Ys Origin Playtest: Before Adol, There Was Yunica And Hugo

By Aung (DrakosAmatras) . July 14, 2012 . 4:06pm

A note before I begin: I’m not familiar with the Ys series, so there were likely references, in-jokes and whatnot that I missed. On the other hand, Ys Origin—being chronologically very first title and prequel to all subsequent Ys titles—spared me from having to catch up to all the previous games’ context.


There was once an ancient city named "Ys", watched over by two Goddesses and their Six Priests. By virtue of one of the Goddesses’ treasures called the Black Pearl, people of Ys prospered in the miracles it brings in the form of "Magic". One day, the city came under siege by a sudden swarm of demons that overwhelmed the land. Unable to push back the hordes, the Goddesses gathered the citizens to Solomon Shrine, where they reside, and raised the entire area high into the sky with the Black Pearl’s power.


The people were safe, but not for long; demons started constructing a large tower high into the sky in order to reach the Shrine. Around the same crucial time, the two Goddesses disappeared from their residence without anybody’s notice. In their desperation, the Priests assembled a search party from the most talented knights and mages they could find, and sent them to the surface to retrieve the Goddesses. Among them are the two protagonists, Yunica Tovah and Hugo Fact, who joined the search party for different motivations—Yunica because she shared a strong personal bond with the Goddesses, and Hugo because he was assigned a personal mission by his father.


In terms of game mechanics, Ys Origin is a very basic and down-to-earth dungeon adventure. Imagine The Legend Of Zelda viewed from a 45-degree angle instead of full top-down, get rid of the shield, make things faster, and you should have a rough idea of how the game plays. In classic dungeon crawler formula, you take control of Yunica or Hugo, ascending the tower through its demonic hordes, obstacles and secrets.


There are four actions your character can perform: Attack, Jump, Magic and Boost. Attacks can be chained to high combo counts rather easily; used in conjunction with jumps, you can knock airborne enemies down to the ground, or slam enemies on the ground for a heavy hit that may stun them. Boost is a temporary power-up mode where damage output is increased and received damage is halved; the gauge fills up by itself slowly, but it can be filled up faster by attacking enemies.


Magic is enabled by obtaining various artifacts you can come across throughout the tower, and come in the form of Wind, Lightning and Fire. Each element manifests into a different type of Skill, which also varies across different characters. (For example, Yunica’s wind skill manifests as a spinning attack while Hugo’s raises a barrier that can take a hit for him.) Each type of enemy, including bosses, has strength and weaknesses towards certain elements that you can exploit for efficiency; but Skills have secondary properties which also assist in exploration of the tower. Plus, they can be charged for greater effect by holding down the Magic button, and can be strengthened further through gems you can find in treasure chests.


One major way that the game differs from the standard top-down action-RPG formula is the mobility factor: Since there are no ways to actively defend yourself, you have to run and jump around to evade instead. I reckon this is an element brought over from the older Ys titles where movement was not only a tool for evasion, but also for attacking—since you had to physically ram into the enemy to connect a hit back then. This is more apparent in boss fights, as being stationary for even a few seconds is a sure-fire guarantee to invite hefty amounts of damage—not quite helped by the fact that you have a very short invincibility period after each hit.


Another feature is the temporary augment pickups from enemies, which come in three varieties: Red (Strength), Blue (Defense) and Yellow (MP restoration). These last only for a limited time, but additional pickups of the same type can stack and extend the duration for greater effects. The exception to this rule is the EXP bonus, which depends on your current combo chain; for each hit, the multiplier rises by 1% and stacks all the way to 99% bonus, which you can maintain further with more hits.


Defeated enemies also drop small purple SP crystals, a currency you can use to exchange for various "Blessings" at Goddess statues scattered across the tower, such as fortifying your equipment or increasing MP recovery rate. With a Crystal given to you virtually as soon as you get full control for the first time, you can purify (and, in terms of game mechanics, activate) them, as they were initially warped into a demonic form. In addition to upgrades, purified statues also serve as healing spots, save points and warp points. You can warp to any active statue anytime from anywhere, so feel free to retreat when you’re in a bind; it also helps that floors aren’t very long to get through once you got used to their layouts.


