Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
If I were to make a list of my all-time top 10 most played games, I suspect it wouldn't be particularly impressive. It'd be at least 80% sports games, casual games and fitness games. In amongst the baseball and hockey and Wii Fit and various iterations of Mario Kart, however, there'd be one oddball entry: Ys Seven. Simply put, I played the crap out of that game. What makes that especially odd is that I'm not a particularly big RPG fan, either; I don't usually have the time or patience for crafting objects or managing parties or long, drawn-out adventures. I like games that are short and get to the point, and Ys was not that at all. Yet, for some reason, I couldn't get enough of it.
Now the next game in the series, Ys: Memories of Celceta, is here, and I have a sneaking suspicion it has a shot at making that list as well. Admittedly, it may be a little early to make that pronouncement, since at this point I've only played it half as much as I did its predecessor, but it has all the same qualities that made me fall in love with Ys Seven. Again you're playing as Adol, the mute red-haired explorer, and again you're on an epic quest that requires traversing an enormous map for various reasons. Like that last game, you've got to manage your companions and your inventory and all those things (that, I should emphasize, usually bores the crap out of me).
Most importantly, though, like Ys Seven, Ys: Memories of Celceta knows how to keep things moving along as a brisk-pace. Combat is all real-time and button-mashy; you see an enemy, you hit the enemy, and you move on. You can keep pressing X to keep your characters running (and rolling, and jumping) as fast as they can, so there's no moving slowly or methodically. You occasionally slow down for dialogue, but that's about it. Even if there's a bit of grinding going on in the side quests, it's not anything particularly onerous — you pick up a lot of stuff just from defeating enemies, and whenever there's an object to be smashed that'll yield additional materials, it's always very clearly marked on the map.
Which reminds me: Ys' map is phenomenal. You never have to wonder where you haven't traveled, because it's all helpfully laid out, and it tells you exactly how much — by percentage — you've discovered so far. Considering the game's first plot point is the Governor General offering a prize to anyone who can map the entire forest, that's incredibly useful.
And if we're talking useful, I'll throw in another word of praise for the game's save system. Basically, you can do it anywhere, anytime, as long as you're not in a cutscene. That, obviously, is a huge godsend.
Heck, I'll even go a step further: the whole game is a godsend for any PS Vita gamers who've been longing for something long and deep. Just like Ys Seven was one of the very best games the PSP had to offer, Ys: Memories of Celceta is one of the best games the Vita has to offer. It's fun, it's fast, it's easy to pick up — what's not to like?