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RELEASE DATE (NA): May 31, 2012 GENRE: Action-RPG
// review by SoyBomb

Ys your way into the series.

Ys Origin is the first (and, perhaps, only) game in the Ys series not to star Adol Christin, the shaggily red-headed hero who faces adversity as often as we change our underwear. (That's not to say he is unplayable: he is featured as an unlockable character, but you sure need to jump through some hoops to make that happen.) The reason behind this is that Ys Origin is, as the title might imply, a prequel, occurring 700 years before Adol's first encounter with the Land of Ys. The history of relevant locations and events discussed in other Ys games, such as the twin goddesses, Reah and Feena, and the skyward Darm Tower, are all examined here to help explain their relevance in other Ys games.

You can play as three characters, two of which are readily available from the get-go, as they are set to climb to the top of Darm Tower and prevent the release of pure evil over the Land of Ys. Yunica Tovah, the granddaughter of an infamous priest, is not a magic user and relies primarily on her physical strength. Hugo Fact, aside from having the toughest name on the block, focuses on using his magical staff to unleash pain upon his enemies. A third, initially unavailable character is known only as "The Claw" and fights with epic speed as his claws slash through flesh and bone. As you play as each one, not only are the styles of gameplay different, but you get to see the story from a different set of eyes each time.

The style of gameplay presented is very simple. As with many other more recent Ys games, Ys Origin is, at heart, a hack 'n slash. You run around, slicing and dicing (or, if you're Hugo, casting missiles from your staff, creating a bit of a Contra-style shooter for fans of that genre). Hey, how about that? For once, the girl is the fighter and the guy is the magic use. That's a pleasant little twist of fate, isn't it? Your goal is annihilate as many of the nasty demon spawn that you encounter to crank out those experience points and give yourself stat boosts. Of course, leave the area and come back, and those baddies will have respawned, giving you another chance for extra points. Monsters also regularly drop SP (short for... ehhh... "shiny pieces"... yeah...), that can be exchanged for additional upgrades to your character, such as stat boosts for weaponry/armor and decreased recovery time for spells.

Spells, I say! Let me just say that not everyone can be adept at magic. I once tried to initiate a fire spell a few years back... I'm still paying off the damages to that elderly couple's house. Luckily, our brave heroes stumble upon jewels to give them extra (controlled) powers! Wield the power of fire, lightning, and wind to help tackle the weaknesses of enemies (and NOT the weaknesses of houses).

Needless to say, you're going to be outnumbered, outgunned, and outsized. Be prepared for some tough battles!

Beyond the regular adventure are extra things to do, including a Time Attack mode. It's also important to not that although this game has seen several releases in Japan to accommodate the advancement of Windows operating systems, Ys Origin was finally made available internationally with a full translation via Steam. If it's achievements and leaderboards that set a fire under your keister, Ys Origin is your ticket to happiness because Steam preys on such things.

The graphics are impressively detailed with full 3D environments, most of which are set into Darm Tower and retain a futuristic mechanical feel. Much of your trek will have a certain darkness to it, exuded by the desolate and sterile nature of your surroundings. There's very little in the way of cheerful surroundings. All characters and enemies (with the exception of bosses), by contrast, have impressively detailed sprites.

Audio is also rather enjoyable, although it still feels rather out of place for rock music to sometimes be playing in the background in a game like this. The voice acting is actually rather enjoyable, an aspect of RPGs that's very hit-and-miss; whichever character you choose, they will have a fair amount to say, unlike the oft-mute Adol. I'll give them kudos for the translation as well. It seems they weren't afraid to toss in a few swear words here and there, just to show emotion, because that's how people show their emotions. Cussin' and all.

Ys Origin is great for those who want to know more about the lore of the series (and so many parts tie in with past — but set in the future — installments), as well as those who love a good slasher. It controls rather well, and the game's presentation is often charming. For those who have never played a game from this series before, this one is a great way to YS your way into it. Ah ha ha! Ho ho ha! Funny.

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