The Ys games have a rich history in action-JRPGs and in various and multiple ports. Ys Origin for the Switch is the title’s fourth port in 14 years and the second one to make its way to a handheld device. Even though Ys Origin-ally released on PC, it definitely felt more at home with its PlayStation Vita port instead of the PlayStation 4. Visually it’s aged okay, but it simply doesn’t look great on the big screen. It’s definitely not as jarring as the PlayStation 3 port for Final Fantasy VII, but it’s still not that pretty. Its home on the Switch is perfect, but for whatever reason, this port fixed none of the issues from the PlayStation 4/Xbox One port.
As the name suggests, Ys Origin provides, well, the origin story for the Ys series. It explains the demon influx of the land, why the Darm Tower exists, the twin goddesses, the Black Pearl, and the Six Priests. This game is meant to fill in any blanks for fans who simply want to know more about this world. It’s also great for fans of action-RPGs who just like to hack-and-slash through things.
That said, don’t expect this game to take up as much time as a typical action-RPG, much less a typical Ys title. For starters, there is zero exploration. The entire game is a dungeon crawler up through the infamous Darm Tower. There are no side quests, there is nothing to explore, and there’s barely a crafting system to speak of. There’s virtually nothing to distract you from the monotony of running through dungeon after dungeon, and believe me, it is monotonous. Sure, each dungeon has its own distinct theme, but the pattern is ultimately the same: find locked doors, hunt down keys to unlock them, find new armor, find new skills or items to help you get to the hidden keys, fight dungeon boss, and repeat. Obviously, you can say the same about virtually every dungeon in an RPG out there. The problem with Ys Origin is that there’s nothing else to the game.
The only way to stretch out the game’s length and find variety is by playing it more than once. No, really, just hear me out. Ys Origin is actually meant to be played at least twice, each time with a different character. At the start, players can choose between two characters: Yunica Tovah, a Holy Knight apprentice, or Hugo Fact, a novice sorcerer. After completing the game with both characters, a third character will unlock. Each character has different attacks, attack styles, and different methods of incorporating the elemental skills.
The physical demons infesting the tower aren’t the only demons the characters battle. Each has their own inner demons to face and overcome as they climb the tower, which provides different pieces of the overall story. It’s a lovely metaphor to fight demons on the inside as well as out. Unfortunately, the boss fights do not change with the characters, so there’s that monotony on top of monotony.
However, I mentioned that none of last port’s problems were fixed this time, right? Let’s get to that.
Ys Origin‘s biggest problem is not in the monotony of the dungeon crawl, but in its lack of information. There are tutorials of sorts, but they don’t explain how to do everything you need to know. For instance, there’s still no tutorial or instruction on how to switch skills on the fly. When I first played this game on the PS4, which was my first time to play, I thought the only way to switch equipped skills was by opening the game menu. However, boss fights don’t let you open the menu, which does become a huge problem with the final boss fight. It took button mashing back then to figure out which button switched skills, and guess what? There’s still no tutorial today on the Switch to tell you how to switch skills outside of the game menu in Ys Origin. I can’t believe none of this has been addressed to this day. I suppose they think that surely by now you’ve already played this game once, but do I have to mention how unfair that is for potential new players?
All of these problems aside, however, I can only hope that the Ys Origin port to the Switch means that other classic Ys games will make their way from the PlayStation Vita ports to the Switch. In particular, I’d like Ys: Oath in Felghana and Ys: Memories of Celceta, dear XSEED Santa. Maybe Ys Seven too, now that I’m thinking about it.