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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

A Modern Guide to Ys - Ys Origin

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Now for perhaps one of the best-known games in the series, Ys Origin has gained quite a bit of notoriety especially on Steam, probably mainly because its Steam trailer is super hype. Does it deserve it? Well, to put it very simply... hell yeah it does.

As mentioned already, in Ys Origin you do not play as Adol. That's because this game is a prequel to the Ys I & II duology, taking place 700 years in the past when the kingdom of Ys was under siege by demons. Before the story begins, Solomon Shrine was lifted up in the sky to where you find it in Ys II, and the entire population of Ys with it save for the knights Saul Tovah and Toal Fact who stayed behind fighting off the monsters to ensure the spell would complete successfully. Now, some time later, the goddesses of Ys, Reah and Feena, have suddenly disappeared, and a search squad of holy knights and sorcerers is dispatched back down to the surface by teleportation. But just as they're about to arrive, a magic spell interferes with the teleportation spell and scatters the squad. The squad soon reassembles at the foot of Darm Tower, having received a pointer from a friendly tree that the goddesses did indeed go inside of it. And so the search party begins their climb of the tower. Very soon they realize that a group of bad guys, the Darklings, is also roaming the tower and searching for the goddesses, and things get more tense as it becomes a race to see who can secure the two of them first.

In this game you take control of one of three distinct protagonists: Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact, or finally, Toal Fact, who is not available initially needs to be unlocked by finishing either of the other protagonist routes. While the fundamental gameplay system is almost entirely the same as Oath in Felghana, the three protagonists each play very differently and don't have the same moveset Adol had, giving this game a very unique feel. Each of the protagonists goes through the same levels of Darm Tower in the same order, however, you will see different parts of the story and events will play out somewhat differently, which among other things also leads to different boss battles. And while Yunica and Hugo possess strong narratives of their own, Toal's route is the one that actually sets up the future events of Ys I and II and is therefore the canon route of the game, and as far as I'm concerned it's also certainly the strongest route narratively.

Yunica is an earnest girl and a holy knight in training, and also the daughter of Saul Tovah, the previous commander of the order who is now presumed dead after staying behind on the surface when Ys was lifted up. She doesn't have any magic capabilities, but she is very physically strong and good friends with the goddesses, so she intends on following her father's footsteps. In terms of gameplay she plays relatively similarly to Adol in Oath in Felghana, as her wind skill is a spin attack, her earth skill a short range multi-hit with invincibility frames and her fire skill a projectile. Her regular attacks are somewhat heavier though, especially if you equip the fire skill as doing so actually changes her weapon into a stronger and slower one, giving her two interestingly distinct modes of attack. Her story is a pretty standard one as she's just a good-natured girl facing off against the antagonistic Darklings one after another and facing her own weaknesses along the way. Nothing spectacular, but it just works as a simple standalone story.

Hugo is the heir to the Fact house, the most powerful of the six priest houses, and is considered a magic prodigy. He was sent to Darm Tower not only in pursuit of the goddesses but also with the special mission to take down the 'traitor to Ys', whom he has to face is his own brother, Toal Fact, who now works with the Darklings. He's highly confident in his own abilities, sometimes to his own detriment as he rejects help from his allies who he feels would only get in his way, but in reality he's being crushed underneath the weight of the expectations placed on him as the successor as well. He plays very, very differently from Adol and Yunica as his regular attacks are all projectiles and he can place a shield on himself as well as drop mines. He's honestly pretty overpowered if you play cautiously, but thankfully that hardly means his route is devoid of challenge. His story actually leads to the leader of the Darklings, Dalles, tempting him into becoming a demon himself to gain the power to face and surpass those expectations, and puts him on a road to discovering his own path, as well as facing that maybe his brother isn't as bad and traitorous as he might appear.

Toal, finally, is Hugo's older brother and was the intended heir to the Fact house until he decided to say screw that and enlisted in the order of holy knights instead, becoming personal guard to the two goddesses and developing a quite close bond with them. After staying behind on the surface he has a demonic element implanted into him and cooperates with the Darklings both to survive and grow more powerful. Despite being supposedly on the other side he still conveniently fights the same random mooks and bosses, and overall plays like a more speedy and aggressive Adol, gaining a seriously useful quick dodge but having no ranged options whatsoever, making some of the boss fights play out very differently from the other two characters. The ingame reason as to why he's fighting the same enemies as the other two protagonists despite being on the opposing side is because as a demon he grows stronger as he feeds on other demons, and he doesn't give a damn about the others and gets free reign by the leader of the Darklings to do as he pleases so long as he aids them in their plans. He faces some of the allies from the other routes as bosses as well though, and while Yunica and Hugo routes end with a climactic showdown with Dalles, Toal is the only one to face off against the true final boss of the game, Darm. It's an epic tale and it both gives a lot of character to the goddesses while tying things together in a pretty impressive way, I must say.

You may have already gleamed this much, but this game is full of fanservice. Insanely so. And I love it to bits. The entire setting of the game is the final dungeon of Ys I, Darm Tower, and while Falcom took obvious creative liberties to make it a unique experience, it still has all the same memorable setpieces from the original - the teleport trap, the Devil's Corridor, Rado's Annex, the mirror maze, and others - and the group of Darklings in this game are partly made up of the antagonists of Ys II, notably Dalles as well as Zava who was a late boss in that game. On top of that, the demon bosses you face in this game are all reimaginations of Ys I and II bosses, with their patterns being entirely unique to this game but containing loads of fun references to their original counterparts. Several of the plot points in this game also mirror events from those games, such as Dalles' petrification spell, or using the Mask of Eyes to find hidden passages.

That's not at all to say this game is lacking in originality of course. It uses an entirely separate gameplay engine for one and thus plays entirely differently, and it also separates Darm Tower into six segments with distinct themeings to break up the monotony. A lot of the music contains leitmotifs that are callbacks to Ys I and II which are amazing, but the game has plenty of great original tracks as well, especially the game's main theme Beyond the Beginning which is pure hype. I will admit to be the highlight of both the OST and story was the true final boss in Toal route, beautifully calling back to the final bosses of both Ys I and II with rearranges of The Last Moment of the Dark and Termination, the Ys Origin version of which is easily the most haunting of all final boss themes which perfectly suits the fight itself.

The gameplay I have to admit is the best iteration of the Ys VI engine yet. Fighting enemies in this game is just so damn fun. As with the previous games you may find yourself wanting to grind out a level or two before a boss and doing so is genuinely just fun. And while playing through the game essentially three times may sound like a grind, the different characters' playstyles plus being able to try out higher difficulties once you think you have things figured out keeps things varied enough to remain interesting all the way through. Still, even if you decide not to replay the game with the other characters once you've completed it once, it remains a fun and awesome game, and I still highly recommend it regardless. And hey, if you're more on the opposing spectrum and want to continue playing more of it after you've done it all, the game provides a number of bonus modes to let you play more of this game, unlocking EX versions of all characters that ever so slightly change how they play, and even allowing you to unlock Adol with his movesets from the previous two games for the bonus modes if you play them for long enough.

Whichever way you play it, Ys Origin is a great game and I highly recommend it for newcomers and veterans alike. Even if you don't get the story references, you will instead get them if you move on to Ys I and II after this game, which is perfectly fine as well. And as a standalone game it remains seriously fun and epic to play. With this however we've concluded the era of Ys games using this engine and even general gameplay style, as the next game on the list changes things up heavily and in doing so marks another one of the series' greatest entries.