I've got a terrible confession to make. This is the first time I've totally finished an Ys game. It's not because there is anything wrong with the series, I've just always been the type of person to move on to the latest and greatest game that comes around shortly after an Ys title. I did it with Oath in Felghana, Ark of Napishtim, even Ys Origins when it was on sale on Steam, quickly bumped aside by some other AAA franchise title that just happens to come along and wreck the progress I had previously made. With Ys: Memories of Celceta though, I finally sat down and thought I'd be able to get through this one. Zelda was done, Dragon's Crown hadn't received its level cap patch yet, and the mad rush of holiday titles was just about wrapping up. Sure enough I managed a full playthrough, and in doing so, I got to experience one of the best titles in the Vita's library.
Technically the third incarnation of Ys IV, Memories of Celceta follows series mainstay Adol Christin, who awakens in the town of Casnan, suffering from a rather severe bout of amnesia. What follows is an exploration of the uncharted great forest and the discovery of the lost city of Celceta. The amnesiac angle may be played out, but it does a pretty good job of fleshing out the character of Adol and his desire to explore the world. The surrounding cast feels like they're just along for the ride, but they're a fun group of characters, each with their own reasons for tagging along. The story pacing is also a bit wonky, giving players moments of feeling lost near the middle of the game, though it's nothing that can't be solved with a good bit of adventuring. By exploring you'll recover Adol's lost memories, and earn some much needed coin by mapping the previously unexplored forest for the Governor General of Casnan. There are also plenty of side quests to take up, with people in each of the towns in need of some sort of assistance, whether it be slaying monsters, collection materials, or some other inane activity, you'll always have something to do.
You'll be doing a lot of exploring in this game, and thankfully this game is extremely fast paced. It makes exploring a simple affair, as you can quickly blaze from one side of the map to the other without much fuss, and once you are able to warp between specific points, it gets even faster. This speedy gameplay extends to combat, which is very quick and full of massive combos and powerful special attacks that a few other games could learn from (looking at you Valhalla Knights 3). The combat is a ton of fun, even with just the press of a button you'll be doling out combos, but there's a little bit more depth than that.
Each of the characters in your party has a weapon type: pierce, slash, or strike, and enemies will be weak against one of those types of attacks, which means you'll be cycling between characters quickly and frequently, with just the press of the circle button. Special attacks can also launch enemies into the air, giving you the potential for a lot of juggle combos to keep enemies from striking back. You've also got a flash dodge that activates when you move right before an enemy attack, which gives you a temporary slowdown of enemies to get a strategic advantage. If you happen to time your blocks perfectly, then you'll be more powerful for a few short moments, but that extra damage goes a long way against some of this game's massive bosses, of which there are plenty. They're pretty well paced, and provide a decent challenge, but overall I can't say that this game was particularly difficult. Just keep moving and you shouldn't have any problems. The game also makes use of the Vita's touch screen, with just a quick tap, you can find out information about the enemies you're fighting, which is useful when you're wondering why you don't seem to be doing much damage to them.
The visuals of Ys have never been something to hang a hat on. They've always been pretty simplistic but at the same time have always looked good. Memories of Celceta looks like it opted for speed over looks, which works out just fine for me. The anime-styled visuals don't do anything to push the system, which means this game is able to run fast and free. While the style is distinctly Japanese, it doesn't go for that realistic look of some games where that style isn't really going to pay off because of limited system resources. The audio is where the Falcom team seems to have really cut loose, with a ton of tracks that quite simply rock. The music in the Underground Ruins is a standout track for me, and is easily the most memorable. The same can't really be said for the voice acting, which to me seemed tacked on. Honestly they could have just left the Japanese vocal track without anything carrying over, because there aren't too many lines spoken by the characters, and when they are used, it's usually only for a sentence or two.
If you're in need of a quality title on your Vita, and you're a fan of stuff like Persona 4, Muramasa, and Dragon's Crown, then Ys: Memories of Celceta needs to be in your library. It's a fun game that you can wave in the face of your 3DS-owning friends who are all up in that Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds goodness. It doesn't really have any particularly glaring faults, just a weak mid-game stretch where the story gets to be a bit light. The first time through you're looking at about a 25-hour playthrough, and then the real fun begins, unlocking a time-trial mode and harder difficulties. And if you're the completionist type, know that there are trophies for a bunch of little things. Hey, the dev team made those animals interactable for a reason. Even if you haven't played any of the past Ys games, Memories of Celceta can serve as an excellent jumping off point. So if you find your Vita is looking a little lonely, give this game a shot, you won't regret it.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.