Ys Seven Playtest: A Journey Through The Land Of Dragons

By Laura . August 31, 2010 . 4:17am


With no extensive history with the Ys game to be proud of, I’m a relative newcomer to the series.  I’ve played the beginning of Ark of Napishtim, but never got around to completing it due to my schedule at the time.


Ys Seven takes place not long after the sixth game (the above-mentioned Napishtim).  In fact, Adol reaches the land of Altago with the help of Ladoc from the previous game.  He (and Dogi, who’s always with him) has apparently always wanted to come to Altago, but due to a long-standing war with another nation, the Romuns, that was impossible until the time of this game.


Once there, you’re introduced to the Altago kingdom and a basic introduction of the culture of the place.  Altago comes with its own brand of magic — Dragon Energy — which permeates through the land and is essentially the life force of everything.  The term comes from an old myth (of course we all know such things are never “just” myths) of the ancient Five Dragon Gods who represent the elements of the land and created everything from scratch.  Luckily, there’s a run-down shrine to one of the Dragons nearby, so Adol, being the adventurer he is, drops by.



But of course, Adol, also being the troublemaker he is, can’t go anywhere without getting embroiled in one conflict or another.  Adol is suddenly granted powers by the Seal at the shrine.


To figure out what in the world is going on, Adol and Dogi, his longtime friend and constant companion, are suggested by the king to travel to the other villages to see if they know anything more, which is what they do for the good first half of the game.


Put down in text, the story doesn’t seem all too remarkable, and I’ll admit, it isn’t particularly original either.  However, it was entertaining enough to keep me going and it didn’t frustrate me.  In fact, I was honestly moved by certain events in the game. Even if the scenario wasn’t stellar (average, but not outstanding), I really felt for the characters.


Apart from the localization from XSeed, which didn’t detract from the experience in any way, part of this empathy was probably due to character design.  No one grated my nerves, and no one had an incredibly clichéd personality that set me on edge, for which I was glad.  However, what I was truly amazed by wasn’t Falcom’s work on the playable characters.  I was more impressed with the care they put into the NPCs.


Perhaps it’d been too long a time since I’d taken the time in any RPG I’ve played to just go around the town and talk to everyone, but in Ys Seven, I really felt that the NPCs were a vital side of the culture in Altago.  After each event, major or not, each character reacted to it, either adding to the gossip or inputting some background information.  Their reactions also varied based on where they were located; the people in the practically religious Kylos Village were much different from those in the urban Altago City.  They always seemed to have something different to say every time I spoke to them, and this has made me explore all the villages several times over the course of the game.


I don’t know about you, but with regard to games, I usually tend explore a place once, and then I’m done with it. This brings me to the point with which I liked most about Ys Seven.  In a few words, the world of Altago is rich.  Not only is there an underlying mythos to the nation, effort was put into making the Altagan world revolve around this instead of making it feel like something slapped into a game to make it feel interesting.


As I admitted earlier, the story wasn’t the most original I’ve ever experienced, but what mattered most wasn’t the singularity of the plot, but the way the game takes it seriously and focuses all of its effort into making it believable for us, the sojourners of their world.


A great part of this was thanks to the amount of detail given in the dialogue, in the design of the architecture in the towns, and in the dungeon designs.


Just as an example, the Kylos Village, home of the Wind Dragon shrine, lived off of energy supplied by windmills, which they used to wind water up the gorge from the river.  General supplies, of which they had little, living on a mountain and all, were delivered by a cart pulled by Longma (or rather, dragon horses) that arrived occasionally.  The drivers seemed to be much loved by the people because several people noticed something different about the recent carts (and not just that they had fewer supplies to give) and the people that usually come with the supplies.  The dungeon that you explore in the area is a labyrinth high in the clouds rife with windmills and vents (and is slightly reminiscent of Twilight Princess) built to contain the shrine of the Wind Dragon.



Some simple design choices also helped bring the world to life for me, such as the vividness of color.  The music was wonderful as well — one of the best I’ve heard since I played Fragile Dreams.  Both made Altago very alive and vibrant.


All right, so I’ve talked plenty about the story, but what about the gameplay, which is what Ys is famous for?


Movement speed in the game is very fast.  Adol’s running speed is the usual pace at which most RPGs have their characters move, but his rolling dodge sends him flying across the screen.  It kind of reminds me of Link’s roll, except much more exaggerated.  Not only does the roll make dodging incredibly easy, it also made traveling across towns and fairly large fields a breeze.


