Thoughts on: Ys SEVEN

It’s been just about 3 years since I’ve first played an Ys game. Yet, ever since playing Ys Origin and the first two games I constantly had irresistible urge to play ever other title in the series that slowly roll out on PC. And I’m constantly interested in checking out other Nihon Falcom titles as well. Ys SEVEN is yet another rather old release, finally re-released in English on PC. What does it bring this time?

As with the previous entries in the series, Ys SEVEN is an action RPG, however, as Nihon Falcom like to change how series play from time to time, SEVEN was the first in the series to introduce the framework that is currently still used in the series – party based combat with instant switching between 3 characters, damage types, substitution of jumping with dodging, ability to carry around multiple different kinds of healing, increased amount of tiers of weapons and armor and changeable special attacks tied to them. Which leaves SEVEN feeling quite similar to the previous titles, yet quite different it pace and approach.

For example, one element that was often criticized in previous titles (yet perfected in Origin as a mechanic) was grinding. And while there are new things that might require grind-like running back and forth (crafting-like collection of materials), grinding for levels never really feels like a necessity and doesn’t give quite as much of a notable difference as it used to. 10 levels of difference would still be murderously easy to notice, but a couple of levels don’t usually change the damage 2x times or more. So you can just run through the location killing enemies and not backtrack just to level up. Dodge instead of a jump also means that levels tend to be quite a lot more horizontal and encounters with enemies tend to have a lot of rolling and quick switching of characters to maneuver out of the harm’s way and into a good position to deal damage. Also please note (and possibly rebind the default button) the flash guard move as it will become extremely important in some fights later on.

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I also must commend the story here in terms that it manages not just be “fine for the adventure you’re having”, but possibly best since the Origin and 1-2 storylines. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still full of basic tropes and predictable archetypes, but at least this time around the characters feel more or less memorable, something that Napishtim and Felghana struggled with. And the pace of the story is also pretty good and game isn’t shy of making quite unexpected story turns from time to time, but never really missing a beat or getting too much in the way of the adventure (which is what Adol is all about, after all). And, of course, the music is the usual Falcom high quality. It never really reaches the heights of the originals, of course, as most things in the series, but it’s really good and helps with the enjoyment a lot.

What doesn’t help is that the new system feels a bit… slower in general. Where Napishtim, Felghana and Origin felt incredibly fast and streamlined in all the right places (while smartly challenging), just what the series aimed at being with the first entries, SEVEN feels a bit too involved. There are too many skills, all with their own levels and initial tie to a specific weapon. There are enemies that will take less or no damage from a particular weapon/character. There are those craft-involving materials that you have to gather and essentially grind… Except, unlike the grind as done in Origin, this isn’t fun at all. In Origin you could fly into a room, hack and slash through it, trying to keep up the combo multiplier to have an experience multiplier on, then into another room, then back again, all while keeping the pace and trying not to get hit. It was quick, simple, fun, but, sadly, necessary. In SEVEN the crafting/synthesis seems unnecessary, but if you want to have good times by the end of the game, you need to indulge into it. And it’s slow, tedious and not fun.

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Which is a shame, because overall the switch to dodging and flash guard system fits the game so well, lessened grinding and improved story truly feel like an evolution of the series. But there are all those tiny steps back or sideways that, I feel, weren’t really needed. I sure as hell enjoyed the game, the boss battles are still the show stealer (although, here as well, with 3 characters on screen and lots of effects they might get too overwhelming), but I do know that I could’ve enjoyed it more. And that I still enjoyed Origin and even Felghana more.

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