Originally released for the Sony PSP, Ys Seven was a standout title in the long-running action-RPG series.
As well as being more heavily story driven than its predecessors, it was fully 3D. But more importantly, it introduced the party-based combat system that has now become standard for the series, allowing you to switch characters in real-time to strategically combat foes. On the whole it was well received by critics, and now ported to the PC, you’re no longer required to hunt down a PSP and a copy of the game to play it.
As ports go it’s quite basic, but it does the job. You’ve got options for resolution, anti-aliasing, bloom, texture quality and texture filtering, but even with everything maxed out you can’t ever say that Ys Seven is a looker. Character models are so blocky that they’re actually quite charming now, and the environments you traverse are just dull compared to the rich worlds we’re now used to. That being said, everything is nice and colourful though, and the faces of those you meet on your adventure are expressive enough.
In terms of gameplay, Ys Seven plays like most other action-RPGs. The action centres around two characters, the red-haired Adol and his beefcake friend Dogi. Arriving on the island of Altago, they can’t but help interject themselves into the island’s troubles and soon become embroiled in a jaunt in which they’ll need to discover the mystery of the five great dragons.
It’s a good old-fashioned adventure. There are towns and fields to explore, enemies to kill, and chests to open. You’ll find new key items on your travels that will open up new areas to explore. And there are loads of side quests for you to do if you feel the inclination. Character development is powered by a level system, but you can also buy and craft new equipment which improve your stats while also imparting you with handy skills. There’s nothing out of the ordinary but everything just works, and despite the dated visuals it’s just huge amounts of fun. Oh, and the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic; a real videogamey one that you rarely hear these days.
The meat of Ys Seven‘s gameplay is combat, which is simple but always engaging. It mainly revolves around a basic attack and the ability to dodge, but there’s also a chargeable meter that allows the use of any skills you have equipped. Normal attacks only charge the meter a little, but by holding the attack button down to perform a charged attack, the meter fills more rapidly. Using skills charges up yet another meter, this one allowing you to use a very powerful special attack when full – very handy for bosses and when you’re in a tight situation.
While Adol and Dogi are the stalwarts of your party, often you’re blessed with one or more additional party members. Up to three members of your party can be active in the field at any one time, and you’re free to switch them out as you see fit. Generally, however, you’ll be sticking with a party that covers each attack type – slash, pierce and smash – otherwise you’ll come up against opponents that will be much harder to beat than they need to be. Each character also has a unique support skill that they bring to the active team.
With multiple difficulty levels on offer, Ys Seven caters for a wide variety of skill levels. The only time your mettle is really likely to be tested is when fighting the game’s bosses though, which are enjoyably challenging. You’ll need to study their attack patterns, switch between your party members efficiently and time your dodges well if you want to emerge unscathed, though you can just go into battle with a huge stock of health potions if you don’t mind combat being messy.
As much fun as it is playing Ys Seven, there are a number of issues which bring it down a little. The AI of your teammates can be pretty dumb, for instance, running around like madmen when there’s an enemy close but inaccessible to them, and the slightly homing nature of your attacks can mean you end up targeting a different enemy than the one you intended. Playing the game with an Xbox One controller, the onscreen tips often didn’t match up with my buttons either. Add in some minor localisation issues and you have a bevy of problems that sometimes amuse and/or irritate, but don’t stop you from enjoying yourself in the long run.
Ys Seven may be quite old and rather basic, but it’s still an action-RPG that’s worthy of your time. If you’re after a light-hearted romp full of action that proves that solid gameplay is more important than snazzy visuals and complex mechanics, you won’t be disappointed.