Ys Seven

Ys is a long running Japanese role-playing game series developed by Nihon Falcom that dates back to the late '80s, appearing on a number of consoles and only having a niche following outside Japan. Recently, North American publisher XSEED Games announced that they would be partnering with Nihon Falcom to bring a few installments of the Ys games outside Japan, the first of which is Ys Seven, which proves to be a solid, albeit somewhat short, experience.

The seventh entry follows silent series protagonist Adol Christin and his friend Dogi as they venture to the Kingdom of Altago, where an illness known as the Iskan Fever threatens to become an epidemic, and Adol must receive the powers of the Five Great Dragons to bring stability to the kingdom. The plot is decent, with a few twists, although character development could have certainly been better. XSEED, though, did a nice job translating the game, in spite of some Ye Olde Butchered English at times, and ultimately, the plot is a decent driving factor throughout the game.

The main drawing point of Ys Seven, however, is the action-driven battle system, with Adol, in a change from prior installments of the franchise, having up to two allies join him for combat. Attacks come in three different types: slash, strike, and pierce, with enemies strong against certain attack types and weak against others, adding a decent degree of strategy throughout the game. Whereas Adol can wield different weapons of each type, all weapons his allies can equip are of one of the three types, with the player able to switch among the three active characters quickly with the circle button.

As the player hacks away at the enemy, an SP gauge builds up to a hundred points, allowing characters to use skills assigned to the four face buttons, accessible by holding the R button and pressing one of the face buttons. Each different skill corresponds to a weapon a character equips, and in order for it to become a permanent part of a character's skill inventory, the character must use it repeatedly until it reaches level 1, or otherwise, the skill will be unusable when the character equips another weapon.

In addition to the SP gauge, a secondary gauge builds that, when full, lets a character execute a super-powerful move against the enemy, emptying the gauge. All in all, the battle system works decently, with the A.I. being functional, and allies typically taking no damage unless the player controls them manually, although allies will still attack enemies even if their attack type is ineffective against them, and charge attacks executed by holding down and releasing the cross button are virtually useless. Bosses tend to be formidable, although players can triumph against them if they keep plenty of healing items.

Control in Ys Seven is mostly solid, with an easy menu system, easy shopping, and a good sense of direction on how to advance the main storyline; warp magic eventually becomes available, as well, and allows for rapid conveyance among visited recovery points. The only major shortcoming is the inability to skip cutscenes, but the game otherwise interfaces well with the player.

The soundtrack is easily the high point of the game, with peaceful town themes and energetic field and dungeon themes, and the voice clips heard when switching characters are decent, as well. The graphics, though, are probably the low point of the game, with blocky character models and scenery with blurry texturing at times.

Finally, the game is about twenty hours long, with little to extend playing time aside from embarking on the optional quests. Overall, Ys Seven is a solid addition to the series, with a fast and fun battle system and most aspects other than its visual presentation being superb. Granted, there isn't much incentive to revisit the game after one playthrough, but it's worth a look from long-term series fans and newcomers to the series alike.

The Good:
+Fast hack-and-slash combat.
+Solid control.
+Decent story.
+Excellent soundtrack.

The Bad:
-Graphics are blocky.
-Not much replay value.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation Portable
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 10/10
Graphics: 6/10
Localization: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 15-25 Hours

Overall: 8/10

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