YS ORIGIN / Falcom + Xseed / PC
Ys Origin is one of those shoehorned prequels/"origin stories" that come in late in the life of a franchise, when the publishers feel they've milked the sequel money dry. These things are usually clumsily written, and annoy a lot of people as they're clearly made just for the $$$$.
Ys Origin is definitely clumsily written; it's in bad need of a better editor, has fanfic-caliber dialogue, and doesn't seem to allow you to skip ANY of its drawn-out cutscenes or dialogue sequences. However, I don't think that aspect of it is going to annoy many people, simply by dint of the fact that the Ys series has never really had good stories or characters to begin with; they're pretty much a collection of conventional animu tropes. The appeal of the Ys series instead hinges on running and jumping around with impossible agility and stamina, flailing your sword a mile a minute at piles of enemies while epic butt rock blares in the background. In this sense, Ys Origin delivers a fairly solid performance. But it's also where the game disappoints. I don't ask an Ys game to have a good story, but it has to have good gameplay all the way through. Ys Origin is solid in the first half, but falls apart in the latter half.

It employs the same engine used in the other "modern Ys" games (Ys 6, Oath in Felghana, Ys 7.) It takes place 700 years prior to the first Ys game, documenting the time when the land of Ys broke from the earth and rose into the skies. The entirety of the game takes place in the Darm Tower, the large dungeon that comprised pretty much the entire latter half of Ys 1, and consists of you starting at the base and gradually scaling your way to the top. You initially pick from two characters to play as - Yunica, an axe-weilder who resembles series regular Adol in play style, or Hugo, a magician who relies on ranged attacks. They both go through the same levels, but the dialogue changes almost entirely, and the story events shift slightly depending on who you pick. Once you complete the game with both, it unlocks some devil-claw dude who you can go through the game with a 3rd time.

The first half is fine, if a bit on the easy and brainless side; this takes a sharp turn when you're a bit more than halfway up the Darm Tower (roughly 10 hours in), where the obnoxious platform-jumping focus that ruined Ys 6 comes back into the design - sequences of really finicky jumping and sliding, and even a small mistake sends you plunging backwards numerous rooms, forcing you to plow through waves of obnoxious enemies to take another crack at it. Additionally, playing as Hugo is like playing an ancient run-and-gun like Commando; he has to physically face the enemies to shoot at them, but then turn to run away from their constant charges and attacks, with no fixed-fire or strafing option.

I give the game a 3/5 for executing fairly well in most aspects - outside of the obnoxious platforming segments the gameplay is fine, the boss battles are largely pretty well done, the soundtrack is at least decent (if not up to the Koshiro standard the series built itself on, but that's an awful lot to expect), and it's often quite pretty. The overall design is a little too Meh and problematic for a game that expects you to complete it 3 times to get everything it has to offer, however, and the totally unskippable intro and droning dialogue scenes are a MAJOR mis-step in that light as well. For really hardcore Ys fans only, I'm afraid.
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