Ys: Memories of Celceta is the latest in a long-running JRPG series that dates back to the late 1980s, and I’ll admit that this entry, the first one for the Vita, also serves as my own introduction to the franchise. What I ultimately got out of this title was an experience that, while competently put together when it comes to certain aspects, also had some elements that never fully clicked with me, making for an experience that is ultimately something of a mixed bag.
Taking place in the titular medieval fantasy land of Celceta, the plot primarily focuses on young adventurer Adol Christin, who wanders into the village of Casnan with the now beyond-cliche plot contrivance of an untimely case of amnesia. He soon reunites with a former partner, and after both prove their worth while saving some miners from a monster attack, the local governor commissions them to chart a map of the massive forest surrounding the village.
More important than the decidedly average plot and cast is the main set of gameplay mechanics. Players are given spots on the world map to go check out, along with the options while in town to partake in some fairly routine sidequests and typical shopping and item crafting. Thankfully, there are some handy features that reduce the amount of potential frustration that such a wide world could provide, including the ability to warp between stone monoliths for faster backtracking, an always-available save feature from the pause menu, and a useful function that lets you recover HP if you simply stand still for a few seconds.
The real-time battle system also functions as it should, though it can feel a little simplistic. You can pull off basic attacks, guard, and dodge. Landing successful basic attacks builds up a blue meter that is tied to unlockable skill moves, which are earned alongside traditional experience points and levelling up through battle. A selection of four skills corresponding to the four main face buttons can be customized via the pause menu, and holding down R and pressing one of them will initiate the chosen skill.
Using those in combination with standard attacks will build up a separate yellow meter, that can pull off a devastating and flashy super move with a tap of the L button. Items, such as healing potions, can be easily accessed by tapping an icon on the lower right portion of the screen. It all works well, with few frustrations once you have the button layout memorized.
Another nice feature is the ability to switch between any of your party members while in battle with a tap of the Circle button. Certain character’s attacks, be they sword, melee, or projectile-focused, will be more effective on specific enemies, adding a nice layer of strategy to battle.
Despite all this, I can’t help but wish that most of the game was more engaging and original overall, because what’s here is a fairly standard experience. As mentioned before, I found little interesting about the plot and cast of characters, and while the graphical style is appealingly colorful, the actual quality looks more like a PlayStation 2 game compared to what the Vita has proven itself capable of.
The accompanying music is also serviceable, but overall forgettable. Voice work is also unfortunately close to non-existent, with a Fire Emblem: Awakening-like approach at times, where characters say samples of the on-screen text or short utterances, while at most other points, things stay silent.
I also think the game, with all its open-ended features, could have used a little more focus. It could be a little vague regarding where to go next, particularly early on, leading to some tedium while traversing through each landscape.
All in all, Ys: Memories of Celceta will likely scratch the itch that JRPG fans who own a Vita are looking for, but I wouldn’t go in expecting anything revolutionary or great. The mechanics are overall solid, but the experience connecting everything together is woefully standard, and that holds the final product back from the potential greatness it could have achieved.
This review is based on a copy of the PS Vita exclusive that was provided to us for review purposes.