In fact, dodging is what you’ll spend most of your time doing in battle.  Most of the enemies can do massive damage, whereas you can only carry up to 5 of any healing item.  The game places a heavy emphasis on reaction time and watching the enemies’ movements to know exactly when and how to dodge.  This is especially crucial during boss fights, when they can do massive damage to you and you can do only a small fraction of their health.


In addition to the standard hack and move, there were also skills to help you on your journey.  From what I know of the previous Ys games, the skill system was something newly introduced in Seven.  By using different weapons, you unlock different skills each character can use.  Use that skill enough times, and you’ll be able to use the spell even without the appropriate weapon equipped.  Each skill can be assigned to one of four slots, which can be easily accessed during battle by pressing the R button and one of the four main buttons at the same time.  Skills use up SP, but this can easily be replenished by attacking the enemies.  After a certain point in time, another gauge fills, at which point you can press the L button to unleash a super-powerful Extra skill.


Overall, the system was extremely fun to play and was practically intuitive.  The only real gripe I had was that it was impossible to check which skills you had equipped during boss battles because the menu option was disabled (it’s not during normal encounters).


Item synthesis is something that has been used and overused in games time and time again.  Ys Seven doesn’t do anything special with it, which is why I don’t particularly feel one way or another about it.  Collecting the materials can be a small frustration, but it’s extremely minor since you’ll find yourself slashing through hundreds of enemies and coming across hundreds of gathering spots anyways as you go through the dungeon or field.


Another addition to this game is the appearance of attributes.  Each person’s weapon has an attribute: Slash, Strike, or Pierce.  These are each effective against some kinds of enemies and bad against others.  This doesn’t usually come into play until you realize that this isn’t like Pokémon, where you do half the original damage with an ineffective attack.  No, you do only 4 points of damage with a Strike weapon when you could be doing several hundred with a Pierce weapon against flying enemies.  And let’s not mention the fact that you can’t even damage a hard-shelled enemy with a Pierce weapon.  Making sure you have a balanced party is always important so that you always have someone to fall back to that can at least damage the opponent.



Yes, that’s right.  There is a party.  Adol now travels around in a group of three, and with a press of a button, you can switch controls to any of the other characters in your current party.  The change is done without any hassle, and you immediately assume control with the new character’s weapons and a new set of skills (that you hopefully equipped beforehand).  The characters have different characteristics depending on which attribute they had — the Strike weapons usually moved slower, whereas the Pierce weapons moved quickly — but even then they also seem to differ character-wise.  Mishera, one of the Pierce weapon specialists, attacked slower than Aisha did.  She just didn’t fire as many shots in a set amount of time.  Every single character seemed to have his or her own particularities.


And then there’s the fact that the AI is a very bad slacker when it comes to attacking.  This is offset by the fact that when you’re not actually in control of them, they don’t seem to receive any damage from the enemies either.  In short, having three characters in your party is kind of like having two automatic 1-Ups.


Luckily, in the high-paced action of the battles, the controls are incredibly simple.  One button to attack, another to dodge, and another to open the item menu.  Then there’s one last one to change between characters.  There’s only that, plus the buttons for skills.  There wasn’t any menu-exploring to choose attacks or any such thing.  The fights are fast and furious, and there are no bumps in the pacing.


Another thoughtful thing I thought the game did was take away all control of the camera … and responsibly handle the view so that you can always see where you’re going and what you’re striking.  Most of the time, the camera is fixed in a semi-overhead manner and doesn’t require rotating at all, and during battles, where you’re rolling all over the place to dodge attacks, the camera is zoomed-out just enough so that you can see the enemy properly, yet it isn’t too distant.  Plus, in some boss battles where you circle the enemy, the camera always stays behind you and pointed towards the opponent.


After having played a game recently that gave you full control of the camera, this felt like a long-needed breather.  I could continue to fight without having to worry about something other than dodging and attacking.


Ys Seven was a game I hadn’t expected to enjoy.  I had never been into the series, and I certainly was no good with action and reaction-dependent games.  However, (at least on Normal difficulty) the game was fast, yet playable.  Hard, yet doable.  Sometimes I felt frustrated with the amount of time a boss would take, but that was certainly much better than being annoyed with dying over and over again at a single point with no hope of winning in sight.  In fact, I felt that the amount of focus I needed to defeat the boss was exhilarating, like a giant hurdle to cross, and the sheer size of most of the bosses just enhances the feeling.  When I beat each one, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.



