In the very beginning of Ys SEVEN, the adventuring heroes meet a mute flower girl. If you play it nice and offer to buy one of her flowers, she hands you an extra flower for your kindness. At that moment, I just knew I'm going to love my time with Ys SEVEN, the latest PC conversion of Nihon Falcom’s long-running and much-loved action RPG series.
The persistent hero of Ys series, red-haired adventurer Adol has bit of a reputation for shipwrecks. When he arrives safely at the harbor of Altago City, his faithful sidekick Dogi is rightfully relieved. It soon turns out to a concern though as the trouble-prone duo is whisked to a jail after defending the aforementioned flower girl and her big sister from bullying Dragon Knights, the enforcers of the city. The king sees through the situation though and blesses the well-known adventurers with a permit to roam the land. Altago is only recuperating from a long war when a sudden resurgence of titanos, a race of hulking monsters, disturbs the everyday life.
Trade roads are blocked by titanos, as are the shrines where the people used to pay their respects to the five legendary dragons of Altago, the founding fathers of the land. It turns out Adol is rather responsive to the dragon spirits’ energy and gains special abilities whenever he visits an altar. He and Dogi set out to seek the further knowledge of the dragons from the many villages and regions around Altago. As they're foreigners to the land, it’s as good excuse as any for these seasoned adventurers to start from the scratch. The local monsters are vulnerable only to Altagian weapon arts so the heroic duo need to learn the ropes with their new tools, Adol with a quick-slashing sword and Dogi with pummeling fist weapons.
Ys SEVEN plays out as a fast-paced action RPG with real-time combat. The controls are straightforward and ultra-responsive. The game is the first in the Ys series to feature a party system. Because Adol’s and Dogi’s weapons won’t cut every monster, there are lots of local talent joining the journey, each with their own weapon types and motives to fight the cause. Adol is the mainstay of the fighting party, leaving two spots for rotating heroes. The player can switch to any member of the trio at any time. I loved leading the way with hot-tempered Aisha and spreading ranged damage with her quick-drawing bow, switching to melee heroes whenever the monsters had a hide too thick to pierce with arrows. Weapons can also be assigned with special abilities which gain levels the more they’re used, allowing flashy and quick damage-dealing attacks.
The game is built around the philosophy of grinding, not only for the experience to level up but also to gather materials to craft new weapons, armors and support items. Most of the main story quests end up our heroes and heroines facing off titanos. With their ginormous health pools to hack away, you’ll soon realize if you have inefficient equipment to survive long enough. So, it’s back to grinding to gain more levels and better gear, as the dungeons aren’t locked up but allow a free access. Luckily, Ys SEVEN is so rapid to play that grinding is a breeze. Actually, you’ll even look to it, with an upbeat rock soundtrack setting the pace for some fun monster-slaying.
There’s not much else to Ys SEVEN. With no similar story hooks and intricate characterization of Nihon Falcom’s The Legend of Heroes series, it’s all about the gameplay; hacking and slashing the way to the roots of the problems plaguing Altago. The game is served in manageable bits, tied together with a story motivating enough to keep up adventuring. It never drags on but blazes onward, introducing new characters and situations, as the heroes march on. Because Adol is a silent protagonist, it’s up to the supporting cast to give personality to the game. It all works out rather splendidly.
As has been the custom with XSEED’s conversions, Ys SEVEN is upscaled nicely to the modern screens. The game may look outdated as the graphics are of PSP origins and date back to 2009, and there never was higher resolution textures to work from. The characters on the other hand, even with their relatively low polygon count, look better than ever in high-definition, showing off their unique personality. The gameplay and bouncy animations run in silky smooth 60 fps all the way. Also, the translation is revised from the original Western PSP release.
There’s something awfully disarming about Nihon Falcom’s straightforward and honest approach to the action RPG genre. All the trademarks of their user-friendliness are evident in Ys SEVEN too, like saving everywhere you want, an auto-map overlay and a fast travel introduced during the course of the adventure. But above all, Ys SEVEN hooks in with its simple and blistering fast gameplay, ensuring it’s always fun to do the necessary grinding to keep up with the numerous boss fights. I enjoyed every minute - and there were lots of those minutes - with Adol and his friends.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.