One thing I started to notice as I play through the game is how completely different Yunica and Hugo are, from the perspectives of both story and mechanics—almost to the point of being completely analogous to each other.


Yunica is a melee fighter with quick footwork, with a weapon that strikes fast and covers a nice arc in front of her. Her skills also focus on dealing multiple hits of ample amounts of damage, like the quintessential spin-attack or a heavy single-target blow. Basically, she’s the beginner character.


Hugo is more complicated: He’s a projectile user who isn’t quite as fast or sturdy as Yunica; imagine a twin-stick shoot-’em-up, but without a second analog to aim and shoot in a direction different from your movements. He’s all about getting weak shots in while keeping away from harm, and his skills serve to further reinforce this play-style, such as protecting him or pushing enemies back. Between the need to move around almost constantly and the weak hits, this makes Hugo a particularly difficult character to work with, and not quite recommendable for newcomers.


In terms of story, Yunica is an apprentice knight who begged her way into the search party purely through her sincere concern for the Goddesses, despite her inexperience. Hugo, as a young genius in magic, was intentionally recruited and secretly harbors a personal agenda. Consequently, the way each of their sides of a story differ in tones and character development. These differences make replaying the game with another character recommendable, especially for those who want to see the complete scope of the story.


Food for thought:

1. After clearing the game once with any character, a third character is unlocked, complete with its own moveset and story perspective, particularly a side of the story neither Yunica nor Hugo can provide.


2. If you’re not in a hurry to spend your SP, save up for the "Increase SP Gain" Blessing. It’s a bit too high to aim for early in the game, but it really pays off once you unlock it.


3. One thing I noticed about the soundtrack in retrospect is that in earlier floors, tracks are rather standard in rhythm, but as the plot accelerates, the tracks in later floors become more and more "rousing", adding a sense of "progression" of its own as well as reinforcing the story’s.

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  • MrRobbyM

    Funny, I was about to purchase this until Steam store went down and then I saw this. Maybe it’s fate wanting me to read through this before I buy the game. Now I’m even more excited.

    • Some hours back, there was an even bigger discount on the game: 60% cut. It’s gone now, but the game is still discounted at 40% cut as part of the summer sale, so… No reason not to get it if you’re interested. Nice music, simple gameplay, and – my favorite – a well-crafted (if still straightforward) female character that isn’t overshadowed by any fanservice factor.

      • MrRobbyM

        That must have been very brief. I was looking at purchasing it last night until I got side-tracked. Oh well. I can’t go wrong with 11.99 I’ll just think of it as more support to bring Ark of Napishtim to Steam.

        • It was a brief sale; lasted like 6 hours or so, and I saw it this morning (in +1:00 timezone). Steam has so many great deals going on, I can’t even keep up.

          • PoweredByHentai

            I actually caught that sale to throw some copies at my friends.

        • JazzyMan123

          Think of supporting this (and Oath) as supporting not just AoN, but more Falcom PC games as well. :)

          • MrRobbyM

            I want to believe ._.

  • Aha Disco Elf

    However, if you are playing on Nightmare, don’t bother saving up for “Increase SP Gain” blessing. It won’t do you any good as there is no noticeable increase in SP gain. In Nightmare mode, you will only gain 1 SP for every crystal drops you collect, no matter the size.

    Hell, don’t even bother with any other blessing. Save those SP only for upgrading equipment.

    I really am grateful that XSeed brought this over. Now that the script is understandable, I actually appreciate the storyline a lot more. 

    BTW, Toal is OP. Godspeed dodges everything, even the final boss’ tentacle-stab-thing :D

    • But what I noticed just recently is that defeating enemies also yields SP by itself; crystals are more like a “bonus”. Are there any changes in enemy SP yield in Nightmare mode?

      • Aha Disco Elf

        Most normal enemy will yield 0 SP per kill early game, and even at the end of the game, you’ll only get 9 SP at most. Add that the “Increase SP Gain” is only a measly 25% increase, rounded down to boot…it’s not worth it.

