The Ys series is one of the most successful and recognizable of Nihon Falcom’s offerings. The series has been going strong in Japan since the late 1980’s and has been popular in the US since around 2005 and onward. With Ys Seven, the series received a major overhaul in 2010, with full 3D environments, a party system that allows up to three characters (including Adol) to adventure together, and an all new story filled adventure. Now Ys Seven is releasing on Steam and will provide a new Ys experience for fans of the classic franchise.
Originally released as a PlayStation Portable exclusive, Ys Seven is notable for changing up the Ys formula in multiple ways. For starters, all characters and environments in Ys Seven (as previously mentioned) are rendered in full 3D. This PC port provides full Steamworks integration (with achievements unique to this version), revised localization to provide an immersive experience with minimal language errors, 60 FPS gameplay, and HD visuals.
In Ys Seven, Adol and his companion Dogi find themselves in Altago, a bustling port city that was cut off from the rest of the world due to war with the Romun empire. Because of Altago being cut off, the people of the city have become somewhat reclusive and xenophobic, leading Adol and Dogi to be incarcerated due to their distrust of foreigners. Adol and Dogi discover that the monsters that have begun to terrorize the people of Altago are immune to steel. Adol and Dogi must rearm themselves and undergo a quest from the king in order to prove themselves and stop a great catastrophe with the help of the Five Dragons that have awakened due to this threat.
Ys Seven is the first entry in the series to introduce a party system. Instead of Adol adventuring alone (like in previous titles) now Adol is accompanied by allies old and new. From Dogi and fan favorite character Geis (from Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim) to brand new characters that Adol will meet on his journey. Two characters can join Adol in battle at once, though you can only control one at a time.
Ys Seven has four difficulty levels, from Easy to Nightmare, each providing a different sort of challenge. If you are someone who wants to just enjoy the story and not have to worry too much about the combat, then Easy is definitely the way to go. It will still provide a challenge to casual players but is much more laid back. Nightmare, on the other hand, is for fans of hardcore difficulty levels, who really want to spend time grinding away and strategizing.
One major part of Ys Seven’s gameplay involves damage and weapon types. This is similar to the Fire Emblem standard of “Weapon Triangle” only framed a little differently. The type of weapon that is used depends on how much damage is done to certain enemies. On top of that, certain enemies may be faster than the weapons of certain characters. Adol can equip weapons that utilize multiple damage types, but other characters that join your adventure will have one particular specialty that they focus on.
The importance of this is that the combat in Ys Seven plays out in real time, and when the characters you are not controlling join the fight, they are controlled by the AI. This means that if you want to make the most of your damage output you will need to make sure you switch between characters on the fly. It is also important to note that there is a limit to how many recovery items you can carry, so be sure that you are properly equipped before setting out on any adventures.
In order to get better equipment for your journey, you will need to make use of the synthesis function. The synthesis function allows you to combine raw materials found on your adventures to make better equipment, weapons, and armor. Each weapon has a different skill attached to it, so as you use a weapon you can master a skill, and then use it effectively even when that weapon is no longer equipped.
My main complaint with Ys Seven’s gameplay mainly arises from having played other modern party based RPG’s. Back in 2010 when this game was released in the west, its party AI was probably adequate, but I find myself annoyed that both of my party members will run after enemies off-screen while I am attempting to properly investigate and search an area. There is no way to control how the AI behaves, thus your party can find itself in longer combat encounters SOLELY because the AI decided to send Dogi, or whomever else is in your party after enemies you cannot even see.
Another problem that I have with the way that the party system works is that when trying to level up your skills, you have to physically use the skill you want to level. That is fine on its own, but this means that you need to be using the proper character, to use the particular skill. This is okay when you are constantly switching characters, but it leads to unnecessary grinding, because you may wind up getting a new piece of weaponry (with a new skill) but need to make sure your character has learned the skill from his weapon first. This leads to annoying breaks in the action where you have to find somewhere to train up a character, grind him up to learn his skills, and then carry on. The AI will use skills occasionally, but it takes much longer than if you were to do it yourself.
Other than that, the dashing mechanic and Ys Seven’s combat mechanics are actually somewhat easy to get the hang of. Ys Seven is a bit more story-focused than some of the other entries in the series, so if you like story based games then you’ll enjoy Ys Seven. Sometimes it can be heavy on grinding, especially to get money or to learn skills, but that is a minor inconvenience. Overall I greatly enjoy Ys Seven and its foray into modern gaming mechanics. One of the issues that I had with early Ys titles was that Adol was always alone on his quest, so it is nice to enjoy a new adventure where his friends and allies join him.
If you liked the other Ys games, then Ys Seven will quench your need for adventure, but if you are new to the series Ys Seven is also a perfect place to start, as it is definitely versatile and able to be played by even casual action-RPG players.
A PC Review copy of Ys Seven was provided by XSEED Games for the purpose of this review