Contributed By CJ
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
Stranger walks into a town. He’s lost his memory.
Seriously RPG’s, stop this. Tropes of amnesia, saying hello to people before robbing every bit of cash crammed & stashed away in their sock drawer and kitchen cabinet, being woken up by your father after a crazy dream. Enough of them. Dear Lord, enough.
I’ve heard loads about the YS series for years – nearly all of it positive, mind – but I never got around to delving for one reason or another, despite older iterations inspiring fantastic temptation along the way. Classic Game Room shared a few ace reviews of more recent titles, with the original YS a brilliant colour in Leigh Alexander’s superb presentation at GameCity’s opening Broadway Breakfast in Nottingham last October.
Hence it was all the more baffling to be confronted by such a brutally flogged dollop of old horse.
The stranger in question announced himself as Adol, a boy standing before me as your standard neon-haired latex Bieber, with a name better suited to a box of painkillers. Towering next to him a pony-tailed chunky monkey called Duren, all heroic poise man-flex, hurling frayed exasperation at the child’s dearth of recollection. ‘Muscles’ then proceeds to march Billy Asprin I around a handful of the Town’s locations, into a few more boring conversations and, well – the sighs continued.
I wondered if this would be a Golden Sun moment. A game that brought choral whoops from most who played it, but for me the story just wheezed and groaned from the get go, any sense of impression and involvement I might have gleaned plain shrugged me away. I presumed those who were loving it just weren’t arsed with the overly familiar, embracing those aspects even, otherwise so caught up in having a new RPG to play – one that looked so damned beautiful on the dinky handheld housing it – that any semblance of derisible was quashed.
Memories Of Celceta then lead me into its first action sequence – a visit to the mines. On the face of it another comfortable housecoat to smoke in, except, something happened. Despite all the aforementioned eye-rolling, bewilderment and dawning resentment – against all that, the seemingly impossible.
The game is absolutely fantastic.
Seriously, the quickest RPG I’ve played. Normal wander over the landscape with characters linked by jellied child reigns nonsense binned for absolutely battering across it – flourishing rushes of speed amplified by a dash mechanic which quickens momentum further still, if required.
The first, albeit loose touchstone to the feel of Memories Of Celceta would probably be Xenoblade Chronicles, but with greater pace. Rather than manoeuvring around an enemy, selecting an attack and waiting for your character to lash out, here it’s all about running about and strategically mashing buttons as you would in an action game.
Furthermore, to be controlling Adol and then see Duren cannon off of his own accord to twat baddies and pocket booty was an absolute delight.
Adol is the lithe sort, all whoosh and sword swinging, whereas Duren’s fighting style is a touch more laboured, but his hard strikes hit with beefy fists. Certain types of enemies are more susceptible to one attack style over the other, and choosing the correct character can speed the dissolve of their health bar. Switching between characters on the fly is a piece of cake, and not only does it add massively to the fun, but lessens any boredom that might creep in to repeatedly using one particular moveset.
Each character also has individual special abilities, earned throughout the game. Self selected and assigned, these are as easy to activate in battle as holding the right shoulder down and pressing the relevant attack button.
Early on I was favouring Adol’s ‘Rising Edge’ upward sweeping slash attack, but after further adventures and a bit of inadvertent levelling Duren learned a move called ‘Shell Cracker’; part Streetfighter, part wrestling – all leap into the air with God-fearing fists clasped high, to then smash them down onto the ground upon landing. A bloody joy.
This was a point in the game where I’d encountered a group of Kangaroo creatures. Initially wandering aimlessly like drunken OAP’s at closing time, once they have you in their sights it’s the rush to get to the post office on pension day; curling up into a ball and rolling at speed in your direction, far tougher to damage in the process, with a steeled momentum not unlike Dark Souls Pinwheel Skeletons.
Adol wasn’t great at stopping them, but Duran was tops at smacking them eight ways sideways once they’d unfurled from all that infernal rolling.
So, I’d encountered a few of these creatures, reached a warping checkpoint, jumped back to the town and spent a bit of loot on upgrading gear – including some kind of fancy metal gauntlet to replace Duran’s brass knuckles – before eagerly heading back out again.
Said ‘Roo bunched up into its death tumble, I lashed out with Duran, and – punched the creature clean out of its roll! Instantly launching into ‘Shell Cracker’ ended the beast and cherried the glory further, bringing with it glowing plaudits and a boost in bonus. FWOR.
Instinctively, I ran headlong for the next one, thought I’d crack straight in with the finishing move this time, then punch it. YES.
I’d lost myself in the world, existing as a big bag of adrenaline, all smiles and giddy demeanour. It wasn’t a case of then reluctantly considering farming items for newly introduced quests, but of wanting to play the areas over an over again for the sheer fun of doing so.
Hence I’d begun the epic undertaking of mapping out the forest for the ruler of the City [hello Etrian Odyssey, etc!], but honestly, I wasn’t even conscious of the familiarity at that point – I just wanted to explore.
