[Review] Ys Origin – Nintendo Switch

Written by Abbi Smith
  • Developer: Nihon Falcom
  • Publisher: DotEmu
  • Release Date: 01/10/2020
  • Price: £17.99 / $19.99
  • Review code provided by DotEmu

Introducing: Ys Origin Switch Review

As an RPG fan, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never played an Ys title before. However, I found myself in need of a nice button-masher to get out some work frustrations, and this came highly recommended, so I dipped my toe into the glittering waters of Ys. Was my journey blessed by the Goddesses, or plagued by demons?

Ys-ily Engrossing

There are a few key elements to a good RPG; good mechanics, an interesting protagonist and, above all, an engrossing story. Ys Origin had me enthralled from the start. After a demonic invasion rocks the land of Ys, Ladies Feena and Reah used the power of the Black Pearl to raise their beloved Solomon Shrine to safety in the skies, far beyond the reach fo the demons. One day, it transpires that the Ladies have disappeared along with the Black Pearl, which is the source of the citizens’ magic.

We have a choice of two protagonists to begin with – the optimistic axe-wielding Yunica, or the taciturn mage Hugo. I played Yunica, being a huge fan of the in-your-face attack style, and found myself quickly enamoured by the hard-headed little warrior. She tackles everything with passion and confidence, making her easy to get attached to throughout the 8-ish hour adventure. There’s also a charming cast of side characters, made up of the rest of the rescue party from Solomon Shrine, that flesh out the story and provide an extra depth of entertainment.

Button-Mashing Galore!

The hack-and-slash style of Yunica’s playthrough suited me down to the ground. Combat is gloriously simple – Y for a standard attack, and ZR for a special attack. Navigation is equally basic, with the left control stick controlling movement and B being a jump (which is eventually upgraded to a triple jump, which was awesome!). 

The game progresses by climbing the Devil’s Tower, fighting your way through a plethora of enemies in an attempt to reach the summit. The variety of enemies is huge, and while the majority don’t require anything more than gleeful button-mashing there is a certain amount of strategy required when reaching the bosses.

A variety of upgrades can be located throughout the tower. Goddess statues are host to a selection of upgrades, such as reduced time for negative status conditions, or the coveted speed increase, that can be purchased for SP (the game’s currency). If you can find any of the elusive Cleria ore, a handy mage-friend called Rico can upgrade your weapon for an instant damage boost – something I recommend doing at every possible opportunity. 

Abilities can be obtained from either legendary artifacts, found in chests scattered throughout the floors, or from the adorable Roo creatures taking naps in the most random of places. These range from special attacks to dashing, to the oft-dreamed-of triple-jump. Opening every single chest works entirely in your favour, as some of the best gear is hidden in the most obscure of places.

A Tower of Nostalgia

I loved Ys Origin so much that this section pains me slightly to write. The graphics, while nothing special, were definitely passable during the gameplay – they were pretty basic but nostalgic, invoking a certain fondness that had me smiling randomly as I watched the pixels dance across the screen. Unfortunately, this joy was thoroughly tempered by the cutscenes. They were blurred, jerky, and generally a disappointment. Thankfully, the cutscenes were few and far between, reducing the exposure and making it easier to forget about the sad difference in quality. The graphics even translated perfectly to handheld mode without becoming too cluttered – the text was a little small, but nowhere near as bad as I’ve often come across.

The sound design is absolutely on point. An upbeat track, perfectly suited to the vibe of the game, had me bopping my head and attacking in time as I made my way through each level. Appropriately calmer or more intense music accompanied the variety of scenes, some of them thoroughly heart-wrenching, and helped set the atmosphere while also reminding me of the games of days past.

With the exception of the stuttering cutscene graphics, I couldn’t find a single performance issue. Ys Origin was equally fun to play in both docked and handheld modes, which was ideal as it was so hard to put down. As I’ve often found with non-Nintendo games, cloud saving was also supported which was really nice, as I’d hate to have to redo everything if my Switch broke.

Ys-y as You Want It to Be

I confess to being a fair-weather RPGer – I’ll almost always play a game on Easy for the first playthrough, just to get a feel for the game without driving myself insane with frustration. On Easy, Ys Origin was almost relaxing – I only died once in combat (my own fault, for taking far too long to realise how the particular boss’ stages worked). I can admit to a few stupid deaths during one particular section, where I equipped one item without its partner and died a horrible death (which is exactly what I was already warned would happen, my brain was apparently having a nap). I didn’t even get stuck very often, other than when I’d missed something completely obvious and somehow not realised, which kept the game flowing nicely.

I’m looking forward to trying it on a harder difficulty, as well as with the other character as I’m notoriously bad with magic-based playstyles – there’s also apparently a third playable character, but I’m assuming that I have to complete both Hugo and Yunica before I can unlock him.

Blessed by the Goddess(es)

Ys Origin was a lovely surprise. A classic ARPG with fast-paced, button-mashing combat and a well-written story is always a welcome sight, especially on the Switch. It’s perfect for the absorbing nature of certain games. While the cutscene graphics were disappointing, it otherwise looked wonderfully nostalgia-inducing and sounded amazing, as well as running perfectly. Considering that a single playthrough on Easy took a solid 8 hours, and you’ll need at least 3 full runs to get the full story, there’s plenty of bang for your buck in this awesome instalment. There are even extra gameplay modes, if you really want a challenge!

Pros

  • Well-written
  • Fluid, simple combat
  • Utterly addictive

Cons

  • Cutscene graphics were very disappointing

Verdict
While the sub-par cutscene graphics were a bit of a letdown, they weren’t nearly enough to detract from this amazing ARPG that every fan of the genre should try.

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