Nihon Falcom has become one of my favorite developers of Japanese role-playing games. From The Legend of Heroes to the Ys franchises, they’ve consistently delivered mechanically sound and memorable adventures. I couldn’t be happier then to see the company’s library make the transition to the Windows platform. One of their latest releases is Ys Seven, a game that originally released ten years ago for Sony’s PlayStation Portable, and time hasn’t dulled this delightful, action-heavy RPG.
The PC port of Ys Seven runs expectedly well, but don’t expect too many graphical options. Resolution is currently maxed at 1920×1080. Framerate is capped at 30 or 60 FPS. Finally, you can adjust bloom, anti-aliasing, texture filtering, and texture quality settings. The limited options aren’t a terrible concern at all considering the age, original platform, and simplistic assets of the game, however. That said, it’s nice to see the developers responding to feature requests, and support for higher resolutions may be coming in future updates.
Ys Seven once again follows protagonists’ Adol and Dogi as they journey from land to land, ending local crises and leaving trails of heartbroken women in their wake. The story is self-contained – there’s no need to play the previous games – and sees our heroes arriving in the nation of Altago seeking adventure. Its king tasks the pair to investigate the appearance of mysterious shrines, leading to the discovery of a prophecy and the awakening of a strange power. The plot itself is fairly bog standard, but it moves quickly once it gets going. My only real complaint is that I’ve never been able to connect much with Adol as a character. He’s essentially mute. His limited dialog handled in the fashion of “Adol calmly explained what happened.” Meanwhile, everyone else communicates like normal and are therefore far more interesting. But fans don’t necessarily flock to the series for an intricate story, at least not this one. The real draws are the fast, action-oriented combat and challenging boss fights, both of which satisfy aplenty in Ys Seven.
Battles are real-time and consist of a controllable party of three. You can swap between Adol, Dogi, and a third character at will, which becomes important as enemies are either weak or strong against the specific weapon types the heroes wield. One button is used for basic attacks and another for dodging. Holding the former down unleashes a charged attack that subsequently refills your SP gauge. And SP is used for weapon skills that are learned from equipment and level up through use. It’s simple but breezy, and the surrounding mechanics make the slaying of foes terribly rewarding.
The aforementioned weapon skills give you a reason to collect all manner of loot. Once a skill gains a level, it can be freely equipped at any time. So there’s an excitement that comes with every earned sword or gauntlet beyond the increase in stats. Even more enjoyable, as macabre as it sounds, is how every enemy is essentially a piñata. They explode in showers of crafting mats and money, and you can even beat their cold, dead corpses for more. You’re constantly collecting their delicious viscera candy, then synthesizing new gear and items with your horrific bounty at shops. The result is a fun little feedback loop.
Some of the best encounters, though, are the game’s challenging bosses. These large, named enemies demand you to be at the top of your game. You need to be quick at dodging, learning attack patterns, and exploiting limited openings. Some fights even turn into mini-bullet hells. The emphasis on skill means death never feels unfair, and defeating them elicits well-earned shouts of victory.
But there are a few light blemishes that date Ys Seven. The interface has not aged particularly well, mostly regarding the map in cities and villages. Nothing is marked, so hunting down a particular shop or trying to figure out where to trigger the next cutscene sometimes left me frustrated. Backtracking also becomes prevalent later in the game through multiple dungeons you’ve already explored.
After all these years, Ys Seven continues to be a satisfying, action-heavy journey with the red-haired swordsman. Its combat mechanics and boss battles are still some of the best in the genre. And there’s no question this PC version is the definitive way to play the game. If you’re hungry for PC JRPGs, give this one a try.
Disclosure: A copy of the game was provided for review.