Set in the Ys universe, the events in Ys Origin occur 700 years before the first Ys game, and was originally released in 2006 for Steam. Now 11 years later, Ys Origin comes to the PS4, and while it retains all the trappings from older JRPGs of its era, Ys Origin is a surprisingly good game that still holds up 11 years later.
Since Ys Origin is a prequel to the series, you don’t need to know a lot of backstory, and can jump right. For those who are already fans of the Ys universe, having played the later entries will definitely make you approach the game with more fondness. The main plot of the game has you climbing an ominous tower filled with dangers, as you make your way up in order to save two Goddesses, Reah and Feena, that you hold sacred, from the forces of evil.
At the very start you get to choose between two characters that you can play as. Yunica Tovah is adept with axes and greatswords, though she can’t use magic. She moves fast, as her playstyle is more akin to a hack and slash style of play, focusing on close range attacks. Hugo Fact focuses on magic, and does damage over a distance. Playing as him is a visual treat of destructive energy filling up your screen. He also has several AOE attacks, all of which feel balanced and satisfying. Both Yunica and Hugo have a Boost Meter which fills up over time, and can be unleashed for more powerful attacks while taking less damage.
Enemy variety is also fairly adequate with the game throwing new ones at you regularly. You’ll start off fighting regular smaller enemies, who die in a couple of hits. Soon enough you face them in bigger numbers, some capable of ranged and magical attacks. There are also aerial enemies, which can feel frustrating at first since being able to hit them is tricky. However, it doesn’t take long to figure out the right angles and the jump attacks for taking them down. Boss fights are also varied enough, with some changing forms mid-battle, while others are capable of ranged attacks. Some of the bosses have a ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ feel to them with you having to scale them to reach a weak point. Ys Origin feels challenging and very much enjoyable. You might feel the need to grind out a few previous areas in order to be powerful enough to beat some of the bosses, but since the combat pretty good, grinding never feels overly tedious.
The combat & movement feel precise, with hits landing where you intend them to. The game rarely shows its age during the main gameplay sections. Movements feels tight, even during the many platforming sections. You’ll will be doing a bit of backtracking as you make your way up the tower, opening previously locked gates and hidden entrances. You pick up important items such as health and power-ups from enemies, loot chests and so on. You’ll also meet other characters along the way, some of whom will help you out and give you special items. One of these items helps you fast travel to specific points across levels, while another helps you see hidden entrances when you equip it. The game doesn’t exactly have proper puzzles, though you will have to figure things out and put things together to make progress in the game.
There’s hardly any voiced dialogues in the game, with most of the talking happening over text. You will meet many characters along your way up the tower, and they all have something to offer. The music also feels repetitive, though it never gets annoying. I just wish that the soundtrack was better. Both Yunica and Huga have slightly different stories, and the game plays out differently enough for you to enjoy two separate playthroughs. However, unlike the original release, you only need to finish one character’s story to unlock a third character. Overall the story is good enough to keep you going, and works as a really strong backstory for the rest of the series.
Once you’re done with the main story, you can play the Time Attack mode and the Arena Mode, which allows you to unlock different versions of the playable characters. The additional modes along with multiple playthroughs of the main campaign feel like a lot of content for a $20 game.
There are definitely some minor issues with the PS4 port. The game, for how old it is, loads a bit slow. It never stands out a lot, but is noticeable on occasions. There are a few animation bugs, but nothing that really affects the way you play the game. The game’s UI is definitely improved from the original, and since I primarily play on the PS4, I am certainly happy to see this game on the platform.
Ys Origins still holds up really well even 11 years later. The combat feels as good as any modern game, with really enjoyable enemy encounters and challenging boss fights. The story serves as a great backstory for games that come ahead, and does a great of introducing newcomers to the series. It’s not a very lengthy game, but has good replay value, and the additional modes are a lot of fun to play.