So, last time we talked about the bumpiest (heh) action RPG out there with Ys1 and 2. Well, now we’re going to talk about the prequel to those games. Though, quick warning: DO NOT PLAY THIS UNTIL YOU FINISH YS 1&2 (or watch a playthrough or something if it’s not your cup of tea) as it has LOTS of spoilers for those games. I’ll be avoiding any talk about those spoilers in this review. Now let’s get onto a prequel that is absolutely solid, shall we?
GET IT HERE: https://store.steampowered.com/app/207350/Ys_Origin/
GENRE: Action RPG with a much improved combat system
So, this is a prequel to Ys 1&2, taking place several centuries before those games. It tells the story of the original demonic outbreak in Ys and the contingency employed by its ruling Six Priests and Twin Goddesses to forestall the kingdom’s doom. Unfortunately, after enacting this contingency, the Twin Goddesses vanished and apparently descended to the demon blighted surface Ys had been trying to escape from.
What makes Ys Origin different from other Ys games is that you have multiple protagonists, and will need to play through the game as each of them for the full story. This is actually a nice twist as it means you have multiple playstyles that make each playthrough feel different, while giving you different story bits. Some people think this was a downside, but considering how much I enjoy Origins, I have no issue playing through it three times to get the full picture.
The two initial protags you get to play as are quite the opposites in terms of how they play, with Yunica Tovah being a up close, hard hitting melee fighter, and Hugo Fact being a mage who fights from a distance using magic. This results in quite the different approach for each character. I should also note that Ys Origin runs on what we call the Napishtim Engine, which was used for Ys6, a remake of Ys3 called Oath in Felghana, and Origin being the last title to use it. Why is this important? Prior to Ys6, most of the Ys games used the “Bump combat” I mentioned back in the review of 1&2, but 6 went to a very, VERY fast paced action combat system with dedicated buttons for attacking, jumping, and using special abilities. The result is a much more enjoyable combat system that focuses on fast, nonstop action with quick battles that involve using your weapon and special attacks to deal with large numbers of enemies or powerful bosses, which allows for more variety in the combat than simply bumping into everything.
In terms of how they fight, Yunica is again, the melee girl. She fights with an axe, and is surprisingly quick with it despite its size. Her primary method of combat is to get right into the thick of things and cleave through multiple foes, with the skills she gains further complimenting this. You have a normal combo you can use on the ground, but also a few other neat tricks such as a dive attack which can be done by attacking as you enter the descending arc of your jump. Dive attacks hit the area around you multiple times, and also have a good chance to stun foes, leaving them unable to do anything as you beat them silly. Some enemies also are especially vulnerable to this move, so it’s important to learn which of your basic attacks works best on each foe. On the other side of things, each of her unique special attacks offers its own approach to dealing with enemies by letting her smash through an entire group (And glide through the air when needed), hit a small area really hard, or strike safely from a distance with magical projectiles. Special attacks do cost MP to use, but your MP is a rapidly regenerating resource you are encouraged to use often, as opposed to hoarding for key moments. This is another thing that keeps the combat feeling good: The ability to use special attacks as you need them, instead of conserving them. The fact you can quickly swap between them with a simple button press also means you can easily mix things up as you need to, and you likely will since each special attack has its own element: Some enemies resist an element, but are weak to another. The last thing you have to turn the tables in combat is Boost Mode, a meter that gradually builds up in combat. When you activate Boost, you get several seconds in which you are MUCH faster and harder hitting, able to dish out damage at an incredible pace, and also regenerate your MP much faster, allowing for more special attack usage.
Hugo Fact has the same basic principles as Yunica in terms of having normal attacks, special attacks, and a Boost Mode, but unlike her, he’s all about long range attacks. He wields a magical staff and the powerful Eyes of Fact, magical spheres that are used in both his normal and special attacks. His normal attack is a basic magical projectile, fired by both his staff and his eyes, while he also learns to cast spells with the Eyes to mix things up in combat. His special attacks consist of a magical shield to absorb damage and reduce the effect of gravity when jumping, a time delayed bomb that damages the area it explodes in heavily, and turning his Eyes of Fact into deadly flaming spheres that orbit him while spraying laser like flame ahead to carve through foes from a distance. The unique playstyles of these two mean you’ll be having to change up tactics on bosses, as melee and range require very different approaches on them.
