Saturday, January 18, 2014

Game Review: Ys: Memories of Celceta (PS Vita)

According to Hardcore Gaming 101's intimidatingly detailed descriptions, Ys: Memories of Celceta is actually a remake of a 1993 PC game. Both contain similar story elements and characters, but obviously, the Vita version is much prettier to look at and has pimp sound.

As with all Ys games, the lead is Adol Christin, whose red hair is so unusual that pink-haired and blue-haired people remark upon it. Adol also happens to be a very talented swordsman, so even though the events of Memories of Celceta occur when he's a mere stripling of 18, players will have no problem dispatching various malformed creatures that drop gold and valuable materials when they die. As a bonus, sometimes their defeated corpses remain on the ground for you to pummel further for MOAR STUFF. Because RPG.

The game has an interesting introduction: Adol is seen wandering tiredly in a town before he passes out. It turns out he's lost his memories, and the last thing he did before becoming an amnesiac was go into the Great Forest. "No one has ever come out of there alive," solemnly intone many an NPC (non-playable character). Or maybe Duren said that. Duren is a handsome, burly man who appears out of nowhere claiming to be Adol's acquaintance. He also happens to have a sword with him, which he gives to Adol when monsters appear in the nearby mines (because RPG).

The refreshingly competent Governor General Griselda, seeing all the heroics and correctly identifying herself as a plot contributor, urges Adol to map the Great Forest. Adol thinks it will help him get his memory back, and Duren just wants to spend time with Adol. Other characters join, too, and Adol discovers more than he imagined! DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN.

Now here's a graded review of the game based on its components:

Gameplay: 9 out 10. Controls are simple and intuitive and all the basic RPG elements are present.

Sound: 9 out of 10. Falcom Sound Team jdk delivers once again. There are exuberant drums, frenetic electric guitar, and mad keyboards for energetic moments such as running through a field of monsters. Quieter moments get lovely piano pieces. Whatever the music is, it's sympatico with the events on the screen.

Combat: 9.5 out of 10. Give me real-time combat any day. It eliminates the loading time of turn-based encounters, plus the chaos is much closer to actual battle situations. Ys: Memories of Celceta also features Flash Move, which means evading at exactly the right time. Doing it successfully means the enemy slows down, so players who practice their hand-eye coordination are rewarded. Extremely useful during boss battles. Finally, tapping an enemy on the Vita screen reveals its stats, and saves it in your records for later perusing.

Graphics: 9 out of 10. My only quibble is the player's inability to control the camera angles, but this is probably because the development team wants you to experience the majestic vistas in the background in a more organic way. Despite being pre-rendered, the vision of a distant lakeside village while you scramble up a mountain, or the tantalizingly close ruins of a temple as you try to escape a swamp, are wonderful and enhance the fantasy elements.

Creature design: 7.5 out of 10. A lot of the monsters have different versions of essentially the same design, which is damn lazy. Three types of rock-throwing apes? Really? Meanwhile, the villains are drawn with so little imagination that they practically have their role stamped on their foreheads.

Character design: 9 out of 10. The heroes look great! The outfits are colorful and not terribly outrageous. There's gender equality in the representation of belly buttons and bare skin, the equal number of male and female playable characters, and in the fact that the highest military officer in the game is a woman. Plus, kudos to the designers for making Adol a realistically scrawny teenager, and to the writers for having any number of NPCs essentially tell him, "You are tiny!" He is.

Voice acting: 2.5 out of 10. The battle cries and little phrases whenever you switch characters ("My turn!") are fine. But the women sound awful, unless the squeaking of hamsters is music to your ears. Let us cease speaking of this travesty.

Story: 6.5 out of 10. Memories of Celceta starts out with an intriguing premise: the protagonist has already been in an adventure, and your job is to help him piece it all back together. The structure seemed promising: it starts at the end, and you must find the beginning and the middle, and then move forward to create a new ending. Alas, all players will find is a checked-off list of standard RPG tropes, such as:

  • Person with hidden agenda
  • Distrustful villagers
  • Villagers needing rescue
  • Cleavage villainess
  • Damsel in distress, preferably blonde
  • White-haired evil guy
  • Giant robots
  • Ancient kingdom that mysteriously vanished
  • Human agency versus destiny
  • Someone with wings
  • A sentient tree
  • Bodyguard crush, sort of

It's disappointing, especially given the superior storyline of its predecessor, Ys Seven. I think the difference is that Seven kept it simple, with only one major and well done twist, whereas Memories of Celceta threw in an extra "twist" and failed to adequately develop both.

Seriously, pick one! It's either you'e fighting the benevolent god of causality who experiences doubts and becomes tragically corrupted, or the spiteful leader of a group of exiled magic users who seek revenge.

Anyway, the game's final score is 77.5%. If you turn down the voice FX, it's fast, fun, and has good replay value. Recommended for JRPG fans!


For other gamers, here is my Ys: Memories of Celceta FAQ/Walkthrough on GameFAQs! I had originally written just a subquest guide, but GameFAQs rejected it because it was "unreasonably small." Le sigh. Since I am used to rejection thanks to my current job and my previous writing contest entries, I batted one eyelash and produced a full guide. So there!

This post brought to you by calamansi juice. Calamansi juice: apparently it's used as a poison antidote in Malaysia!