Everyone has that one game that they started many years ago but never finished, telling yourself that you’ll return to it one day until it gets lost in your massive backlog of games. For me, this game was Ys: Memories of Celceta on the PlayStation Vita, I had rented it, completed the story, then sent it back because I became frustrated with a few of the trophies. A year past and I saw the game came to Steam, so I decided to wait for the inevitable PlayStation 4 release to finally obtain the platinum, something I’m happy to say I achieved last week!
Ys: Memories of Celceta was developed by the amazing Nihon Falcom, the developers behind other Ys games, Tokyo Xanadu, Trails of Cold Steel 1, 2, 3, and many more incredible Japanese RPGs – this is reflected within the games trophy list also… XSEED Games and Marvelous Games are the publishers who brought the game to the west for us, giving us some of the enhancements of the PC version in order to visually upgrade the game whilst leaving the core gameplay and features in-tact. However, there was one silly mistake in my opinion and one unfortunate missed opportunity – what are these? You’ll have to read on to find out…
The game begins with a very common JRPG trope, you stumble into a town with no memories of who you are or how you got there, you’ve been cursed with amnesia and all of your memories prior to this moment have been scrambled within your mind. Thankfully, although you have no memories of this place, the people within the town surely remember you, especially one who claims they have worked with you a few times over the last few weeks. As such, we discover that you are Adol Christin, and adventure who is much more than meets the eye.
After helping out the town with the assistance of his new (or old) ally, Adol accepts the challenge of mapping out the entire continent, charting the untamed wilderness and exploring every nook and cranny in search of his lost memories and the truth behind his background. Although starting out as a rather simplistic quest, Adol had no idea what creatures lay in wake within the forests, swamps, underground, and snowy biomes. Making friends and new allies as he goes, he gets involved in a number of side-missions and separate agendas in order to reclaim his lost memories and become the man he once was.
If simply following the main story, expect around 30-40 hours of gameplay, especially if you’re taking on all of the side-missions and quests presented to you via your new allies and the townspeople within each area. However, seeing as this is Nihon Falcom we’re talking about, you must also complete the game on Nightmare difficulty, so expect at least two full playthroughs of the game if you’re going to the platinum, unless you’re sadistic and play the game on this difficulty from the start, without carrying over your levels and gear.
I thought I’d get these two points out of the way before I begin the review. First of all, the game ‘appears’ to be 1080p and 60fps (I could be wrong). This is a little unfortunate as I’ve just got a new 4K TV so I was hoping the resolution would have been bumped up, due to it originally being a Vita game and the first two Trails games (which XSEED/Marvelous Games published on PS4) were also native 4K. However, it appears this version is a direct port of the PC version (which I believe was 1080p) – It still looks great for what was once a sub-540p Vita game, delivering quite a few visual improvements over the PC and Vita versions, but it’s a shame that extra bump isn’t there.
Secondly, there’s no new trophy list. Now, I know most people won’t care about this, but this one simple choice could have cost the game a lot of sales – the publishers did the same thing with the Trails of Cold Steel 1 and 2 remasters. Basically, if you’ve platinumed, or got any trophies at all, in the Vita version, you’ve already got them in this new PS4 edition. This means that those who have already platinumed the game back in 2012 may not want to return to the game on the PS4 simply because it’ll be like a Switch game, offering no rewards or incentives to actually complete the game and see everything.
As I said though, it appears the PS4 version has improved textures, lighting, character models, and colours over the PC port from a few years back, so the HD resolution isn’t that much of an ‘issue’ – especially when most people probably still have a 1080p TV over a 4K one. Trophies-wise, I was both happy and annoyed at this. I was happy as it meant I personally got to complete the list I started back in 2017, rather than having to track down the game and finish it on the Vita as well, in order to not leave it at 51%. But, I know a few people who were very annoyed and upset it had no new list as they play for trophies in most instances, so they felt the game wasn’t worth re-visiting anymore, which is a shame.