Ys Origin uses the Tower of Darm from Ys1 as its central location and focus of the story, though you’ll find it’s very different from its Ys1 incarnation with several different types of environments making up the demonic structure. While a few familiar elements from Ys1’s version show up here and there, this is definitely no simple re-tread through an old dungeon. For one, the switch from 2D to 3D (with 2D sprites for characters and enemies) and a jump button, along with all the new environment types makes the tower almost feel like a Metroidvania experience. I say “almost” because you don’t really re-explore older places with the new traversal powers you find, they’re used to advance in whatever section of the tower you’re currently in. That said, this focus on platform based exploration on top of the satisfying combat means every floor of the tower will keep you on your toes.
In a way, you could say each “section” of the tower is like a Zelda dungeon, where you need to find a new item in the dungeon itself to advance further by getting past obstacles you couldn’t otherwise. The big difference here is that this game throws a lot of enemies at you compared to Zelda, with a focus on quick reactions against groups and using your weapon and special attacks to cleave through them as quickly as possible. This is further encouraged by the fact landing multiple hits without any significant time gap between them gives you bonus EXP, up to 1.99x worth if you can get a full 99 Hit combo going. As a result, you feel encouraged to find ways to quickly beat enemies and get to another group to keep your combo going so you can get more of that sweet, sweet EXP and level up sooner.
And then there’s the bosses. In Ys Origin, boss fights got turned up to 11 for the series with some of the best fights it’s ever had. Gone are the simple “Bump into them to kill them” bosses of Ys1. Instead, every boss has multiple attack patterns to learn, as well as windows to exploit in order to damage them safely. Some even have additional mechanics you’ll have to learn and exploit before you can make them vulnerable to damage, or prevent them from healing the damage you’ve already dealt. Each and every boss in Origin feels unique and thrilling to fight in its own way.
The story is one area where things can be a bit odd, if only because the story actually changes based on who you play as, with different characters (and in some cases bosses) showing up depending on who you play as. Technically, only the third, unlockable character’s storyline is the canon one, but you still get plenty of important story bits playing as Yunica and Hugo beforehand. You’ll learn a lot about the people of Ys who came to find their missing goddesses, the goddesses themselves, and also learn a lot about how certain events were set into motion in Ys 1&2. If you enjoyed the story of Ys 1&2 and wanted to know more about what led up to it? Origin is worth it just fort that alone.
There’s also a fair bit of post-game fun to be had in Origin if you really enjoy its combat, so I might as well mention that too. Upon finishing the game, two new game types are unlocked: Time Attack and Arena. Time Attack challenges you to see how fast you can beat every boss in the game, while Arena is a survival based mode that pits you against waves of increasingly difficult foes. Each of them gives you special currency you can use to unlock new features, including the ability to play through the Arena and Time Attack modes as Adol, though sadly he cannot be used in a story based mode.
And as always, one cannot talk about Ys Origin, or any Falcom game really, without talking about the incredible soundtrack. A few classic tracks from Ys1 and 2 show up here, but the new music is just as good honestly. The track for the bosses at the end of each section of the tower is yet another case of JDK rocking out in the best possible way, and it just continues to show why these games are worth it for their music alone. I could keep talking about how great Origin’s soundtrack is, but honestly, it’s better to just hear it for yourself.
So here’s one of the better tracks, straight from Falcom, its big boss theme!
As usual, it knows when to stick to traditional calm music, and when to rock the hell out, and when it rocks the hell out, it ROCKS THE HELL OUT. There’s a reason JDK has become one of my favorite music groups lately, and it’s because they know how to do a damn good soundtrack.
While Ys 1&2 is a bumpy (heh) start to the series for a newcomer, any fan of a good fast paced action combat based RPG will be in for a treat once they hit Origin. Its fast combat and rocking soundtrack are honestly one of the best entry points for the Ys series in general if you ask me, although it’s best to experience the story of Ys 1&2 before entering Origin. If the idea of bump combat doesn’t appeal to you, find a good summary of Ys 1&2’s story, and dive into Origin to see why this series is so beloved.