Ys: Memories of Celceta Review – Ain’t Pretty, But Plays Like A Dream

Ys: Memories of Celceta Review

Ys is the most unappreciated JRPG series in the world today. I don’t make this claim lightly. I’m a huge fan of these games, but even the most hardcore JRPG fans I know don’t seem to have played a single game in the 9+ game series. The release of Ys VIII, on the PS4, brought a few more players to the world of Adol Christin, but I’m hoping that this article can bring more awareness to how fantastic these action JRPGs are. Legend Of Zelda fans should be chomping at the bit to have games like the Ys series in their lives.

Same Look, Different Year

I can’t really explain where Ys: Memories of Celceta fits in the series canon without giving a bit of history first. Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished was released on a variety of Japan-only computer systems in 1987, and eventually on the Japanese Famicom and North American Sega Master System in 1988. The definitive version of the original Ys, if you’d like to play it, is for the TurboGrafx-CD. It was released with its sequel as Ys Book I & II, and has gorgeous cutscenes, truly catchy music (a series standard) and has quality gameplay (seriously, the Famicom version is basically unplayable.) The two original games are top down, Legend Of Zelda-meets Dragon Warrior-style games that have combat where the player walks into enemies to do damage. I was blown away by Ys Book I & II when I first played it on the Wii Virtual console.

Remakes would become the name of the game for the Ys series. Those first two games would later be remade again for the PSP. The Super Nintendo’s Ys III: Wanderers from Ys would also be remade for the PSP as Ys: The Oath In Felghana. Ys IV didn’t come to North America. It was actually released as two separate games: Ys IV: Mask Of The Sun for the Super Famicom and Ys IV: The Dawn Of Ys for the PC Engine CD-ROM. Ys: Memories Of Celceta is a synthesis of these two Japanese only games, remade for the PlayStation Vita in 2012. It was later released on Steam in 2018, and now on the PS4 in 2020. Whew!

So how is the game? It’s fantastic. Don’t be deterred by the ugly graphics, because you’d be missing out on one of the best action JRPGs released in years. I’ll address the graphics first, because Ys: Memories Of Celceta is very cutscene heavy, and while they are well directed, it will be a surprise to no one that this is a Vita game from 2012. It looks like a PS2 game, frankly, although updated in HD. The anime video cutscenes are gorgeous, however, and are always a welcome treat.

One of the nice things about Ys, as a series, is it’s easy to get into. Every game is about a different adventure of the series protagonist Adol Christin, and aside from a few references to past adventures, the games’ plots are entirely self-contained. Fear not, if deciding to start your dive into the Ys Series if you choose to begin with Memories Of Celceta!

Truly Epic JRPG

The story in each Ys game usually has a simple set up, and then delves into surprisingly complex late game plots. The set up of Memories Of Celceta, is that two years after Adol’s first adventure (in Ys), he wanders out of the forest of Celceta with no memories. He’s told that the forest contains monsters and treasure, and that he’s an adventurer. He then wanders into the forest again to uncover why he lost his memories, and what’s going on. It’s not the most original set up ever, but it serves to drive the player forward until the real plot picks up. All I’ll write is that it picks and chooses the best bits of both Ys IV games.

Ys feels like a JRPG not only in its presentation, but also in its mechanics. There are experience points, levels to increase, skills to learn, dungeons to explore, etc. But what makes the Ys series stand apart from other JRPGs is it has real time combat. Square is attack, X is dodge, and triangle is guard. The special combat skills that characters earn can be mapped to the face buttons, and used while holding R1. Another fun feature that the newer Ys games have, is the ability to switch characters with the press of a button. If Adol isn’t doing much damage with his sword, press circle, switch to Duren, and see if his knuckles do any better. The opportunity to use and easily switch between multiple characters, combined with constant new skills gained, always keeps combat fresh. While combat is from the newer Ys series games, there are plenty of music cues, and features to keep longtime Ys fans happy as well, such as Adol’s health still increasing if he’s standing still in a field.

The music in Ys: Memories of Celceta is seriously epic and catchy. This is not an ambient score; the melodies are strong and memorable. The musical style has a medieval fantasy vibe, but occasionally delves into jazz or even heavy metal instrumentation.

What we have in Ys: Memories of Celceta is a game that has dated graphics and an okay presentation, but phenomenal music and gameplay. This is one of the finest action JRPGs I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. Don’t let its immediate blandness fool you, this is a must play that should stand by giants like The Legend Of Zelda and Final Fantasy series. It’s only 2/3 the price of an average game, and comes with a soundtrack and art cards. What more could you ask for?

***PS4 review code provided by the publisher.***

The Good

  • Tight action JRPG gameplay
  • Catchy musical score
  • Gorgeous anime cutscenes

The Bad

  • Ugly 2012 Vita graphics
  • Takes a bit for the story to get going
  • Generic initial presentation