If there was one main complaint I had about this game, it was that there wasn’t enough material for fans included in the game.  Most games nowadays have bonus material after you clear the game, such as a gallery, jukebox, or some other such bonuses.  Ys had none of these, which was a shame because, as I’ve said, the music was absolutely wonderful, as was the art.  Of course, these are extras, so they don’t detract from the overall experience of the game.  In fact, an artbook and soundtrack are available as part of a limited edition.  I just wish that some of the material could have been included in the game itself.


Overall I love Ys Seven. In fact, I’m thinking of playing it a second time around in Hard mode to try and challenge myself.  I’ll have to start over since there’s no Clear data, but the challenge is most welcome.

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  • Guess you forgot to mention the Charge move (hold X). I only started to appreciate it towards the end of the game, as it helps fill up your skill points much faster.You also didn’t mention the Flash Guard move, (L+R) but to be fair, most people don’t use it. Dodging is much better! Such a hyperactive game.Not being able to open up the menu during a boss fight is more of a legacy thing. They should just have disabled the “Save” and “Party” menu items instead (I suppose the idea is to only be able to use three “1ups” during a boss fight).Can’t wait to take the Oath!

    • Oh wow, I never used those two moves the entire game. Completely forgot about them XDI’ll try them out when I play next time… I have been a little miffed at how long it takes to charge the SP gauge… Perhaps this’ll help?

      As for the 1Ups, that was purely in reference to the fact that you can switch party members. I was always amazed that they could take almost any hit without being damaged at all. Granted, there were a few times when they actually did seem to take damage, but those were few and far between. There are plenty of actual 1Up items, and if you collect things right, I think you can get away with housing up to 9 of them?

      Ys seems to be partially a game of item management =P

      Yep, Oath, and I’m looking at I&II as well!

  • d19xx

    Never mind the camera and focus on game play. This is how PSP games should be.

  • Its actually been so long since I finished an RPG that had “bonus materials after you clear the game, such as a gallery, jukebox, or some other such bonuses”, unless we exclude post game stuff, which I guess this YS Seven doesnt have either?

    Did the game have an easy mode?

    • I believe it did.

  • Compared to the Ark of Napishtim, this one is a lot more flexible for new players

  • Cannot wait for this in the mail.

  • luckgandor

    It’s games like these that make me regret not owning a PSP.

    • neo_firenze

      It’s games like this that should make you become a PSP owner!

      The system is just on fire lately and in the near future for anyone who cares about RPGs. Ys Seven, I&II, Oath in Felghana, Sora no Kiseki 1-3, Valkyria Chronicles II, PSO Portable 2, Persona 3 Portable, KH Birth by Sleep, Last Ranker, Third Birthday, Tactics Ogre, the Nippon Ichi stuff, Sting’s games… it’s getting absurd how many quality games the system is getting these days.

      By far the system that’s giving me the most enjoyment so far in 2010. And Ys Seven is THE highlight of the year so far for me.

      • Tatsu

        Ys 7 is what sold it for me! Then I started buying some other games, and I am genuinely impressed and pleased with it. Best of all, most good games can be found on amazon for < $20.

  • Draparde

    Someday soon. i will buy this game…and hopefully not much longer from that (or before)…Ys vs sora no kiseki….

  • Tatsu

    Good sum-up! I’m personally enjoying this game quite a bit, too. Although it’s the first Ys game that I’ve never died in, which I have mixed feelings about. (Normal difficulty.)

    I noticed that party members do take damage when you’re not controlling them, but it’s a small fraction compared to when active. It seems like they can’t die this way though; they’ll hit 1HP, then won’t attack any enemies on their own until healed. (They just follow you.)

    I like the way Falcom compliments the traditional fast-paced feel of the Ys series with the new dash button, and it’s good that they’ve never stuck with the same exact set of mechanics for too long.

    However, I feel the jump button in Oath in Felghana and Ys Origins allowed for much more variation in its level design and during boss battles. Bosses in those games are a little more memorable and intense, similar in structure to battles in a good vertical shooter.

    • It’s true that they take damage. When they get hit, you’ll see “123 damage!” or something. Yet, from what I can tell, when you switch to them, it’s seems like they really haven’t been damaged at all. They also have an amazing dodge rate that makes them miraculously pass through most attacks.

      Well, I’ve noticed that they don’t attack the enemy even if they do have lots of HP left… And my theory is that they just follow you so that when you switch, you won’t go “holy smokes where am I?!”

      That was one thing I was missing. Admittedly, it wasn’t necessary at all for the fields or dungeons, but a jump would have made things interesting.

  • Just started recently, and the load time really impressed me…there’s no data install option..how’s it so quick?

  • Got the game didn’t open it but love the OST. Finishing up Ark of Napishtim on the PS2. That game really isn’t bad.

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