Journeying Back to the Ancient Forest
Ys: Memories of Celceta was, and still is, one of my top games in the PlayStation Vita’s library. Among some of the other examples of great software on Sony’s ill-fated yet potent handheld, Memories of Celceta is one of the shining examples of what the little portable could pull off. I enjoyed it so much that I even dug deep and got the platinum trophy for it. It’s admittedly been a while since I last picked it up, but XSEED has given me another reason to check it out; this time on my PC. Ys: Memories of Celceta is, at its core, a remake of the fourth entry in Nihon Falcom’s long-running Ys series (though it could be argued it’s more of a re-telling). This game takes place timeline-wise between Ys II and Ys III, and finds the flame-haired series protagonist Adol Christin adventuring across the land of Celceta trying to sate his curiosity. That is, until trouble finds him, as it usually does.
At the start of the game Adol’s already in a world of hurt; an unfortunate series staple for him. Battered and exhausted, he collapses in the middle of the game’s central city, Promalock, with no idea where or who he is; he’s lost all his memories. Thankfully Adol has friends in the right places, and his local pal-for-hire Duren gets him to safety. Hearing the local news that the occupying Romun army will be offering a bounty to explore and map the great Celcetan forest, the two decide it would be worth their time to take up the offer. By exploring the massive ancient forest of Celceta, Adol can hopefully find a way to get his memories back and Duren can make some much-needed coin along the way, should be a fun adventure, right? In pure Falcom fashion, the simple answer is – yes, it is.
Making my way downtown~
“Adol, dude…we’ve been going in circles for hours now. Pick a shop already man!”
Differing from other games in the series prior to it, but improved upon from the engine introduced in Ys Seven, Ys Memories of Celceta is all about exploring a giant, interconnected map similar in fashion to a Metroid game, albeit in 3D. The primary focus is on the great forest of Celceta itself, with towns and dungeons sprinkled around it, and sections within the forest itself being their own unique areas. There is a lot to see in the 30 or so hours this game has to offer (around 50 if you’re a completionist like me), and it rewards you greatly for exploring every nook and cranny. Falcom are masters of their craft, and the way they have constructed the world of Ys: Memories of Celceta is done in such a way that the feel of exploration and discovery never feels dry or bland. Finding new items to get to areas you previously couldn’t and thinking critically to find that treasure chest that’s slightly out of reach always feels exciting and worthwhile. It makes you want to keep going and get that 100% completion rate.
We’re gonna need a bigger map
You’ll have to search high and low to fill this bad boy in!
The characters and story will keep you coming back too. There are a host of interesting individuals populating the towns within Celceta, each with their own mannerisms, backstory, and a host of side quests to further flesh things out. Even your own party members have a lot more going on than what they present on the surface. The story isn’t quite as deep as Ys VIII‘s, but it still serves as a good story with just the right amount of twists and revelations to keep you engaged the whole way through. I had played through the original version of Ys IV (The Dawn of Ys on the PC Engine) prior to playing Memories of Celceta on my Vita, and seeing how fleshed out and deep this remake (or re-telling, if you will) was in comparison captivated me, and made me respect Falcom, as well as XSEED’s localization efforts, a whole lot more than I already had before.
Karna, do you even know who you’re talking to?
That’s like telling a dolphin to stop swimming.
Celceta being a huge area to explore, it doesn’t make sense for Adol to go it alone. In addition to Duren, there are five other characters who join you on your journey. Also introduced in Ys Seven, the Party System makes its return here. Two other characters travel with you on screen, and a simple tap of a button swaps who you are in control of at any given time. The key purpose of the Party System is exploiting weaknesses in combat. Certain enemies are weak to certain attack types, and switching to the right character is essential to making a quick kill. This not only makes gameplay faster but also nets you item drop bonuses. Said items are key in making consumable items and upgrading your armor and weapons, so it’s important to grab as much as you can while adventuring about. Additionally, there are certain key skills characters have that you must utilize to explore the land of Celceta. Duren has the ability to pick locks, and Karna can use her throwing knives to cut down objects the others can’t reach, for example. The game is entirely built around utilizing each character’s strengths, and it’s built in a way that never breaks up the flow of exploration and gameplay.
