As its title suggests, Ys Origin serves as prequel to the long-running Ys JRPG-series. It takes place 700 years prior to the events of the other games, in the world of Ys ruled by two Goddesses Reah and Feena. For many years Ys lived in peace and harmony until suddenly it all changed when an influx of demons arrived in the land. After a costly war, Reah and Feena decided to flee from the demons by bringing the citizens of Ys to live in the sky. The demons, however, were relentless in their pursuit of the goddesses and managed to reach everyone in the sky and continue their reign of destruction. As a last resort, both Reah and Feena secretly leave the war and return back to the surface of Ys, leaving citizens in peril.
The game starts after those events and allows you to choose to play as one of two characters (an eventual third after completion). Playing as either a girl knight Yunica Tovah or mage boy Hugo Fact, you are tasked with locating the goddesses in order to put an end to war and save Ys. Being a newcomer to the series, I wasn't sure what to expect from the story, but I was a huge fan from the start for the old-school tone it had. As I continued to play, the story managed to keep me somewhat interested. Ys Origin is a heavily narrative-based game that is surrounded by a cast of mostly forgettable characters. There's a lot of dialogue here, but none of the main cast really has any character progression or much of a background to speak of which makes it hard to invest into them. The vast majority of my time with the game I played with Yunica, but given the time I did also play with Hugo, but I didn't notice much of a difference in how each character fits into the story.
Despite some of the drawbacks with the plot, I was rather surprised at how fun the combat system was. Yunica wields an ax and serves as your melee specialist with a range of different combos and skills while Hugo serves as your ranged character. With a very simple control scheme, learning the basics of combat isn't hard, but over time the game does throw a few new things at you to keep things fresh. Both playstyles are vastly different, but I especially enjoyed Yunica's fast-paced physical attacks.
Outside of their basic moves, both Yunica and Hugo have access to a range of diverse skills. At the cost of SP, Yunica can use skills such as whirlwind which lets her rip into multiple enemies at once or Warhammer to destroy heavy armored enemies. As a mage, Hugo has multiple spells at his disposal. Additionally, both characters can find new weapons and armors that can be upgraded as well. Regardless of which character you choose to play as, Ys Origin can be a very difficult game, especially towards the later stages.
Kills reward experience points that can be used to level up. There's an experience multiplier at work here that increases how much experience you get per kill as long as you continue on the offensive before the timer runs out. I've always been a fan of these kinds of systems and Ys Origin is no different. It adds another layer to an already satisfying combat system. Bosses definitely steal the spotlight here and offer the hardest challenges. They are usually huge demons that can wreak havoc if you are caught off guard at any moment. Most fights are so fast-paced and frantic that I barely managed to survive.
I surely got my fair share of combat in the game as I frequently revisited areas I already traveled because I was lost. Ys Origin doesn't hold your hand at all. There isn't map, quest markers or anything outside dialogues to help where to go and what to do. I didn't find this to be a bad thing at all and actually enjoyed the lack of direction as it added to the overall challenge of the game. After completing the game, you unlock a new character as well as two new endgame modes: Arena and Time Attack.
Despite the game's age, it still looks really nice on the Xbox One with the upscaled resolution and increased framerate, but even more impressive perhaps is the fantastic score and intricate level design. Ys: Origin isn't a long game, but the time spent is surely satisfying. Story issues aside, there's a lot of enjoyment here for JRPG fans and the game is also a great starting point for any newcomers to the series.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09