Ys: Memories of Celceta Review: the perfect tonic for Vita-owning JRPG fans

Sometimes, a good ol’ JRPG is exactly what one needs, and a hearty, pocket-size time sink like Ys: Memories of Celceta is hard to pass up. If JRPGs are on the menu, this is the one to order. Plus, the fast pace of the game’s combat could even coax a few on-the-fence gamers to think again about skipping another JRPG.

As is customary in the Ys series, a red-headed hero is on a mission of exploration, and the hero named Adol Christen begins the game in a state of amnesia. Through his early interactions with the unlikely companion and fist-fighting bruiser, Duren, Adol discovers that he is an adept warrior who was on a personal mission of exploration. In hindsight, the story itself is engaging enough to keep the gameplay moving, but the crème de la crème of the narrative in Memories of Celceta literally lies within the hidden memories found throughout the map. While exploring the relatively vast world, Adol comes across flickers of memory in certain parts of the map. To further validate finding all these memories, developer Nihon Falcom awards explorers with permanent stat boosts, such as strength and defense. These memories can be found in any order, so they may seem rather random. However, they all fall together in tandem and deliver a very honorable subtext that frames Adol as a character; again, the narrative has its share of good and bad writing, but watching a young boy grow into his search for the unknown will parallel your want to unlock more of the game’s map.

The forest of Celceta is the canvas for explorers to discover, and the numerous zones within it are impressively varied. The same can be said about the second half of the map as well as enemies, where models are rarely, if at all, used more than once; if they are, Nihon Falcom did a phenomenal job of disguising them. Boss battles are a very different ball game from normal combat. Usually, the player has free reign to run around bosses to avoid massive, destructive attacks, and that extra room is needed more and more as the game progresses. In terms of quantity, boss battles aren’t plentiful but they’re not scarce either, where one appears every three hours or so–give or take relative progression. To top it off, each boss battle features unique attacks and strategies, making each new fight a learning experience.

Continued overleaf…


Killing monsters yields items and money, which are used to upgrade weapons and armor as well as create accessories. Each of the six playable characters has equipment slots for a weapon, armor, and two accessories. The weapons and armor can be upgraded at a vendor with literally any loot trash that’s taken from fallen enemies. Items each have their own benefits to them, and exploring how to upgrade items customizes the experience nicely. The variety of combat styles for each character is refreshing as well, ranging from fisticuffs to spears, but my favorite is the scheme that includes crowd control-based attacks and a one-handed hammer.

Fast travel is almost a necessity, but Nihon Falcom has combined the new expectations with the old ways of getting around the map. Each major zone includes multiple teleporting stones, which are color-coated to indicate which ones are connected. This means that the entire map is not available on a whim, but getting around isn’t a major chore either. Also, after dying, the most recently accessed stone becomes the checkpoint; dying in battle loses progress earned after the last checkpoint stone.

Memories of Celceta also balances what it tells the players and what it doesn’t, making the game require more effort than most modern games to figure out what to do. At times, I felt like my time was being wasted, but right around those points was when I figured out what I had to do. This might be a wall for some, but the in-game journal tracks well what has happened up to that point and what comes next.

Ever since my first exposure to the Ys franchise with The Order of Nephishtim, I’ve been in love with the fast-paced combat that’s as unforgiving as it is entertaining. Granted, since then, difficulty grades have changed, and the stark gameplay isn’t very daunting on the Normal difficulty. Still, the challenge grade is well balanced, but those who have the mettle can take on harder modes on other playthroughs.

The touchscreen usage is brilliant. In the bottom right is a bag and a potion, and each accesses exactly what they signify, which pauses the gameplay in order to use items while tapping on enemies highlights basic information about them. Right next to the character health bar is a slot that features relics which grant benefits and changes to the party overall. These items are found as the story progresses, and switching between them is as easy as pressing the touchscreen.

Traditionally, the soundtrack is top notch when it comes to JRPGs, but I couldn’t help but feel a conscious connection with it. When I entered a town, the track changed to something much more pleasant and relaxing. I even caught myself humming to each one, since the songs don’t have too many bars, but even the combat tracks ebbs an energy that works perfectly with the situation at hand. Exploration tracks feel exciting and engaging, boss tracks feel ominous and tense, and inter-town tracks slow the pace and relax the thumbs, making for an experience overall that leaves an auditory impact.

The profound negative of Ys is its frame rate inconsistency. In normal conditions, the game is very quick and responsive. However, if too much is on-screen, then the frame rate decreases. Considering that Ys has a fixed camera, this drawback is even more substantial. Regardless, the gameplay itself never loses its pace, but the visual change is very noticeable. To add to that, the graphics are not impressive, but rather they are merely above par, signifying the sporadic display lag even more. The loading times are not amazing either, sporting 3-4 second loading menus when going between zones. Much like the visuals, loading times could be better, especially with how the game looks visually.

This is the type of content that the PlayStation Vita has needed all along. Sure, it has Uncharted, Killzone, Rayman, etc, but the RPG library, apart from Persona 4, has been lacking. The fluctuating frame rate is significant, but nothing game changing, and the upgrading scheme coupled with the quick pace of combat make this portable excursion a resounding success. Ys: Memories of Celceta is great in both small bursts and marathons of play, which makes it perfect for JRPG fans as well as ambitious gamers willing to try something new.



The Final Word

Ys: Memories of Celceta validates an inconsistent narrative with a simple and engrossing combat scheme that works perfectly in short and long bursts. $40 may seem high, but this Ys makes PlayStation Vita owners happy they have one.