It's hard to find a good JRPG nowadays, and even harder if you want something new. Back when most of us were just kids, in the nineties and late eighties, there was an enormous catalog of Japanese Role-Playing Games, from the most popular franchises—some of those are still alive—to some hidden gems that, in some cases, never left Japan... in a legal way, at least. Fast-forward to 2020 and there aren't many original JRPG anymore, but we do have several ports and remakes.
The Real Fourth Entry
The Ys saga started back in 1987, but Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished arrived in North America a year later. Being such a successful game, there were several sequels and even a prequel called Ys Origin. However, the most interesting part of Ys' history is that we have 3 versions of what should be Ys IV, with Memories of Celceta appearing as the canonical, "real" fourth entry.
Both Ys IV: Mask of the Sun and Ys IV: The Dawn of Ys came out in 1993. Mask of the Sun, available for the PC-Engine, was developed by Hudson Soft, while Mask of the Sun, available for the Super Famicom, was developed by Tonkin House. For that reason, both games have significant differences, even if they share the same essence. In 2012, Nihon Falcom (original creators of Ys) put an end to this and released Ys: Memories of Celceta for the PS Vita, a title that borrows the best of each game and ultimately shows us the true intentions of the architects of the Ys universe.
For us not living in Japan, Ys: Memories of Celceta debuted in 2013 for the PS Vita, with a PC version coming out in 2018. Last year, the Japanese version of the game finally reached the PlayStation 4, and now this port is available worldwide.
Lesson Learned: A Great JRPG Doesn't Need Outstanding Graphics
Memories of Celceta is not a new game, and it certainly wasn't created to get the best out of the PS4's best features... and it shows. Some animations still look clunky, character modeling is not ideal, and some performance aspects are not always on point, but what really makes a good JRPG are the story and gameplay mechanics, not the graphics. In that sense, even though the most hardcore Ys fans will let you know this isn't the best game in the franchise, Memories of Celceta feels like a playable masterclass in JRPG story-telling (including the amazing soundtrack) and character development.
If you grow up playing modern JRPG, then there's a chance you don't like this game. It's not bad, not at all, but you'll be missing a lot of things from more recent games. What you definitely will enjoy, nonetheless, is the magnificent opening movie, which brings us back again to the graphics. It looks fresh, it's incredibly well-drawn, and it makes an amazing job in terms of colors and music. That's probably the reason why most players are focusing in Memories of Celceta's dated graphics, because of the contrast between a gorgeous intro and a game from 2012.
As you could tell, this article is not a review but a brief story about a game that came to this world with the objective of improving what Mask of the Sun and The Dawn of Ys did, and how it’s still relevant in 2020, competing, for example, against the more popular and flashy Final Fantasy VII Remake.
If you're new to Ys, give Memories of Celceta a try whenever you have a chance. Maybe exploring Celceta makes you want to explore the rest of the cities in this universe too, or maybe you get interested in the rest of Adol's adventures...