal with this killer crustacean. 
Around the land of Celceta are material spawn points such as rocks and plants. They also are dropped by defeated enemies. Materials can be used to reinforce equipment to make them stronger, can be used to create rarer materials through synthesis, and can be used to make new accessories. Accessories range from equipment that raises a party member's base health to holding off various status ailments like poison and paralysis. The crafting system in Memories of Celceta is very easy to learn, but it can occasionally require some serious grinding to get the materials you want, especially the rarer ones.

Speaking of the land of Celceta, the world of this Ys game is quite large. Many times you'll just want to forgo your current objective and explore different areas, searching for material points or hidden treasure chests. Unfortunately, until about halfway through Memories of Celceta, the game's fast travel system is a proverbial pain in the butt. Before you gain the ability to transport instantaneously to any warp point on the map, you are only able to use warp points directly from their locations, and even then, you can only transport to a warp point of the same color as your current one. Many areas are segregated greatly, requiring some nasty backtracking if you wish to return to past areas.

A postcard view from Celceta.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is a 20-25 hour game the first time through. Upon beating the game, you can start a new game with all of your current levels, stats, and most of your items and equipment. This makes the hardest difficulty, Nightmare Mode, much more manageable. There are also Boss Rush and Time Attack modes, one that pits you against a steady stream of the game's bosses all one after another, while the other allows you to select a boss and see how fast you can relinquish them.

In addition to all that, there are quests within Memories of Celceta that consist of various tasks like defeating a certain monster, delivering a specific material or accessory, and so forth that can be completed. Though some of these have time gates applied to them, meaning that if you don't complete them before you reach a certain point in the game, you fail them automatically. Not very cool if you're trying to complete all quests and happen to save. That then equates to having to try to do all the quests again on another save file.

Memories of Celceta is a strange beast in the graphical department. While the environments and backgrounds are quite beautiful and impressive, the character models are much less so, almost a couple steps away from last gen PlayStation handheld quality. Still, this is only really noticeable in scenes where the camera closes in on a character, which happens more than I'd like. Meanwhile, the voice acting, though very sporadic and very rare in where it gets delivered in the story, is done well. The music, while not reaching the highs of Oath in Felghana, my favorite of the Ys soundtracks, impresses with plenty of hard rock, orchestral, and catchy tunes and themes.

The environments aren't too shabby. The character models? Could be better.
While not at the top of my list of Ys games that I've played, Ys: Memories of Celceta managed to engross me throughout its entire 24 hour duration. The story, though initially coming across as cliche, brought enough freshness and twists to keep me interested, the gameplay was as fast-paced and intense as ever, and the Vita's touch screen features didn't feel all that forced. With some issues with presentation, fast travel, and backtracking, Ys: Memories of Celceta is not a game without some pertinent flaws. However, much like Adol Christin himself, sometimes with these kinds of things it's just better to forgive and forget. Emphasis on the forgetting part.

[SPC Says: B+]

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