The Best Ys Yet
Avaliado nos Estados Unidos em 8 de fevereiro de 2021
Take it from a longtime Ys fan: this is the best entry in the series.
Movement is the name of the game. The first Ys, released in the ‘80s, didn’t have a jump button nor a dedicated attack button. With Ys IX, you can run, jump, climb walls, warp between points, and glide. These movement options allow you to traverse the city in a quick manner, whether you’re sprinting across roads or leaping between rooftops.
The effect on dungeon design is huge, in that dungeons are no longer constrained by flat terrain. You can ascend pillars in an abandoned waterway, and glide back and forth across ravines as you ascend a gorge. Treasure is tucked in concealed locations to further encourage exploration using these new movement options. Movement, however, does not play a role when it comes to most boss fights – which are still fought in flat, closed-off arenas.
Combat remains largely untouched when compared to the modern party-based Ys games. Dodging an attack at the last second confers a moment of invulnerability, whilst parrying an attack ensures critical damage from attacks for a moment. The windows to pull off these defensive actions still feels too large, though that appears to be by design since – on the higher difficulties – getting hit more than twice will kill you. While these mechanics are balanced on the harder difficulties, they eliminate almost any semblance of challenge from combat on the lower ones. However, given the six difficulties to switch between, players are provided with plenty of options to find a level of challenge that suits them.
Sidequests are a cut above the usual fluff. There is a lengthy sidequest chain involving the exploration of a prison, and each chapter allows you to descend further, tackling new traps and platforming challenges as you progress. One quest has you inadvertently assisting a Peeping Tom in finding a new location to spy from, and another has you investigating the disappearance of a family only to discover that they stumbled into another realm where they are being assaulted by monsters. Completing sidequests almost feels compulsory since they grant you a resource needed to unlock new parts of the city, so their improvement over the sidequests in Ys VIII is appreciated.
One of the most notable issues with Ys VIII was the slow pacing. Too often did you return to your base camp to hunt down and speak with every party member, or your field exploration would be interrupted by a bombardment of cutscenes, or you’d endure a 20-minute Dana flashback that did not advance the plot. Ys IX is more rigid in its structure, in that once you leave your base at the start of a chapter, you partake in combat or sidequests to open a section of the city, you get introduced to a new plot point, a character joins you, and you enter a dungeon. Though predictable after a while, the game keeps a consistent rhythm, and the cutscenes don’t feel like an overt waste of time. The colorful cast of characters and competent English voice acting is also a substantial improvement from Ys VIII.
Perhaps the one blemish with this entry comes from the soundtrack, which stings harder than it should because Falcom’s composers tend to produce some of the finest music in the field. Some tracks have bizarre instrument choices, like the saxophone dueling with the electric guitar in the fast-paced rock song titled “Norse Wind,” or the wobble bass and percussive claps present in the jazzy “Marionette, Marionette.” The guitar work (both synth and real) often sounds like noodling, as can be heard in the overplayed “Welcome to Chaos.” The mixing on “Feel Force” and “Lacrima Crisis” (among plenty of others) has the guitar track dialed to 11, overpowering the rhythm section entirely. Too many up-tempo tracks suffer from poor mixing.
Fans of the series will find plenty to love with Ys IX, but if you’re a newcomer I’d suggest starting with one of the older titles - especially Ys VIII. This entry makes more than several references to prior games, though nothing that affects comprehension of the driving narrative. However, it’s the speed of exploration and combat that might spoil newcomers and deter them from enjoying the older entries. Regardless, if you’re a fan of real time RPGs, Ys IX has the gameplay chops to entertain players of all skill levels.
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