Okay, with those out of the way, let’s talk about the positives now, starting with the gameplay itself. Ys: Memories of Celceta is like older Ys games, not the more recent Ys VIII. It’s an angled top-down perspective with a fixed camera position (which you can zoom in and out of with the Right thumbstick), rather than a fully rendered 3D space that lets you rotate the camera to get the perfect angle. This simple mechanic works really well with the game as it means all camera angles have been planned and you never find yourself unable to see what the game wants you to see.
I’ve seen some complaints about the camera on the Steam forums – I’m unsure what the complaint is though as this is exactly how it was on the Vita, I’m not sure if the PC version changed something?
The combat is very satisfying for someone like me as every kill results in enemies dropping coins, experience, and items for you to obtain, so slaughtering them was so much fun. Also, as you get further into the game you’ll get to control three characters from a roster of six, at a time. This means you can switch between them and experiment with their own unique weapons, attacks, special moves, and abilities. If you’re going for the platinum, you have to play as each character for at least five hours each as well, so the game ensures you spend quality time with each protagonist!
Another fun mechanic, which makes it almost Metroidvania or similar to older Zelda games, is that each character also has an environmental ability. For example, playing as Duren in the field lets you lockpick chests, another can smash rocks underwater to open passages, and one of the women can use her knives to cut down rocks to use as platforms. It reminds me of Zelda as in those games you always found the weapon or item to solve the dungeon puzzles within that dungeon itself, it’s the same thing here as you’ll unlock characters abilities just when you need them to progress within a cave or ‘dungeon’.
The world of Ys: Memories of Celceta
The game screams out ‘Nihon Falcom‘ when you’re playing it, as I’ve said in previous reviews of their games. They have a very distinct art style and design to the characters and environments which makes all of their games look very similar and almost as if they’re all in the same universe. As such, even though the textures aren’t crystal clear, seeing as they originated from the much lower-resolution console, the world is beautiful and full of life – both friendly and menacing. The variety of creatures you encounter as you cross into different biomes or islands are very diverse and plentiful, each one having its own strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses to certain attack styles.
Ys: Memories of Celceta works on a rock-paper-scissors format, similar to Pokemon (although they now have about 50 ‘types’ instead of just three). Each character is either a Slash, Strike or Pierce type, meaning enemies are harder or weaker depending on who you attack with.
One thing I love about the developer is their attention to detail in creating a living, breathing world. As you travel to various towns you’ll notice that each one is full of unique and different-looking inhabitants, all with something to say or a side-quest for you to embark upon. From what I recall, the only characters who looked the same were the guards, due to their uniforms, but everyone else was their own person with personality and charm. I particularly love Rilche, a young girl with a lisp (which is shown via her dialogue as you talk to her).
One thing I loved about playing Ys: Memories of Celceta on the Vita, many years ago, were the fun and exciting boss battles. Replaying the game over the last week reminded me how satisfying it is to take them down. These massive, hulking monsters all require you to learn their patterns and then attack accordingly, either by swapping the character you’re using, equipt an accessory or weapon which deals an additional type of attack, or bash down their shields then go all-out with a special attack.
The AI within the game isn’t the greatest, but we are talking about a game from 2012. Enemies will simply come for you if they see you, then back off if you run outside of their ‘chase distance’. But, in an action RPG like this, you don’t really need clever enemies who go get backup or calls in their buddies to surround you, it’s all about hacking and slashing your way through anything that gets in your way.
Once you’ve completed the game you’ll also unlock the Boss Rush mode, a challenge that sees you face every single boss one after another to see how far you get before you die. this is also tied into a few trophies but it’s not too bad if you’re fully levelled up. Playing through it I had forgotten how many bosses you actually faced in the main game, but I managed to kill every boss using only Adol, albeit on the easiest difficulty!
Mind your language
The PS4 version of Ys: Memories of Celceta comes with both the Japanese and English voices for you to swap between. Now, this is a welcomed option, and one I believe a lot of people will enjoy, but I found it very underwhelming. Basically, the game doesn’t feature a lot of vocal work – sure, cutscenes have vocals and the characters occasionally say one-liners as you’re running around the world or fighting enemies, but the majority of conversations you have are presented as written dialogue only.
