Before exploring a land filled with giant creatures in Ys VII, before falling off of a ship and solving mysteries of an island in the Ark of Naphistim, before being marooned on an island and helping the survivors find a way home in the Lacrimosa of Dana, and before taking the Oath in Felgahana, the Adventurer Adol Christin finds himself passing out in front of an inn near the Celceta forest. Not knowing who he is, or where he is, Adol sets back out on a new adventure to remember his past and figure out why so many people seem to currently be mad at him.
I’ve been a fan of this series for a long time ever since picking up Ys VI: The Ark of Naphistim for the PS2 at an EB Games on my way home one night not knowing what I was picking up. Since then? I’ve pretty much gotten my hands on every single title that I could yet this is one that I had yet to sit down to. Owning it for my Vita and having only played the introduction, I’m not sure what took me this long to finally go through this entry. What I can say though is that while it may not have the obvious refinements of Ys VIII being the latest to release overseas as we continue to wait for Ys IX, Ys IV: Memories of Celceta is a solid adventure which continued to refine the elements set out in Ys VII which had been the first new title in a long time which put the Ys Series back on the map.
Memories of Celceta for me has to be one of the more interesting entries into the series. I’m used to Adol finding himself being thrown overboard as a ship capsizes and him not knowing where he is, but not knowing who he is? Now that was different and it provides a different view for the adventure. While still very sure of himself, exploring the land that he’s already crossed but doesn’t remember adds in for some “fun” storytelling as showing back up on certain people’s doorsteps has them furious almost to the point of shooting first and asking questions later. Exploring things for the first time is one thing. Exploring things and not knowing that something you’ve done could have affected people that drastically? That’s almost exhilarating as it ups the ante on not knowing what comes next, or more importantly, what’s already happened.
Finally having a real reason to start off at level 1, Adol’s adventure really starts off once he hears that miners are trapped inside of a mine that has been attacked by monsters. Even without knowing who or where he is, and without even having a sword to back him up, he heads towards the mine to help out. Met up by a burly man (not Dogi who you at least later see in flashbacks telling Adol to STAY OUT OF TROUBLE), Duren who’s an information salesman offers to help out and gives Adol a sword. Heading into the mine together and the pace of the twenty-five ish hour adventure yet, there’s only one thing to do. Run towards the danger, dodge the monsters, and take them out for some much needed experience points.
The Ys series has really evolved over the years. From once needing to run into enemies to attack them as just Adol, you now control a party of up to three people. Each character can run, dodge, block and attack with their weapon which fits into one of three categories. Adol and Frieda have slashing weapons, Duren and Calilica have striking weapons and then Karna and Ozma have piercing weapons. These weapon types play rock, paper, scissors with the variety of enemies and bosses that you’ll encounter over the course of the journey so it’s a good thing that swapping out is done easily enough with the press of a button. It would have been nice to be able to switch the order from Right to Left as much as you could from Left to Right though as always needing to rotate all of the way through could sometimes cause a bit of a problem especially late game where certain enemies could only be taken out with an artefact that only Adol could use by pressing the Triangle Button.
From the beginning to the end, the combat system doesn’t change but nor does it need to as new skills and enemy movements are enough to keep things fresh. If those weren’t enough, bosses are big, bad, and very powerful, often being easily able to take you out if you’re not paying attention and goofing off or not dodging or blocking properly. This alone says a lot about a title that has you exploring distant lands over the course of twenty-five or thirty hours. If the gameplay system didn’t work, or work well, players would have no incentive in order to spend that time, or much less spend the time going back for more once they were finished in order to find everything that they didn’t find the first time around. Either that or finishing the last fight with 98.6% of the map uncovered… I totally missed it by 1.4%…
And the adventure is fun. Falcom are good at what they do between the Action Adventure RPG of the Ys series or the much more story driven Legend of Heroes series (Trails in the Sky or Trails of Cold Steel). Each character, main or secondary doesn’t feel like a copy paste of one another and brings the world to life. Adol, while being a silent protagonist and only ever having a voice while switching characters or yelling while doing attacks, does have some dialog options often ranging between “Of course I want to dive headfirst into danger” or somewhat playing off the fact that he can’t remember when you clearly know he does. These moments help break up the longer adventuring segments which will sometimes have you searching high and low for the path forward.
Only lending to the exploration is that the Ys series have often used Metroidvania elements in order to “prevent” your way forward instead of using invisible walls. Sure, there are times where you’ll be told that you can’t go left or right because they are being guarded, but oftentimes the reason you can’t go through is that you don’t currently have an artefact to do so. Water scales that allow you to breathe underwater and swim up or down, beast claws that allow you to tear through debris or dwarf gloves that allow you to shrink down to size in order to pass through small spaces. Each of these have their use but what makes them a worthy addition is that they are not one time uses. It’s not just “use it for this dungeon” and then leave it sitting in your inventory. It’s, “use it in this dungeon”, “use it while exploring” and “use it in the final dungeon”. While the use later on diminishes, you still need them and still need to remember you have them hours down the line which is much better than forgetting about them.
All of these elements, the combat, the dialog, the adventure storytelling through your actions all come together making the journey from opening to ending credits worth it. While Ys: Memories of Celceta is a port, and the PS4 version is actually the second port of a remade adventure, it does show its age a little bit but only because of how much further the series has gone. The camera angles can sometimes feel a bit off though you can zoom up and down. While travelling and loading up from one end of the map to the other is often instantaneous, the graphics don’t always keep up causing lag until you move into the next map segment where you wanted to go. It’s not a major issue but it does get annoying when most of the time these issues are outside of towns that you’ll be visiting often because they are the only places where you can craft certain objects.