Konnichiwa, doods! Chris King from NISA here giving you a friendly reminder that the action RPG game, Ys: Memories of Celceta, will be cruising onto European shores on 21st February – only three days away! Find it on PlayStation Store the following week, too!
To mark the occasion, I also bring upon you an exclusive interview with Tom Lipschultz of XSEED Games, giving you an in-depth, detailed look behind some of the game’s features and mechanics. Let’s dive right in, shall we!?
Could you tell us a little about Ys for those who have not had the chance to check out the series?
Tom: Ys is an episodic series of action RPGs that’s been going strong in Japan since 1987. Every Ys game bar one stars a red-haired adventurer named Adol Christin, and each game chronicles his adventures in a new land as he (typically) arrives by boat (be it intact or in pieces), gets caught up in some local plot involving supernatural evil, has every female humanoid within a 10-mile radius fall hopelessly in love with him, defeats the evil and saves the day, then leaves without saying goodbye or entertaining any beautiful young women — his eyes ever searching for new adventure on the horizon.
Although the gameplay and visuals have changed dramatically over the series’ long life span, two things have invariably remained in almost every incarnation: a lightning-fast pace and a hard rock soundtrack (often of the ’80s-style glam rock variety). From the original Ys with its buttonless “bump” combat system to Falcom’s latest Ys: Memories of Celceta, every game seems bent on giving the player instant gratification for the ears and the senses alike.
And since each adventure takes place in a new land, the series can easily be played in any order. There are recurring characters and motifs, but the games are structured in such a way that players can just as easily discover these characters and motifs in a later game, then go back and find out more about them from an earlier one without feeling as if he/she had some major plot point spoiled.
What makes this action RPG really stand out?
Tom: Almost every Ys game has something that sets it apart from its ancestry, but Ys: Memories of Celceta (hereafter YsC) is particularly noteworthy for introducing some drastically new elements to the typical Ys formula. The biggest of these (both literally and figuratively) is the overworld, which could easily fit the combined overworlds of every other Ys game within it (likely several times over, at that!). I can’t stress enough just how massive it is, and how much there is to see and do within it. There are hidden treasures virtually everywhere, and the game generally gives you the freedom to explore large swaths of it at a time, providing a robust and intuitive mapping system to help you along the way.
And despite its size, exploring the overworld never gets repetitive, as its structure is full of unique settings and landmarks that makes every location feel distinct and alive. Add to this a fluid day/night system, too, and you can easily spend hours upon hours upping your map percentage as you scour the fields for new treasures or crafting materials.
Oh, and yes, that’s also new: there’s a rich and insanely detailed item and equipment crafting system in place, allowing you to customise virtually every aspect of your party members’ combat profiles.
Who is Adol and how does he evolve in this game?
Tom: Adol has typically always been a silent protagonist (with rare exception). This may have originally been done for the sake of making him a player stand-in, but Falcom quickly crafted an overarching narrative that states Adol’s adventures took place over 1100 years ago, and are being researched by scholars now from the copious and highly detailed travelogues he kept along the way. This helps explain discrepancies between the different versions of Ys I through V (of which there have been several apiece), and also gives Adol’s silent nature a bit more of a humble feel.
However, this doesn’t change the fact that Adol, on account of being virtually infallible and always quiet as a mouse, tends not to be anywhere near as interesting as the characters he meets during his adventures. But YsC manages to make Adol the most interesting he’s ever been through a very unconventional method – the developers gave him amnesia.
Although a long-standing trope in anime and video games, this may be the best use of amnesia I’ve ever seen, as Adol is actually tasked with finding literal fragments of his memory strewn about the enormous overworld. These range from plot-relevant scenes of things that happened only a week before the game began, to scenes from Adol’s childhood (in which he actually talks!) that help give a rare glimpse into his psyche.
In addition to these memory fragments, Adol is also frequently given numerous possible responses to questions or situations that arise during gameplay. And in an odd sort of way, these also help give a glimpse into his personality, with the latter choice invariably being a bit… mischievous.
Does this game link in with previous Ys games?
Tom: Very much so. YsC is actually a reimagining of Ys IV, the only game in the numbered series that Falcom themselves had previously never developed (instead outsourcing to other companies). And Ys IV has always been a very important entry in the series canon, as it was the first to introduce numerous recurring themes, and also the first to make subtle references to previous games and help expand upon their lore.
Not content simply to remake the content other people had written on their behalf, however, Falcom decided to up the ante for this reimagining, including subtle nods and tie-ins to just about every other game in the franchise, including ones that came out long after Ys IV.
In true Ys fashion, however, none of these references are so blatant as to spoil content from other entries in the series, nor is knowledge of any other Ys title required to fully enjoy the narrative YsC tells.
Boss Rush is back, are there any other new features/old favorites in the game?
Tom: There’s a New Game + feature, as well as the ability to permanently drop the difficulty level during play if you selected something a bit beyond your means at the start (though note that you’re unable to RAISE the difficulty during play, so use this feature wisely!).
This is also the first Ys game to include a day/night cycle in the field, as well as the first Ys game to include a true crafting system.
As for old favorites, the party system from Ys SEVEN has returned, and is more refined this time around, with skills requiring more effort to learn and proving more immediately useful than before.
Do you have a favorite character in the game? What makes that person so awesome?
Tom: Karna, definitely. And what makes her so awesome? Well, she was always awesome — in the original Ys IV, she was the only “escort mission” character in the series’ history who actually escorted Adol rather than the other way around, and they definitely carried that no-nonsense attitude over to YsC as well.
…Also, there’s Napalm Shot. Once Karna learns the Napalm Shot skill, you basically won, because nothing can stand up to you anymore.
So, who wins in a fight, Duren or Karna?
Tom: Karna, hands down. I mean, she’s got that Napalm Shot! Duren’s muscles may be able to take her down if he gets in close, but… well, before he ever gets close enough to put them to use, he’ll be swimming in a sea of exploding knives. He doesn’t stand a chance!
I hope you’ve enjoyed what you read so far! I’ll be back in the near future to talk more about our upcoming titles, but until then, keep an eye out for Ys: Memories of Celceta, doods!