While Ys: Memories of Celceta was originally a PlayStation Vita title, XSEED have brought a host of improvements to the PC release. The game can now be played all the way up to 4k resolution and 120 FPS, there are numerous graphical enhancements to choose from, and there are tweaks such as a high-speed fast forward mode and options to skip cutscenes entirely for a faster gameplay experience. The extra graphical options are certainly welcome and add a new level of polish to the game that really makes it shine in a way the Vita wasn’t able to. Though the extra options are certainly welcome, I did encounter an issue with how taxing some of the options can be. Both my PC and Laptop are a few years old, and while they aren’t exactly top-tier, they are built with gaming in mind and have decent specs. With the object shadow casting setting set to max, the framerate would essentially be cut in half on both my PC and Laptop, dropping from a constant 55-60 FPS to sub 30’s. Setting the option back to default fixed the issue, but it was something I found curious on my rigs that can handle more detailed (albeit older) games at max settings at an almost constant 60 FPS. I also encountered a strange bug at times when loading my saves where sound effects wouldn’t play yet the background music would. Restarting the game would fix that issue. Still, these are overall minor issues that can almost certainly be fixed through patching in the future, and I wasn’t too worried about them in the grand scheme of things.
Above all else, Falcom games are centered around being fun to play and engaging. The controls in the PC port of Memories of Celceta remain largely unchanged, albeit with a few new options. Players can customize their button inputs in the usual PC game fashion, both among keyboard and USB controller types. With USB controllers you also have the option of showing Playstation and Xbox style button prompts during tutorials. I have a Logitech F310 that I use for playing most PC games and it felt as though I was essentially playing a PS4 port of the game. I did try out the mouse and keyboard style control options but I couldn’t seem to get a feel for the default layout. With some customization, I’m sure it would feel better but with the kind of game Memories of Celceta is, that control option felt a tad inefficient for me. No matter which control style you find more preferable, the battle system is fast and frantic in typical Ys fashion. There’s seldom a pause between fighting enemies on the screen, and exploiting skills and weaknesses keeps the flow of combat going. Boss battles are challenging and engaging as well, especially in higher difficulties.
Here we see the Adol in his natural habitat
Unfortunately for the yeti dude, it’s already over.
What would a review of a Falcom game be without commenting on the sound? While Falcom are excellent storytellers and masters of making fun games with smaller budgets; making a game with a great soundtrack is arguably their best talent. The Falcom JDK Band is at the top of their game as usual with the Ys series, and there are plenty of original scores interspersed with new arrangements of songs from The Dawn of Ys. It’s a master-class soundtrack and another notch in Falcom’s belt showing what they’re capable of. High paced, high energy metal music plays during most dungeons and boss fights, calm and gentle melodies with beautiful piano and violin work accent story scenes, and chipper town themes run the full gamut of Falcom’s musical talent. The soundtrack alone is worth checking out, and in my case, Falcom’s musical talent is what got me interested in the Ys franchise to begin with. Their music is honestly just that good!
Do not adjust your television set
If only I could touch random glowing orbs to remember what my wife told me ten minutes ago.
Overall, it was a blast going back and revisiting the world of Ys: Memories of Celceta. While there wasn’t anything entirely new from the game I have already finished to completion on the PlayStation Vita, being able to play it in greater clarity made the experience feel newer for me, and it’s nice being able to play yet another Ys game on the big screen (and PC). If you missed out on Memories of Celceta initially because you don’t happen to own a PlayStation Vita, do yourself a favor and pick this game up. While I’m admittedly a tad biased when it comes to the Ys series as it’s my personal favorite, Falcom are a great example of a smaller Japanese developer, with XSEED and their localization work only enhancing the whole experience. While the PC port has some minor technical issues that might need looking into at launch; Ys: Memories of Celceta is one of many great entry points into the long-running and fantastically crafted Action RPG series I’ve been enjoying for many years now. If you’re a fan of adventuring and action RPG’s, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything disappointing here.
Final Score: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), PlayStation Vita; Publisher: XSEED Games ; Developer: Nihon Falcom ; Players: 1 ; Released: July 25th, 2018 (PC), September 27th, 2012 (PlayStation Vita) ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $24.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Ys: Memories of Celceta given to Hey Poor Player by the Publisher