Ys SEVEN Review

Y’s Seven on the PSP is the seventh chapter in the saga of two wandering warriors: Adol and his faithful sidekick Dogi. The legend of Adol’s travels across the land are preceded only by that of his bright red hair; earning him quite the reputation as gossip spreads.

The story of Ys Seven begins as Adol and Dogi travel abroad to seek their fortune and adventure in the kingdom of Altago. Of course, it doesn’t take long before the two find themselves entangled in grand schemes of political corruption as they engage upon a quest to seek out the mysterious powers of the Five Great Dragons.

What makes Ys Seven more accessible than most JRPGs is that it’s easy to digest, unlike many franchises that can choke a player with convolution. For the most part of the game, the main heroes travel from town to town to defeat resident monsters that plague the populace, Along the way, they meet new friends who fill them in on the local history that soon draws connections between the great disturbances in magic, increased attacks by gigantic creatures called Titanos, and political schemes of grand design.

The only risk of confusion stems from the lead character, Adol, in that he is the only character whose speech is never directly heard. Every character has dialog, but whenever in the narration Adol speaks, it’s described in third-person. A pantomiming, silent protagonist is commonplace for JRPGs (e.g. Crono, Cloud Strife, and Alex of Berg), though Adol clearly has an active voice… It’s just a shame the player isn’t allowed to hear it.

The battle system allows you to arrange three characters in your party; each with their own strengths and specialties. The player can switch between them, taking control of one while the others run on AI. Characters are most effective once they’re in the lead; exercising the full potential of their stats, as well as access use of items.

Normal attacks are divided into three types: Slash (swords), Strike (bludgeons), and Pierce (arrows). This forms, almost literally, a rock-paper-scissors style of tactics in which the player must bring forward the appropriate character to face enemies depending on their weaknesses. Strike makes short work of armored creatures, Pierce will fell most flying terrors, leaving Slash to cut down more standard beasts.

Along with normal attacks, every character has a variety of different attack types to choose from and form a strategy. The Charge Attack builds up power as you hold down the attack button (à la Mega Man’s Mega Buster). Unfortunately, in most battles you won’t find time to use it as monsters tend to be fast and numerous.

The Skills and Extra Skills may feel familiar to fans of Street Fighter, as they resemble a JRPG counterpart to Special and Super Moves. Each character can equip up to four Skills; their use limited by the character’s SP meter. Extra Skills are super attacks that can only be executed once a character’s Extra Guage is full.

Items and equipment can either be bought or synthesized with materials collected in the battlefield. The quantity of most items are painfully limited, which can be annoying. Thankfully, healing items can be saved exclusively for boss battles, since your party’s HP can be replenished by abundant stone monuments…or by simply standing still!

Visually, Ys Seven is very easy on the eyes. It doesn’t push the graphical envelope of the PSP by any means, but the aesthetic style maintains an undeniable allure. During cut scenes and down times of exploration, the game pulls you in with its relaxing colors and believable design.

However, when in practice, the game feels like its bitten off more than it can chew at times. The wide camera angles give the player a broad visual range over the battle scene, but when the screen gets crowded, the characters’ pint size make it difficult to discern who’s who and what’s going where. Some of the Titanos’ special moves can create slowdown that impairs the controller’s response. And in a heated battle when timing is crucial, a missed button press can prove devastating.

Y’s Seven is a friendly introduction to those new to JRPGs in that it’s light on plot with a steady learning curve in its gameplay. By the same token, longtime fans of JRPGs will find this game a refreshing, pocket-sized escape from grander, console-based titles. Taking into account the slowdown issues, the game is a frustrating challenge, but far from deal-breaking.