The Trails of Ys.
I have a lot of respect for the developers at Nihon Falcom. Their two flagship franchises, Ys and the Legend of Heroes series are two of my favorites in the market today. So when they announce a new game coming stateside, I pay attention. However, when I learned about the release schedule of Tokyo Xanadu coming first to the Vita with an enhanced PS4 version with added content coming later this year, I thought to wait for the PS4 version.
Alas, the best laid plans are no match for happenstance and one way or another, I ended up checking out the Vita version, which is unfortunate as the technical limitations of the platform had a significant effect in my overall experience.
Voice Acting Selection: JPN Only
Length: 30~ hours
Taking residence in Morimiya city in Tokyo, Kou is an all around average nice guy who spends his after school hours working and helping out around the city at various establishment. It’s a busy but simple life but all of that changes after a chance encounter with a mysterious transfer student named Asuka, where he is pulled into another dimension where he learns that he has the hidden potential to combat the strange phenomenon that’s plaguing the city called, “Eclipse”.
It’s not a particularly inspired setup for a story and one I’ve certainly heard time and time again but as I’ve said in the past, originality is vastly overrated. What matters most is the execution and the way it decides to weave the familiar tale and here, it’s done fairly well. While the overarching story is predictable for the most part, the main characters are presented with a good amount of detail and develop throughout the course of the story in satisfying ways. As I hinted with the title “The Trails of Ys”, this is a game that takes inspirations from both the Trails of Cold Steel and Ys series and wears them proudly without any shame. It makes sense since if you’re going to copy gameplay elements from other games, you might as well do it from your two most beloved franchises.
The visuals look ripped straight from the Vita port of ToCS from the character designs to the animations, it looks to use the exact same engine. From a gameplay standpoint, the limited amount of affinity shards to trigger events with characters to increase the bond with them also carried through, making new game+ a requirement if I wanted to see all of the bonding events and trigger all the max affinity events.
While that’s all fine and dandy and served the purpose of helping me learn more about the characters and feel invested in the world, it wasn’t done quite as well as it was in ToCS where they took no shortcuts delving into each and every main character’s backstory in great detail, going as far as allowing me visit their home and meet their family and friends.
The combat was most similar to the Ys Seven where I could switch between three party members who were attuned to different types of elements like Fire, Shadow, Earth and Spirit. As the enemies were strong against one element and weak against another, I found myself changing between different characters constantly with little difficulty depending on what I was fighting at the time.
The controls were rather simple with only jump, regular attack, special attack and dodge buttons. I could lock onto enemies using the shoulder buttons or trigger a special mode/attack when certain conditions were met. One of my biggest disappointments is the lack of special move variety as all the characters only have three specials to available to them. They can be triggered by either tapping on the button for a ranged attack, holding it down for a power attack and lastly a flying attack when it was triggered during a jump.
In Ys Seven, I had a lot of fun slotting in all the different skills the characters would learn to see how effective they were and when I should be using them. Using the same three skills throughout the course of a 30~ hour RPG got boring rather quickly. At the very least, I could upgrade the skills to be more effective and unlock new slots where I could equip quartz to increase my overall strength and gain special effects which helped ease a bit of the tedium.
The moment to moment gameplay was fun for the most part but there were significant framerate dips, often to single digits during some of the more intense moments in combat which made the game feel more clunky that it actually is and even though I wouldn’t call the game “unplayable”, it’s not very pleasant, either and I can’t help but wonder how I would feel about the combat if I had played the PS4 version instead.
The dungeons were serviceable in their design and featured some light platforming and even lighter puzzle elements but they’re mostly there to be an arena filled with monsters to fight. Even though I turned up the difficulty to hard after the first few hours, I felt the game was devoid of challenge and I only had to use healing items in two boss fights during my full playthrough.
If there is one aspect where Falcom never fails to deliver is in its OSTs and once again, they’ve knocked it out of the park as I found myself looking forward more to the accompanying song I would hear than the boss I would have to fight.
In theory, combining two of my favorite games into one sounds like a foolproof way to make one of the best games of all time. Unfortunately, the reality is not quite so grand as the mixture of the two elements has diluted the unique flavors to something that feels lacking but not entirely unpalatable.
Fun Tidbit – I haven’t decided if I will check out the enhanced PS4 version but my excitement for Ys VIII and Trails of Cold Steel III is currently at an all time high.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.