Like most mediums, gaming has its own share of notable friendships. From the witty banter provided by eponymous duos like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank, or the alliance between Uncharted’s Nathan Drake and Victor “Sully” Sullivan, representations of camaraderie can be just as engaging as the main storyline. And while the relationship between Ys’ Adol and Dogi might lack the recognition of these other franchises, their bond is just as heartwarming, and has grown into a crucial ingredient for Nihon Falcom’s adored action/role-playing series.
With the remastered version of Ys Seven, the escapades of these two affable adventurers are destined to delight a new group of gamers. Seven years after the original PSP release, PC players receive a commendable port that elevated by an increase framerate, higher resolution graphics, and an improved localization. While the portability of the PSP and PS Vita can’t be matched, those without a Sony portable should be gratified by Seven’s emigration to Windows-based machines. Save for a few issues when alt-tabbing to tend to other tasks, this adaptation is adept. Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo has remarked on how the studio hasn’t had a failure, and this release safeguards that status.
Riffing on a familiar theme in the franchise, Ys Seven opens with Adol and Dogi visiting a new country, both thrilled by the pursuit of yet another adventure. But their arrival takes a turn toward the calamitous when they come to the aid of two sisters harassed by a Dragon Knight- a member of Altago’s military force. The quarrel lands the pair in jail until a benevolent King learns of their experience as adventurers, requesting the duo to investigate some of the enigmatic phenomena that’s occurring throughout the land. Naturally, this probe leads to a suitably-sized journey, where players will hunt for mystical artifacts, uncover mythical beasts, and potentially prevent an imminent disaster.
And if you’re thinking all of that sounds like archetypal 90’s-era role-playing, you’re not far off the mark. Falcom has traditionally favored the types of plotlines prevalent in the past and some of Ys Seven’s charm stem from the lead’s optimistic attitudes and a narrative that provides the requite twists and poignant plot points. But pleasingly, the developers allow the title’s exposition to be expressed at a pace that’s slower than most Ys entries, allowing Seven to uncover character quirks and cultivate rapport between its cast members.
While detractors might lament on plot holes, there’s more than enough skillful scenes to absolve any transgressions. From the reflections of impoverished citizens to a rumination on colonization, the title manages to muster up some thoughtful moments. Pleasingly, Seven never gets heavy-handed or long-winded, especially when Adol’s conversation are routinely summarized by a single, third-person statement.
While narrative plays a key role, it’s the combat that the irrefutable highlight of Ys Seven. Previous installments have kept players engaged by requiring weapon switching- where different arms offer elevated amounts of damage to certain opponents. With Seven, that system is merged with a party system, where a trio of switchable adventurers can tackle opponents. As players direct one character, the other two are managed by an effective AI, who only stumble again larger area-of-effect attacks.
Satisfyingly, it’s a straightforward system, relying on a four-button system to execute moves like dashes, dodges, rapid-fire combos or weapon skills. For those seeking adventure without too much adversity, Seven’s Easy and Normal difficulties permit players to button mash with any weapon, merely diminishing the impact of elementally-incongruous weapons. On a higher difficulty, you’ll have to exploit the title’s Slash, Crush and Pierce-based arms to maximize effectiveness, shifting character on the fly to whittle away groups of enemies. And while revisiting some of the game’s dungeons might seem like a method to pad playtime, between the sophistication of the battle system and Seven’s tendency to remix locales, backtracking isn’t too detrimental. The one downside is the title’s teleportation mazes, which introduce a bit of aggravation into exploration.
Like most Ys entries, there’s a hefty schism between lesser enemies and the game’s immense bosses. The former advocate players to attack, taking the occasional retreat to avoid damage. But the latter necessitate impeccably executed tactics that are engineered around the exploits in boss patterns. Rightfully, the sequences are tough but are some of the game’s most engaging moments.
Aesthetically, the PC port of Ys Seven is admirable, aiming to increase the output resolution without regenerating new assets. In execution, it means scenes can be a bit dissonant, with sharp details on character models or environments, while textures appear blurry. On the upside, the game maintained a steady sixty frame-per-second output on older GPUs like a Radeon 7770 or a GTX 750. Ys Seven only true technical trouble stem from the game seizing control of systems, with alt-tabbing out of fullscreen play requiring a reset to view blacked-out windows. Sonically, Sound Team JDK’s compositions have aged gracefully, with rocking numbers still serving as an impeccable complement to heated boss battles.
Given the pace of technology, seven years can seem like an eon in gaming. Impressively, Ys Seven has aged remarkably well across that span, providing plot and play mechanics rooted that shirk trend and instead find favor in tradition. While the PC port doesn’t offer a complete renovation, when the core game is this satisfying, an overhaul isn’t necessary.
Ys Seven was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Platform(s): PC, previously on PSP
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous USA, Inc.
Release date: August 30th, 2017
Price: $24.99- available via Steam, on sale for $22.49 through 9/6