I am a sucker for a good game of heroics. I don’t know where it comes from. Perhaps it comes from idealism: I like helping people. Whenever I have the opportunity to play the villain, I cannot do it. I believe the problem is because such behavior is outside of my personality and is incongruent with my ideals. But there is one game I have the pleasure to play lately that perfectly jives with me: Ys Seven for the PSP.
Ys Seven follows the exploits of Adol Christin and his friend Dogi as they arrived in the port of Altago. As usual, they’re off for adventure and quickly discover an old shrine the country has forgotten. It is there Adol hears a voice of a dragon. From there, it is up to Adol and friends to save the country (and ultimately) the world from destruction. All in a day’s work for one of the most altruistic characters ever created.
The plot is actually a lot of fun. While I’m saddened to see Adol is a silent protagonist, Dogi acts as the player’s voice. Whatever our reaction might be, Dogi voices it. It’'s rather refreshing to see a game that is serious about its heroics and brave enough to have some fun with it. Sadly, it still falls into the same RPG clichés of yore. Items that are collected are mostly used in their collected area. Then their use is rare. A cloak that allows the party to travel underwater, a rock that illuminates spaces like a lantern and spike-breaking shoes are all present in their archetypical glory.
On the plus side, Ys Seven is downright enjoyable. The game is similar to its roots by providing fast combat. However, it is in done in a hack-’n-slash style, and health can be regained by standing still while outside. Each character/party member has one of three different attack types: slash, pierce (bow and arrow) and bash. As such, you'll have to rotate through each character (especially during dungeons since healing items are required in order to survive) to make certain your party is inflicting maximum damage. Dogi, Adol’s wall-bashing friend, is an excellent choice for armor types. Adol and Elk can cut soft creatures, such as slimes, down to size. Aisha and Mishera use bows and energy (respectively) to annihilate flying creatures.
On top of the weapon types, each character has his/her own special skills. Initially, it’s tied to the weapon. After so many uses, it becomes a natural part of the character’s repertoire. These skills cannot be summoned whenever inspired. You have to have the skill points to activate them. It’s easy to gain the points: just attack enemies. Charge attacks restore a greater amount at once. Then there are special attacks that can further cut enemies down.
Graphically, the game looks great with its anime style. Water flows out of fountains, sand blows across the desert, monsters are unique and move around the screen smoothly, and special attacks are flashy. Environments, although not exactly massive, are interesting to look at. A giant tree looms in the background of a forest as Adol travels down the slope to reach the entrance. Daises are the basis for a wind dungeon. Giant flowers are traveled on top of in another. If the graphics were any more refined, they could visually rival games on the PlayStation 2.
Musically, the game just rocks. Granted, it takes its cues from the ’80s as the music can be over the top at times. But like I wrote, it rocks. Songs range from pure instrumental orchestrations to those with a mixture of acoustic and synthesized instruments. The main theme is an awesome rock song. Altago’s main theme is a breezy town theme with tinkling pianos and strings. Voice acting is meagerly present as it is limited to battle cries and grunts. It’s a shame the space on the disc isn’t fully utilized. On the plus side, there’s no awkward dialogue and helps create a very old-school feel to the game.
Overall, Ys Seven is an excellent game. It is one of those rare games that can and does accept any amount of free time. Only have five or so minutes to play? Need a quick distraction before writing a paper? Sick in bed and have hours to kill? Ys Seven fulfills these needs perfectly. Despite its old-school leanings, it’s hard for me not to rant and rave how much fun I had over the hours. This is an excellent game for new and old PSP gamers. Xseed and Falcom have created a game that transcends systems. That’s something that is not done with remarkable ease.