So, you can flip it onto Japanese if you’d rather hear the original Japanese releases audio, but I personally left it on English and it sounded fine – for the few occasions when they talked.
The grind with Nihon Falcom
if you thought this game would be a fast platinum, think again. The developers have inserted a number of their infamous requirements within the game to ensure you spend as long as possible playing it.
First of all, just like all their games, you have to find and open every single treasure chest – both within the dungeons and in the overworld map. This wouldn’t be that bad but they don’t appear on your map until you spot one (even if it’s hidden behind a wall and you walk past the wall), and the game only tells you the percentage of how many you’ve found and not the actual number or any hint as to where you’ve missed a chest. Yes, I’m a little salty as I spent about 4 hours looking for a single chest I missed which was hidden behind a wall in a cave that didn’t tell me I’d missed a chest within it.
Next is the Battle Register. If you’ve played the Trails games or Tokyo Xanadu then you’ll know what this is. Every time you kill an enemy, it gets added to the register, a book showing you all the stats about the creature and what they drop when you kill them. Thankfully, you don’t have to scan these foes, just slaughter them this time. However, there are a few missable creatures so you need to ensure you kill everything you see. Thankfully, unlike the chests-opened stats, your Battle Register carries over with you when you start a NG+ upon completing the game.
There are also trophies for collecting at least one of every item, weapon, and armour, unlocking all the skills for each character and viewing 100% of the map – all of which are also carried over. However, completing the map will cause you to tear out your hair and rage if you’re not careful. It took me over six hours to find 0.2% of the ‘darkness’ to uncover, which I eventually found by hugging the wall near a crater. Personally, I loved completing the map, I also love it in games like Etrian Odyssey, but the fact you have to literally hump every wall in order to have it register you’ve seen everything really started to get to me towards the end.
Is it worth picking up?
Everyone’s opinion is going to be different around this game, this is mine… Yes, I feel the game is worth picking up, especially if you’ve never played it before or if you started the game on the Vita but never got the platinum. Unfortunately, there’s no cross-save mode, like in the Trails games, so you can’t import your Vita saves and continue playing (which is a shame), but replaying the game on the big-screen with improved visuals, resolution, and framerate was a joy. However, if you’ve already got your platinum on the handheld, in any region, then be aware that playing this version will NOT bag you any more trophies – but it’s still a great game to replay (and it’s quite cheap).
I have one strange issue to mention, something which was present in the Vita version also, from what I recall. Comodo Village runs like crap. As you enter this tree-house-like village, the framerate begins to drop, making the game stutter, skip, and feel very unstable (although the game never crashed during my entire 70+ hour playthrough). It’s a very strange issue as I believe the Vita also had dips and drops in the same village, yet looking at footage of the PC version, it runs fine on there. This never affected my experience or made me think worse of the game, but it’s something I hope the developers or publisher can fix in order to improve the overall consistency of the game.
I just wanted to point out that I love the music within Ys: Memories of Celceta. I saw that the deluxe versions of the game come with a soundtrack so I may pick that up if it’s available on its own when the game finally launches here in the EU (19th June).
The new PlayStation 4 version of Ys: Memories of Celceta is a great upgrade over both the original and the PC versions. Despite having a single technical issue in Comodo Village and a resolution which doesn’t seem to be above 1080p, the game itself looks beautiful with it’s living and breathing world, unique characters, interesting enemies, and grand vistas. The combat is incredibly satisfying, the bosses are fun to face, and completing the numerous side-missions felt exciting and rewarding rather than repetitive and dull.
If you’ve never played the game, or only partially completed it on the Vita, you have no excuse to not pick up Ys: Memories of Celceta today (or on June 19th in EU and Australia).
Ys: Memories of Celceta£24.99
- - Interesting story with lots of side-missions and character agendas
- - Improved textures, lighting, resolution and framerate over the original Vita version
- - Fun boss battles and satisfying combat
- - Unique characters in each town
- - Beautiful vistas and a great attention to detail
- - Doesn't appear to be above 1080p on the PS4 Pro (I could be wrong)
- - Comodo Village suffers from bizare framerate issues
- - Same trophy list as the Vita, so no new platinum if you completed it in 2012