- Developer: Falcom
- Publisher: Marvelous
- Genre: Action JRPG
- Release Date: 19/6/2020
- Platforms: PlayStation 4/PlayStation Vita
- Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
A long time ago on a console far far away.
There have been scant few games worthy of an upgrade from the PS Vita library to the PS4, but thankfully Falcom have remastered one of the most critically acclaimed action JRPG’s for a new PS4 audience.
Originally released back on the PS Vita in 2012, the HD remaster can still be forgiven for having very basic looking graphics, as back then that was all the little handheld console could master. However, with a sprinkle of magic developer dust, Falcom have at least tried to bring it up to modern-day standards, but visually at least, it still falls a little short.
It’s very easy to tell where the old game ended and the modern upgrade begins, as the written words, texts, and static visuals are all crystal clear, and very pleasing to the eye. However, the game, although not ugly by any stretch of the imagination, is very much showing its age and origins. Character models are very blocky and lack a lot of definition, but the worst aspect is the facial features of the “non” anime-style characters; unintentionally scary!
However, simple graphics don’t make or break a game, and with typical Falcom artwork in the styling of the buildings and character models, it was easy to forgive the games visual shortcoming in the gameplay.
It’s all in the action
As simple as the graphics are, this doesn’t detract from the excellent character movement in both battle and exploration. As a real-time hack and slash game, in the same mould as Diablo, you play in a ¾ view and use very simple mechanics to move and explore, hack, slash, punch and shoot, to responsively slaughter your way through hordes of enemies. It is simple elegance, a theme common throughout the game.
Backgrounds are expectedly sparse, but the artwork as mentioned still conveys new landscapes and dungeons very well with a lot of atmosphere.
What’s it all about guv!
The plot trots along at a decent clip, and although the story does have some excellent moments (for example, as Adol has amnesia he is never quite sure what reactions he will receive from the characters he meets, as some of them have met him before), at times it felt like a paint by numbers experience.
What makes the ok story better however, is the narrative. It’s fast-paced, witty, and sometimes downright hilarious, but overall a taught experience that never got bogged down with the mindless drivel some JRPG’s suffer with.
The main crux of the game is built around exploration, and therein lies its beauty. You start as Adol, suffering with amnesia, and after an excellent first boss fight, he is soon tasked to map the woods of Celceta. For him, that has the added bonus of locating some of his lost memories in the process.
As Adol has no recollection of the forest, he starts off with a blank piece of paper, and wherever you and your small party go, it automatically fills the map up. Although a very simple mechanic, added to the setting, story, and vibe from the game, it genuinely felt like “adventuring” to play it. For example, to complete tasks or side quests, a flag is put on this map. That flag will most probably be in an area you haven’t explored and therefore it appears to you in the middle of nothing. You have to explore to find routes to get to this waypoint.
To complete the sense of adventure, sometimes the way to get to a waypoint is to move in the wrong direction! This sense of exploration and opening up the map was one of, if not the most compelling aspect of the game. It’s very hard to stay focused on your mission because through curiosity, you can easily get distracted and go in completely the wrong direction just because you want to see what’s around the corner.
Things start to get tricky
As excellent as the exploring is, it does lead to areas where you can come across monsters of a far higher level than your team and are then almost instantly wiped out. If you haven’t saved the game manually (and there is no autosave feature), it can mean a lot of what has been done needs to be repeated which can lead to mild frustration.
Also, the characters you are not controlling in your party can sometimes get involved with enemies you aren’t trying to fight, or fall into water and can’t get back up, or simply glitch around debris on the playing field to drag you out of the experience. They soon morph back to your location if you are too far away, but it was distracting when this happened.
The combat is simple and fun; slash, dodge, guard, change character, and a couple of power moves by holding the right bumper, but the monsters and enemies you face aren’t as interesting. They either blindly charge at your party or try to run away. There are also some very tame boss fights, that are nothing more than health sponges, with very few moves to figure out. That doesn’t mean they are easy to defeat, just they can take an awful amount of hits from your team before they go down, whereas you can only survive a few blows.
There are some tactics
The only thing to really make you think during combat is that enemies are weak to different types of weapons in your team. It’s interesting and beneficial to learn each monster type and know their weakness to then ensure you use the right character you are controlling for the fight.
There are also hub towns spread over the map where you can go to the local inn (of course you can, this is a JRPG!) to find quests and progress the story. Around the towns are workshops to buy new weapons, potions or gear to upgrade. It’s all very paint by numbers JRPG, done a thousand times before, but still works very well here and is balanced.
What can you hear?
The game hasn’t got the most memorable of OST music, as they all numbed the mind whilst playing the game. As you move from one location to the next the music does change, and sometimes with excellent menace of the impending doom ahead.
Additionally, the game doesn’t have a full recording of every spoken word, but the lines that have been used are in English and very well acted.
Despite the limited hardware the game was originally designed for, and the occasional graphical glitch, the game ticks all the right boxes to be a pleasurable experience, albeit a fairly simple one, with a fairly decent, sometimes very interesting story.
The combat is fast and frenetic but simple, the exploration addictive, but again, easy to uncover. I wouldn’t regard this as one of the best PS Vita JRPG’s worthy of a PS4 remaster (such as Persona 4 or Muramasa Rebirth), but it was most certainly worth doing to encourage new fans of the Ys franchise with it’s simplistic yet satisfying adventure around the woods of Celceta.