Ys Series Review Part 6: Origin
Welcome to the next part of the Ys Series Review. Last time we took a look at the sixth game, The Ark of Napishtim, and how it successfully resurrected the series after an eight-year hiatus. In this installment we will be looking at Ys Origin, the last Ys game to use the Napishtim engine. Some spoilers lie ahead, so proceed with caution.
Ys Origin was released as a PC exclusive in Japan on December 21, 2006 and was released on Steam worldwide by XSeed on May 31, 2012. Ys Origin remained as a PC exclusive until earlier this year when it was ported to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita by DotEMU. The PS4 version was released in North America and Europe on February 21, 2017 and the PS Vita version was released a few months later on May 30, 2017.
The gameplay is similar to the other Napishtim Engine games and mainly works with the improvements to the engine that were added to The Oath in Felghana, so there is not much more to add on top of what I have said previously about Ark of Napishtim and The Oath in Felghana. For instance, the game uses artifacts to give the characters different attack types which is similar to the different swords in Napishtim, and the bracelets in Felghana. There are a few differences though. For one, there is not much of a focus on exploration since the objective of the game is to climb to the top of Darm tower in Esteria. While there are some branching paths within the tower, the path is still fairly linear.
If you are familiar with Ys I, you are going to recognize some of the challenges and locations throughout the tower such as the teleport trap along with the Devil’s Corridor, a hallway that will suck the life out of you unless certain steps are taken.
You will also encounter some familiar bosses from Ys I and II as you make your way up the tower along with some familiar locations such as Rado’s Annex. Another major gameplay difference is that you can play through the games as one of three characters. Those three characters are Yunica Tovah, Hugo Fact, and The Claw/Toel Fact, the latter of whom is unlocked after beating the game with one of the other characters. Note that none of those characters are series lead Adol Christian for reasons that will be explained momentarily in the plot section.
The three characters, while navigating through the same areas, control quite differently from one another. Yunica’s controls are similar to Adol’s in Oath in Felghana, making her the best choice for one to start with if they play that game first. Hugo is a little different as he controls some magic artifacts that fires blasts at enemies, essentially turning his campaign into a shooter. Claw’s controls are a little different. He uses melee attacks like Yunica, but his moves are much faster and at a closer range.
There is also an interesting way of getting upgrades in this game. In most RPGs, including other Ys games, you usually get items and upgrades at various spots. That is not the case here. You find items throughout the tower and receive upgrades from the goddess statues you find throughout your journey.
As the title of the game would suggest, Ys Origin is a prequel to the entire Ys series that takes place about seven hundred years before the first two games. That is why Adol is not in this game since he was not anywhere close to being born yet. The central plot in all three campaigns is that about six months after a demon onslaught that forced the priests to use the Black Pearl to take Ys to the sky, the twin goddesses of Ys, Feena and Reah, suddenly disappear along with the Pearl. Yunica and Hugo are part of a search party that seek to climb Darm Tower and find the goddesses and bring them back to Ys. Yunica joined the search party because she is a friend of the goddesses, and Hugo joined because he is trying to hunt down his brother, Toel, who he thinks betrayed their family and people.
As they ascend the tower they encounter various monsters along with a few members of the Darkling tribe. Those members are Epona, her brother Kishgal, Zava, and their leader, Dalles. The latter two are the same Zava and Dalles who ran the demon stronghold in Ys II. Here, Dalles seeks the power of the Black Pearl for himself.
The group encounters all of the Darklings as they advance through Darm Tower along with the goddesses, depicting them for the first and only time with their Eldeen wings. The main characters eventually make it to the top of Darm Tower and defeat Dalles along with the demonic essence of the Black Pearl before Feena and Reah sacrifice their wings to seal themselves and the Black Pearl away for the next seven centuries, revealing why they don’t have their wings in Ys I & II despite being Eldeen.
Yunica’s and Hugo’s campaigns are pretty much the same, but some of the story cutscenes are a little different. Many of Hugo’s, for instance, focus on the growing relationship between him and Epona throughout the game as they keep running into each other. You encounter other characters as well in Yunica’s and Hugo’s campaigns, such as Rico Gemma. It is pretty clear that many of the characters in this game are ancestors of characters we meet in the first two games. For instance, Yunica is an ancestor of Jeba, Sara, and Goban, Rico is an ancestor of Luta Gemma, Hugo is an ancestor of Dark Fact, and Toel is likely an ancestor of Keith.
Toel’s campaign is drastically different from the other two. He starts out working with the Darklings after being defeated in battle and taking on a demonic essence. He starts out hunting down the goddesses, but ultimately goes against the Darklings by the end. His story goes into more detail than the others on certain things, with a primary focus being on his relationship with Reah, revealing that he was her lover and was the one who gave her the harmonica she has in the other games.
In fact, his campaign sets the stage for the first two Ys games more than any other and is the canon version of the events of the game, showing the origin of beings like Darm and ending with the six Books of Ys being sent down to the surface. Not to mention his Silver Sword is the same one Adol would use centuries later. Toel's campaign also doesn't feature and deaths for the good characters, unlike the other two.
While Ys Origin is a pretty good game and is one of my favorites in the series, its impact on the series as a whole is not as big as the impact of some of the other games such as Ark of Napishtim and the seventh Adol game, mainly since it uses the same engine that two other Ys games and other Falcom games used before it. It does, however, have an impact on the lore and is among the games that started establishing that the Darklings/Clan of Darkness as recurring characters in the series. My final verdict for Ys Origin is:
If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend picking the game up. It is quite an enjoyable experience. I, unfortunately, have not had a chance to play the PS4 and Vita version yet, but you can never go wrong with the original PC release. I hope you enjoyed this look at Ys Origin. Join me next time where we will look at the seventh game in the Adol story and the eighth overall.