We had Ys Seven for a while, and we admit it’s taken us some time to get to the review. That’s not to say we didn’t want to play it sooner, we were just busy with some major PlayStation 3 releases. We try not to forget about PSP releases, and for RPG fans, Ys Seven is worth the wait. The problem is you’ll do a lot of waiting. After popping in the UMD, we literally waited for 30 minutes before we attacked anything.
Developer Falcom tries very hard to make this version of Ys an epic tale, and supplies us with tons of text-dialogue boxes, classic RPG-style characters, and a story that feels like it was penned 15 years ago. We again follow protagonist Adol Christin (also known as Adol the Red) and his buddy Dogi. This time they journey through the land of Altago. The story is simple: there are some political problems, a little-known yet deadly disease, and Adol is somehow able to capture powers from the Dragon gods, leading local leaders to believe he can fix whatever problems plague the land.
The story is certainly not the game’s strong point. After that 30-minute wait at the beginning of the game (some may blow through this part faster, but it does take a while for the game to really kick in) you get to take part in one of the best action-RPGs on Sony’s handheld device. The combat system is a joy for button-mashing fiends and strategy aficionados’ alike. You can get pretty far by simply smashing away at the X button to attack beasts, but you can opt to approach combat with more strategy by utilizing dodge abilities, special moves, and the brilliant A.I.
Most games tend to glance over A.I. That is certainly not the case for Ys Seven. You can fight with up to three characters on the screen at once, and click of the circle button switches seamlessly between your party members. As each member has unique strengths and abilities, you’ll want to take over the character best suited for the situation. Your companions actually fight quite well without you having to do too much to keep them in line. It’s not always perfect, but the A.I. works better than most JRPGs on the PSP. They’ll even help you gather raw materials like iron ore.
Battles happen in real-time, so don’t expect a traditional turn-based JRPG combat system. Each of your characters will want to try on as many weapons as possible. Ys Seven rewards playing with a diverse weapon base as special ability—which use SP—are tied to the different weapons available in Altago. This system works quite well to keep your inventory constantly updated and fresh. You can simply purchase weapons and other gear at shops, or you can visit vendors and synthesize items using raw materials gathered throughout the land.
Boss battles offer a tough challenge. These battles in particular require more than just button mashing. You’ll have to pay attention to the weapon type best suited for the situation (each character uses a different weapon type, like slashing or piercing). Boss battles can get hairy awfully fast, so you’ll find yourself dodging, watching for repeating attacks, and planning your strategy very carefully.
As mentioned above, you will gather raw materials from the land. You’ll also get materials from killing enemies. When they die they burst, revealing tons of things to pick up. It’s a rewarding system that feels a bit like Monster Hunter. Enemies respawn as you change between load zones and you’ll spend much of your time trekking through the game’s limited scenery.
While we enjoyed the combat, exploration, and weapon synth system, we found it a shame that the game focused so heavily on a story that was overly typical and characters that were uninteresting. Most games try very hard to offer an exciting and compelling story, but sometimes that comes at a price. For Ys Seven, that price was simply pacing and providing that desire to move forward. Luckily the game is just fun to play as the combat is simplistic yet fairly strategic in places.
Ys Seven offers a fairly meaty campaign, clocking in at around 20-25 hours long, though much of this can be attributed to the copious amounts of backtracking you’ll have to undertake. Don’t go expecting any lush graphics or voiced dialogue, either. Indeed, while these are features that don’t necessarily break the game, they would have added a welcome layer of polish to an otherwise typical JRPG. Still, we really enjoyed the combat system and we appreciate the developer put so much work into the AI. We only wish they added some sort of multiplayer element, but it’s not a huge loss. Overall, Ys Seven is one of the better JRPGs on the PSP, and certainly offers up a unique gameplay experience even if the story lacks any real depth.