YS: MEMORIES OF CELCETA REVIEW
Some things are best left forgotten. Others simply need to be retold.
Posted by PlayDevil.com Staff on Mar 18, 2014 13:46 (Mar 18, 2014 13:46)
Written by: Joe
Developer Nihon Falcom, much like their protagonist Adol Christin, seems to have forgotten what has come before. The Ys series is a hard one to keep up with at the best of times, but Memories of Celceta does its best to confuse even long time veterans of the series: it's actually the third iteration of Ys IV, with Celceta essentially overwriting those past two entries in series canon.
With a new home on the PS Vita and an incredibly tight focus on gameplay above all else, Celceta trims the fat and comes off better for it.
Memories of Celceta doesn't concern itself too much with story. JRPGs have developed a nasty habit of overemphasizing clichéd tales much to the annoyance of their tired players. We've all become jaded towards the amnesia stricken hero; indeed, use of this story hook is now considered a cardinal sin in game development. So I was shocked to find within minutes of booting up Memories of Celceta for the first time that our hero Adol Christin suffers from crippling memory loss. I suppose the name of the game should have given it away.
Regardless, Adol's solitary friend seems to come to grips with the situation fairly quickly, and instead of agonizing over such an unfortunate turn of events, the two quickly disregard the memory deficit so that they continue questing together. It's a refreshing change to see a JRPG sidestep such melodrama in favour of what the player wants to get down to anyway - battles and loot. Pretty soon the two are given their main goal of mapping the entire forest of Celceta - and recovering some of Adol's memories in the process. When you reach shining blue orbs deep within the forest Adol gets a little piece of his past back - as well as regaining special moves or stat increases in the process - and using the amnesia to dole out exposition as well as strengthening the character gives us more of a reason to care about fixing Adol's addled brain.
There are a couple of extended scenes throughout the game but most have the sense to be succinct, getting out of the way quickly so that the player can get back to playing. There are a couple that do outstay their welcome, especially with a couple of early villages and the introduction of other party members, but they are few and far between. The story is otherwise serviceable but fittingly unmemorable.
This isn't the reason we're in Celceta.
What really pushes you through this twenty five hour experience is the excellent gameplay that serves as Ys' core. It's an action RPG in the same vein as the Tales' series, only much faster. As you and your party explore the forest you'll come face to face with a huge cast of creatures to hunt down, with each felled beastie adding to your experience points and gold. By the time I was halfway through the title some of these battles lasted mere seconds as a couple of well timed special moves devastated my opposition, whilst boss battles were satisfyingly drawn out and exciting. Many of your foes can be dispatched by a quick mash on the attack button, but others require a little more consideration as to their strengths and weaknesses.
Characters can be changed on the fly, with only a button press separating you from the carapace-cracking fists of Duran or the long-ranged poison attacks of Karna. Whilst the AI will act sensibly in all battles, sometimes you have to take control to dole out the maximum amount of damage. The instantaneous nature of switching characters adds to the sheer speed of which the game is played, and means you'll always have an answer to any situation. It's a great system that kept me interested throughout, learning new skills and trying new party members long into my playthrough.
In fact, a lot of Memories of Celceta is as streamlined as its party system. Equipment, maps and system settings are all a touch away using the excellent menu systems and nothing feels bloated or unnecessary. Whenever I found myself thinking something should be easier to access, I usually discovered there was already a solution. Key items have their own dedicated icon that activates them, puzzles are effortlessly efficient and even switching out a characters skills takes a few seconds. Developers take note - this is the power of a HUD done right and a touchscreen utilized correctly.
The main hook for me was watching the percentage of the uncovered map tick upwards, unlocking rewards every so often as it climbs towards the illusive 100%. With the plethora of materials to harvest out in the forest and the massive amounts of gold you'll accrue you can buy fancier weapons and forge even better versions of them. The system is simple enough and its explained through brief tutorials that don't treat you like an idiot. It's an addictive set up and one I found hugely motivating as I worked towards that new weapon or piece of armour with a massive stat increase.