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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

A Modern Guide to Ys - Ys: Memories of Celceta (Ys IV)

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Time for a quick history lesson! Ys IV's history is a strange one indeed. Back around its initial release there were actually two games that were Ys IV, there was "Ys IV: Dawn of Ys" by Hudson Soft on the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) CD-ROM, and then there was "Ys IV: Mask of the Sun" by Tonkin House on the SNES. How did that happen? Well Falcom were in a bit of a situation at that point and so came up with a draft for what Ys IV would be like and then outsourced its development to other studios. They approached Hudson about it, but then because why the heck not or something they also had Tonkin House do their own take on it. The result is two very different games both with the claim to being Ys IV. Both working off the same base concept but introducing different new characters and still overall playing out differently.

Thankfully for us we live in the future of that whole mess, and the only game we need to worry about nowadays as being Ys IV is "Ys: Memories of Celceta", a Falcom-produced new game that incorporates elements from both prior Ys IV games to form one cohesive whole. It runs off the same fundamental gameplay system as Ys Seven while still introducing a number of elements of its own to the mix, such as expanded options for dodging and blocking attacks and no longer requiring you to hold the attack button to do charge attacks (thank smurf). The initial setup actually is that Adol has lost his memories due to circumstances unknown, but muscle memory allows him to still wield his sword and save the day right away. From then on it revolves around exploration in a very direct way as you're hired to map out the uncharted vast forest of Celceta, in which you occasionally come across memory orbs that gradually restore the memories Adol lost which more and more reveal that he's actually pretty intricately tied to the larger plot of the game already, and exploring the forest also naturally leads you to finding villages and settlements in its depths and uncovering more and more of its secrets. Each of these settlements feels heavily distinct from the last and they all have their own set of sidequests to interact more with their cultures, beliefs and traditions in a way that feels like a natural evolution from Ys Seven.

It's at this point that I also want to get out of the way that Ys: Memories of Celceta is my least favorite of all the games on this list, and I've been struggling to put into words exactly why. Don't get me wrong, I don't think it's a bad game by any stretch, but "not bad" is perhaps the best way to summarize my position on the game as a whole; it doesn't do much wrong, but it lacks things to make it truly memorable the same way Ys Seven and Felghana and even the original land of Ys arc were. A lot of its playable cast is pretty one-note, its areas struggle to be anything noteworthy and its soundtrack is sadly the least memorable score of the bunch. And while Ys Seven was a challenging game, Celceta so is not. The game left me feeling like it's "just another one" a lot more than any other entry in the series ever did. And no amount of technical improvements can make up for that. Still, as far as being a product of its kind of game, it's undeniably a well-crafted one, and if that's exactly what you want, Celceta is absolutely a high recommendation.

In a way perhaps the best comparison I can draw is that to me, the relationship between Ys Seven and Celceta is much like I view the relationship between Persona 3 and 4; the latter is doubtlessly a technical improvement in a variety of ways and introduces many fun ideas, themes and characters of its own, but in spite of it all it just doesn't form as great of a cohesive greater whole as the former, and at times leaves you feeling like it's ultimately an industry product crafted to give a particular kind of gaming experience, to be consumed rather than leaving you thinking about it for years to come.

But enough about that because Memories of Celceta remains a good game overall and certainly has its own strengths and standout moments. This is definitely the game where sidequests started to come into their own far more, they feel a lot like the sidequests in Trails of Cold Steel in how they really absorb you into the life of an NPC and make you care about what you're doing because whether it's a mundane task or an epic quest it feels incredibly human in the way it's presented. I did all the sidequests and gladly so. The metroidvania aspect of the forest of Celceta also works pretty well as you find adventuring gear in later parts of the story that can be used to reach areas locked off in much earlier sections of the forest, and even early on you will find areas with enemies that are just way above your current level. All this helps the forest retain the feeling of not being a brick road for you to follow with each area leveled precisely to your needs, but instead have a sense of mystery and scale to it that goes beyond "you".

The story of the game revolves in large part around a remnant Eldeen as well as the Darklings. Celceta picks up where Ys VI left off in tying together the lore, giving the Darklings a proper fleshed out background and once again showcasing the conflicting sentiments in its bloodline. Eldeel himself is a pretty memorable character, being both a precious dude you want to see do well and also being damn scary when the situation calls for it. And I must say, the element of delving into Adol's background was endearing. See the memory orbs you find scattered don't merely show Adol's memories of Celceta, but also of his younger life and how he was inspired into being the adventurous free spirit he is in the Ys series. I love how child Adol actually talks because he wasn't a silent protagonist yet back then and it's overlayed by this really nostalgic sounding tune that's perhaps the most memorable of the whole game for me due to how adorable these scenes can be and how well the music supports that feeling.

Well I've more or less said my piece on this game. Don't take my word as gospel here, there are many people including people on this very forum who consider this game one of if not THE best game in the series. I'm really more the outlier here myself, but even then I need to reiterate that being the low point of the Ys series is a pretty weak criticism as that still leaves it being one of the best games of its kind. And hey, if you are interested in it yourself, Ys: Memories of Celceta is set to be rereleased on the PS4 very soon, which will most likely be localized as well, so be on the lookout for that.

At last, it's time we take a look at the last Ys game released in the west so far, the game that got me into the series as a whole, and frankly, one of the best games ever made...