If you want to know why I love Nihon Falcom’s long-running Ys series of fantasy action role-playing games so much, look no further than Ys: Memories of Celceta, which is easier than ever now that a PlayStation 4 port has been released.
Though released for the PlayStation Vita in 2012, three years after Ys Seven for the PlayStation Portable, Ys: Memories of Celceta is canonically considered to be the fourth game in the Ys series by Japanese developer Nihon Falcom. That fact is more confusing considering there are two other games named Ys IV. There’s 1993’s Ys IV: Mask of the Sun, developed by Tonkin House for the Super Famicom. Then there’s Ys IV: Dawn of Ys, a CD-ROM game for the PC Engine developer by Hudson Soft, also released in 1993. Both of those games involved the series red-haired protagonist, Adol Christin, exploring the mysterious land of Celceta, far across the sea.
Ys: Memories of Celceta also involves Adol Christin exploring the mysterious land of Celceta, far across the sea, only this one counts in the grand scheme of things. The adventure opens with Adol stumbling into the town of Casnan with no memory of how he got there or who he is. The hero and his shady friend Duren, a money-hungry trader, are tasked by the leader of Casnan to map Celceta’s expansive forest, a wild area from which no adventurer has ever returned.
Well, no adventurer save Adol Christin. Turns out our hero has been there and back only to lose his memories of the adventure. As he explores the wilds a second time, Adol collects his lost memories, slowly piecing together the story of his first trip as well as his life in general. As cliche as amnesia plots are in Japanese role-playing games, this one provides the perfect purpose for our party to venture forth and smack about some animals.
Memories of Celceta is a sweet spot in the evolution of Ys’ action role-playing combat. Far removed from the bump-into-monsters action of the early games, here Adol and friends block, dodge, and dash around the creatures they encounter. There is hacking and a fair bit of slashing, but each enemy has a weakness to a specific weapon type, so swapping characters in real-time and playing defensively are rewarded.
Adol, Duren, and various guest characters tear through the forests of Celceta. Smashing the dodge button is the fastest way to move, so rolling across the landscape is the way to go. Tearing into hordes of smaller enemies is very satisfying. Coordinating attacks and making use of items and conveniently placed healing monuments to take down bigger creatures is even moreso.
I love exploring this world, even if it’s for the third time (I’ve played this on Vita and the PC port on Steam as well). It’s the rewarding action combat, sure. It’s also harvesting monster bits to upgrade my weapons and equipment. Retracing Adol’s steps through this strange land is a fun way for a plot to unfold.
And this is a Nihon Falcom game, so the outstanding music carries the player along on its beat. It’s seriously good stuff. I could listen to the Casnan village music all day.
Around every turn there’s new music, new action, new creatures, and new memories for Adol to recall. It’s one of the most exciting Ys games, and certainly one of the very best games the poor PlayStation Vita had to offer. Now it’s on the PlayStation 4, and once more I can’t put it down. Once again Ys: Memories of Celceta proves itself the best fourth game in the series ever.