Initially getting to the crux of one the debut quest was a disappointment though – with the first delight being to, er, milk a cow. The fitness obsessed bar owner back home was insistent on a certain milk being amazing for his lifty-up-and-downy desires, so sent Adol and Duran off on to do snare a few litres.
We were informed that said creatures had their males and female variants, distinguishable by the lads sporting three horns and the lasses just one. Upon finding the first female it spooks and runs away, with Duren then detailing how imperative it is to sneak up behind the beast, catching it unawares and then milking it. No rushing off from the animal this time, just a .. love heart. O_o
But what seemed like a rather bog standard excuse to traverse across the map is actually a really subtle introduction to defeating the far more aggressive male of the species, encountered a minutes after. The ‘AHA!’ moment when the realisation kicked in lead me to believe that Memories Of Celceta might not just be being cagey about the cards it was dealing, but may well even be laughing at throwing out the all-too-familiar in those early instances as well.
Amidst all this I started the much vaunted Zelda: Link Between Worlds, and, as lovely as it is, throughout the waddle about wanderings of Nintendo’s handheld darling, I was thinking about YS. Flat out yearning for it. And YS went back on.
Then, at the weekend I lost all of my progress. Nothing to do with the game, mind, my fault entirely. I’d been pushing my Vita into the stand-by setting when I’d finished a session, rather than rather than actually saving. So the point where I did decide to power down on a sleepy Friday evening, meant a mahoosive chunk of my momentum was lost to further manifestations of my idiot blood.
Undaunted, and not even particularly bothered, I battered back into the game. I knew where I was headed, bested every beast before me, snared lots of loot, zoomed back to Town to adorn myself with new weapons, before returning to the forest adorned with the swank of the playthrough previous. Except, new stuff happened.
I’m really not sure quite how it came about, but Adol developed a new ability – Sonic Slide – a leap and whoosh across the floor, a two-footed tackle of the sort that would get any footballer sent off. Still, the similarity to the dangerous edge of the beautiful game didn’t end there.
I mentioned the male of the, er, cow creatures. Big blighters, all twists and turns, with a raging matador toss the most ferocious part of their attack. Previously I’d been using Adol’s faster dash mechanic to zip around them and nipping sword swipes in when their back was turned. Yet launching in with Sonic Slide meant I actually took the blighter’s legs out from underneath it, slamming it down onto the ground below and leaving it open for a proper slapping. So again, more like a wrestling move – an aspect to counter enemy movement, and an interesting tactic to bring into play.
I then experimented on getting a bunch of regular enemies down to low health bars and kicking in with Sonic Slide, chaining the special move to their mutual capitulation. The game liked that. It liked it a lot.
A return to previously explored areas became more than purely having to grind for gubbins, instead this really enjoyable, fast, strategic action game, with the sort of tickles that I’m sure give the DmC crowd their finest fondles.
From here new areas begat new enemies. Trident wielding Swimmers arrived, gargantuan fish to lull towards land and beat into a supper and toxic crab-like things arrived. Giant rock chucking Apes soon joined in, with a bigger variant – which I don’t appear to be able to hurt at all – stunningly adept at swiping all life right out of me with a single floor slam of stupid monkey knuckles.
Judging them, attacking, holding my breath, all sneaky ploys, swipes, combos and special moves aplenty; the delicious exhale of each victory, before gleefully bombing on to beat up the next lot. Maybe a bit of running away as well. Maybe.
I still have loads left to play of Memories Of Celceta, but I’m utterly, utterly hooked. Even considering those terrible early impressions, the aspects the game not only does right, but does flawlessly – possibly redefining how well an RPG can attune such mechanics – triumphs over any negatives initially served.
Another impressive feat is how the game handles menus. Skipping through conversations is done by the touchscreen, the equipment/upgrades menu snuggles innocuously in the bottom right of the screen, with everything therein easily selected with a finger press. Likewise back buttons are easily accessed on screen, as well as any prompts. Switching between defensive or aggressive tactics during combat is achieved by either sweeping inwards or outwards on the back panel. It’s really intuitive, impressive and doesn’t break immersion at all. If anything it not only quickens the movement through menus, but more importantly doesn’t seem tacked on or ill conceived for the sake of using the features the Vita has available.
Speaking of the Vita itself, honestly, I’ve really not clicked with the machine since buying it last summer. Playstation Plus games have come and gone, but all too often I’ve set the console aside and barely given it attention.
As far as I’m concerned YS: Memories Of Celceta is a reason to own a Vita. It’s by far and away the best game I’ve played on the system and the reason I’m now going through recharge after recharge and struggling to the damned thing down.
+ Stunningly fast and varied combat.
+ A genuine pleasure to play.
+ Intuitive use of the touch screen and back panel with a distinct lack of clutter as a result.
- Treads a line with some terrible RPG tropes, at least initially.
- Staggeringly bland soundtrack better suited as montage music for Bargain Hunt, QVC or property shows. Turn it the hell off.
YS: Memories Of Celceta is not only wonderful standard set for RPG’s in general, but a massively high bar raised for 2014 as the year unfolds.