Ys: Memories of Celceta is the fourth release to be considered Ys IV, but actually the first version to be developed by Falcom itself and will be the first released in English, with the previous efforts released in the early 1990s via Tonkin House on the Super Famicom (which was remade for PS2 in 2005) and Hudson Soft on TurboGrafx-16 CD. Memories of Celceta is far from a simple remake of either of these games, however. It is a complete re-imagining featuring a brand new story and a much expanded land for players to explore, and looks to be an excellent draw for both fans of the series and those yet to sample its delights.
"Gameplay has always been a particular highlight of the Ys series, and Memories of Celceta looks to take things to yet another level."
The game takes place a year or so before Ys III, last released on PSP as Ys: The Oath in Felghana. Series hero Adol Christin has arrived in the outskirts of the Great Forest of Celceta, but awakens suffering from the common RPG affliction of amnesia. Despite perhaps being a bit of an uninspired plot device, this is a rare chance for Ys fans to learn more of Adol's background and childhood. As with most Ys games, the story is standalone and, with the aforementioned background reveals, this may be the perfect time for those unfamiliar with the series to give it a try.
Adol's attempt to recover his memories is but one part of Celceta's story. XSEED has promised lots of politcal intrigue, plus the uncovering of a centuries-old civilisation and the truth behind some serious allegations of which Adol finds himself on the receiving end. Despite these allegations, Adol still has the support of various companions throughout his adventures in Celceta. Duren is one the first people Adol meets in Celceta, in a bar no less. An information broker, Duren appears to recognise Adol from some time in the past. Duren shares a lot of similarities with Adol's usual companion, Dogi, and he forms a partnership with Adol when Adol is commissioned by Governor Griselda to explore and map Celceta.
Amongst the others joining Adol is Karna, a girl who lives in the treetop town of Comodo and another character who appears to recognise Adol from the past. A cheerful and very skilled huntress, Karna prefers the throwing knife but appears to have a habit of using her skills before asking any questions. Ozma is a character newly introduced for the Memories of Celceta version of Ys IV, and is the last in a tribe that cares for sacred beasts called Spardas. A resident of the village of Selray, he acts as its leader despite his young age and is level-headed and very loyal to those under his charge but stubborn when it comes to the laws of his tribe. Another character unique to Memories of Celceta is Calilica, a disciple-in-training at the village of Highland. She is mature despite her young age and appearance, seeking to gain recognition as an adult and appears to have some knowledge of Adol's memory loss.
Adol isn't flying solo when it comes to the combat parts of his adventures either. Ys Seven's party system makes a return with tweaks and improvements, giving Adol two companions to assist him in battle, who can have control switched to on the fly. Each of the party members usually specialises in a specific type of damage, for example Adol's swords inflict slashing damage, and different opponents may be weaker to certain types of damage, meaning that players who learn to use their party members wisely will find themselves with an advantage in combat. The game contains a customisable AI for the uncontrolled party members, but indications are that players will get better results by tactically switching control between party members rather than relying on the AI.
Battles keep Ys' trademark fast and frenetic pace. The game features a bonus system where actions in battle, such as using a skill to finish off opponents or unleashing combos, can result in a higher chance of rare items being dropped, which should help keep players engaged even when fighting the more trivial enemies. Skill progression is now determined by usage, rather than equipment as in Ys Seven, and it appears as though the skills link together nicely, allowing players to inflict good combos and encouraging them away from repeated use of a single skill. Dodging and guarding also players an important role, where a well-timed dodge or guard will temporarily stun the enemy and slow-down time, granting players opening to unleash attacks. This is said to be particularly important when facing bosses, another traditional area of strength for Ys and one where this latest title is highly unlikely to disappoint. Gameplay has always been a particular highlight of the Ys series, and Memories of Celceta looks to take things to yet another level.
Adol's task to map out Celceta is reflected and encouraged within the gameplay. The game usually gives out and marks certain major points for Adol for travel to and record, but heartily encourages players to map out as much of the region as possible, keeping track of what percentage of the land has been charted and providing bonuses when milestones are reached. Thankfully, due to the size of the world, the game does allow players to teleport between certain points in Celceta. Adventure and exploration is one the main draws of the series, and Memories of Celceta keeps this up by not limiting things to land. Adol and company are able to swim, and even fight while doing so, and traverse the environment in multiple other ways. Dungeons have their own puzzles, which players must complete in order to progress, a number of which make use of the Vita's touchscreen. Side missions can be found and taken on from the various pubs and bars in Celceta, in a manner that seems quite similar to those found in Trails in the Sky. Quest NPCs and locations are usually marked out, which should make it easier for players to get into the side quests compared to the more scattered approach from Ys Seven.
The Falcom Sound Team is well known for always coming out with excellent soundtracks and the one in Ys: Memories of Celceta is no exception, keeping up with high-action pace of the game and providing great backing tracks for the beautiful locations. Those interested can find it available to purchase digitally already, and it's a pleasure to listen to on its own even without the game adding the visual and story context. The game is also looking pretty nice on Vita. The actions seems to flow very nicely, and distinct attack and skill animations bring depth and life to the battles. Nice touches help add life to the environments, such as cloud shadows, beams of sunlight, and day/night cycles.
Ys: Memories of Celceta is due out exclusively on Vita in North America on November 26, 2013, with a European release following in early 2014. With what looks like more stellar gameplay and some interesting insights into Adol's backstory, RPGamers should be able to find a lot to be thankful for when Ys: Celceta of Memories hits their handhelds.