The Ys series has remained relatively unknown in North America, but has always been worth playing. Ys Origin is, as the title suggests, an origin story for the rest of the series. Ys Origin is a traditional action RPG, available on Steam, without any of the bells and whistles. There is no talent or upgrade system, no party members to manage, and only the most basic equipment screen. Ys Origin is nothing more than a simple hack-and-slash action game, and it’s a ton of fun.
Explore one tower with three heroes.
Every other entry in the Ys series focuses on a single playable hero named Adol, but Ys Origin (which is set long before Adol is born) instead provides three playable characters. Each character has a distinct play style, and I found playing all three to be enjoyable.
New players can choose between two characters, Hugo and Yunica. The third character is unlocked upon completing the game with one of the other two characters.
Yunica is, aside from being a girl, a typical action RPG hero(ine). Yunica is an up-and-coming knight with a famous father who wants to prove herself. She is a melee fighter who battles with a single axe. Fans of other Ys games will feel right-at-home playing Yunica; her play style is very similar to Adol in Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Ys: The Ark of Napishtim. As a fan of the Ys series myself, I enjoy playing Yunica, but I feel that playing Hugo is a more fresh experience.
Hugo is a sorcerer. Like Yunica, he is young, but he is already well known for his magical abilities. Hugo is a long range character who attacks using a pair of floating magical orbs. The orbs, called the “Eyes of Fact”, fire magical beams to damage enemies. Hugo’s secondary skills are other magical abilities. I enjoyed Ys Origin the most when I was playing Hugo, and I recommend selecting him as your character.
Ys Origin takes place entirely inside a single tower. Your goal is very simple: get to the top. There are other objectives along the way and you will find yourself revisiting some areas. Fortunately, the back tracking is kept to a minimum thanks to an item that will teleport you to any save point (the item is given to you at the very beginning of the game). Overall, Ys Origin is a very linear game. You will encounter a handful of puzzles and environmental hazards, but most are solved by simply finding the right key or item. Despite the linearity, I was never bored playing the game. The constant action and simple play style make the game fun to play even when the environments are not particularly interesting.
The story is well written, but my primary complaint is that there is only one. Each of the three characters has a slightly different perspective on the story, but the story remains mostly the same no matter which character you choose. If you play Yunica, she will receive the same items that Hugo receives from the same spot or person. The only incentive to play the game again with the other characters is to learn each character’s backstory.
If you aren’t a huge fan of the Ys series, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel compelled to play through the same game three times just to learn about each characters past. I happily played through the game as both Hugo and the unlockable character, but wasn’t interested enough to complete the entire game as Yunica (though I’m sure I’ll revisit it someday).
In addition to the story mode, Ys Origin includes a boss rush mode. I have no interest in boss rush modes and rarely play them, but if you have a different opinion of the feature you’ll find plenty to love. The bosses in Ys Origin are genuinely challenging.
Less than perfect controls coupled with an amazing soundtrack.
Completing Ys Origin requires some quick reflexes, and the game includes a lot of platforming. I do not recommend trying to complete the game using only a mouse and keyboard. I adjusted the controls and tried a few different set ups before giving up on the keyboard and mouse completely. If you want to have fun, play Ys Origin with a controller.
A common complaint regardless of the setup you’re using is the way each character’s secondary attack is implemented. To execute the secondary attack, you have to begin walking, stop, and quickly tap the attack button at the perfect moment. Once you have the timing down, using the secondary attack is simple, but it’s frustrating to get it right. I spent my first couple hours of playing completely confused as to how I was supposed to use Hugo’s secondary ability. There are several different ways the command could have been executed that would have been much easier.
On the other hand, the soundtrack is fantastic. The music is always perfect for the moment, compels you to keep playing, and makes you feel heroic. My only complaint is minor, and it’s common to all Ys games: the music can become repetitive. The songs only last for a couple of minutes and they loop infinitely. You’ll often be hearing the same two minute song for well over half an hour. Even so, it’s hard to complain when the songs are some of the best in the game industry.
The third playable character.
I have tried not to write many details about the third playable character because knowing about the character does spoil some parts of the story.
There is only one real benefit to playing the game a second time with the third character, and that is simply to fight the real final boss. Once you defeat the original final boss, there is another fight immediately following.
Aside from that one boss fight, the game remains largely the same. The third character is a second melee fighter, but has a play style completely different from Yunica. I enjoyed playing the third character much more than playing Yunica. Like Hugo, this play style is fresh and not like other Ys games.
What I like about Ys Origin:
- All three playable characters offer new gameplay experiences with their own regular and special abilities. To make things better, all three characters are fun to play.
- Ys Origin offers a straight forward action RPG experience without any gimmicks. It’s just hack-and-slash fun that is genuinely challenging without being frustrating.
- The soundtrack is wonderful. You’ll want to keep listening long after the game is over.
What I dislike about Ys Origin:
- Keyboard and mouse controls do not work well, and the input for secondary attacks on all control schemes is odd.
- There are three character, but only one story and one tower. There is little incentive to play the game a second and third time with the other characters.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent playing Ys Origin. The controls were a minor frustration when I began playing the game, but once I configured a controller to my liking the game was nonstop fun.