        • Hm. “Nightmare” indeed. Good thing I’ve slated Toal to go through it with.

          • Aha Disco Elf

            But the boss battles are very fulfilling. Bosses gain extended attacks and (maybe) new attacks altogether. Sure, some times the bosses will annoy you to no end (PICTIMOS GRRR), but once you pull through, the feeling is just… undescribable. 

            Those who seeks challenge will definitely love this game.

          • Triplicity

            Is it true that the bosses have new attacks on higher difficulties? I know this existed in Oath in Felghana on Hard and up but I started and finished both Yunica/Hugo Origin playthroughs on Hard.

      • Triplicity

        Specifically, Nightmare difficulty is a 99% cut to SP gains. When the game first came out a bunch of people thought it was bugged!

  • Roubjon

    The game was on sale for $8 today, so I grabbed it.  I started it up and it looks way nicer than I thought it would.  Not to mention that it’s Ys, so it’s already good by default.

    • NeoAthanasius

      True 1080p resolution makes a huge difference. After playing Oath on PC my psp version seems so blurry. :-)

  • Gohobojoe

    Shoot. Missed the Steam sale for it. Right now it’s 40% off, but that should go down later on right?

    • Strawberry_Pancakes

      It might be possible the deal might show up on the last day. But according to the rep on the steam forums the 60% off is the lowest its going to go. Just scroll down a little bit. I think its worth the 11.99 and you should support them so they can localize and bring more games :).


  • gotta love Ys…..im playing yunica right now….already beat it long time ago with hugo.

    can’t wait for the new remake on vita of IV.

  • John Lawson

    I bought it at full price since i wanted to give Falcom full support, this may be the weakest of the Ys VI format games, but it’s still really, really great.
    I highly recommend Buying Ys: Oath in Felghana along side this one for a great experience.

    • Mantiskilla

      Yeah I just recently bought both of them for Steam during the sale b/c having to install english patches can be tedious.  I actually have the imported versions of Ys Origin, Ys III, and Ys VI so yeah my support for Falcom was shown quite a number of years ago.  Ys Origin actually went though a couple builds b/c they added extra stuff to the game at a later date.  Ys VI on PC is way better than its PS2 or PSP counterpart we got in the states for sure

  • Tomorrow there was 66% discount on Steam for Ys Origin, yet I have many unfinished games, so will wait and buy it on other discount later. By the way, there are still -40% discount on it, if someone cares. :)

  • Mrgrgr and Unacceptable World

    A nice playtest there.^^ While i consider, this is not as good as other numbered Ys, it is still worth Falcom production there.^^

    To any Jrpg fans, should buy this game for sure.^^

  • Göran Isacson

    An interesting playtest… pity that my funds right now are so low I really shouldn’t be buying anything otherwise I would totally jump on this here Steam Sale. Especially if this is a game that gives the bosses extra attacks on higher difficulties, I freaking LOVE that. Just gotta remember to snap this one up when my money-ship comes rolling in, I guess…

  • Jrpgfanatic

    Its too bad that this is PC only, I’d be all over this if it was on PSP or PS Vita. Heck even PSN or XBL.

    • Eriol

      Handhelds are getting enough love from Falcom lately these years actually. It’s a little regrettable they’ve been forgetting their PC roots by making games for handhelds lately, but I can’t blame them.

      I’m not complaining since I also have my trusty PSP for my past Ys fix, but I’d actually like to see more PC releases alongside as well. GROUPON was giving Ys Origin for free last year after a deal they had made with Falcom actually, and that’s when I was able to play all of it (in Japanese of course), but I bought a game I already own just because I wanted to show my support from the PC side.

  • Naux

    If you love this game and own a PSP or PS Vita, get Ys I & II Chronicles on PSN! You realize just how much the “side story” of the third character is actually the main storyline of Ys Origin. :D
    Be warned though. Ys I & II Chronicles is a veeeery classical RPG. xD

  • I am throughly enjoying playing this game. Various RPG elements gel together very well and gives me an “old-school” vibe from it all.

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