Ys: Memories of Celceta is an action RPG developed and published by Falcom on the Vita in 2012. XSEED later translated and published it in the USA in 2013. NIS America then published it in PAL regions in 2014. China got a special PC version in 2015 and XSEED made their own PC port later, which released in 2018.
It's the fourth version of Ys 4 and since it was the only one actually made by Falcom, it's the one considered to be canonical. Adol Christin finds himself lost in the town of Casnan without memories. He soon finds his companion Duren and together they set out to map out the great forest of Celceta together and hunt down Adol's lost memories.
The stories in Ys games are a bit of an outlier when compared to other JRPGs. They're compact, upbeat and without much to offer except for some fun characters. They're not really great, but never really bad. The plots are very safe, but also reliable. Their quality always hit a certain level and Memories of Celceta's is no different.
Adol is mostly a mute protagonist, which isn't surprising once you think about how old the series is. As such, he doesn't really add much. But I will give this game in particular credit for expanding on his backstory slightly with the help of the assorted memory fragments you stumble upon when exploring. It's nice to see why Adol is such an adventurous do-gooder.
The rest of the cast (your party members in particular) carry the plot forward as you explore and find out what Adol got up to before the game began. Mostly, he accidentaly pissed off a bunch of villagers. Said villagers being one of the better parts of the game's world, as their cultures differ greatly and their homes feature some cool places to run around in.
The characters are all entertaining, but there isn't much depth to be had, as the villains remain cartoonishly villainous and the heroes are all buddy-buddy from the start. The structure follows the standard Ys formula, where you slowly unearth a plot related to an ancient civilization and stop it by fighting a sealed demon/machine/dark lord.
I don't mind it, as it's essentially well-made junk food. There's nothing unpleasant, but nothing challenging either. As long as you don't burn yourself out on Ys games, it's not a problem. But I can't help but imagine how it could be more interesting with a rewrite or two.
The setup and general framework of the game revolves around mapping out the forest of Celceta. By doing so, you find the way to the next dungeon and earn optional rewards based on how much you manage to map.
It's a good idea, as it ties the plot and gameplay together and pays out rewards every so often. The game is both kind and a bit mean when it comes to the map. You only get map percentage from the forest, so any underground areas or dungeons don't count. This means that you don't have to map a good chunk of the game, which was a bit surprising.
But the actual mapping is a bit annoying. The game doesn't want you to map out all traversable ground in the forest, as one would hope. Instead, you need to also map out the parts of areas you can't walk to by hugging edges EVERYWHERE. It's nowhere near as terrible as Star Ocean 3 in this regard though, as the range of the auto-map is pretty wide. Still, if you forget to hug edges, you're gonna curse yourself before long.
The game features a few rudimentary traversal abilities used to lock down parts of the overworld until you get them. They can be fun, but aren't very interesting. Puzzles are almost non-existant and when they do appear, you won't have to do anything fancy with your abilities to solve them.
Every party member also has a specific ability, but these are so simplistic and rarely used that I question their inclusion. They could have just made them contextual actions. As is, you have to waste a few seconds swapping to the right person in order to hit what is essentially switches. I think they're here to encourage you to use everyone in combat, but the damage-type system already does a fine job of doing that.
Dungeons are enclosed affairs, so you'll only ever backtrack in the overworld, which I think was the right move. Even with the fast-travel system, going through dungeons again because you might've seen a chest locked behind an ability would be pretty tedious.
The quests aren't very special, but they do have some fun characters to interact with. They usually fall into the standard miniboss-slaying and resource gathering quests normal to the genre, with some more unique undertakings sprinkled in for variety. But given the nature of Ys' design philosophy (high-speed monster-slaying action), I understand why quests aren't more complex.
Now then, to the meat of the experience. Out of all the action RPGs I know, none are as focused on speed and high-octane action as the Ys games. It's ridiculous how fast you can carve through a pile of enemies.
Now, MoC employs the party-based combat system first introduced in Ys Seven. This means that you have a party of three characters at most times and that you're free to switch between them at any time. Which you'll want to do, due to the aforementioned damage types.
There are 3 in the game, so of course they work on rock-paper-scissors rules. If an enemy is weak to one type, you'd best swap to a character of that type and wreck face. Which is really satisfying when combined with the game's outstanding Power Metal soundtrack during combat. It really makes you want to fight as fast as you can.
Combat follows a very specific flow. You have your regular attacks, which are used to fill up your SP meter. That's used for your special attacks, which have unique properties depending on the character. And once you use enough of those, you charge up a super attack that can destroy just about every normal enemy in range.
It's a simple system that does the game good. And for some extra depth, there's the Flash Gaurd and the Flash Move. By blocking with proper timing you earn a string of crits and by dodging with the good timing, you slow down the enemy. These can be stringed together as long as there's an attack to react to. Which is almost assured, since the game moves so fast.
Playing on normal, I found the game to be excessively easy to start with, but then when I passed a specific area, the game decided that was enough and actually fought back. After that point, it was balanced pretty well, save for the healing system and maybe the power of a decently leveled party.
If you want, you can stock up on a stupid amount of potions and chug your way through battles, which I don't recommend. This won't happen unless you grind for money or disregard equipment upgrades however, so they didn't screw the difficulty tuning completely. I think the game is best played by keeping a steady pace and not grinding, as is usually the case for the series. Besting bosses without healing feels as ”correct” here as it does in DMC.
Finally, I just want to mention that I'm kinda miffed over the quality of the last few bosses in the game. Most bosses are good, but none are as complex and crazy as the ones in Seven, which is a bummer. And the last 5 or so are either samey or have simplistic movesets. I'd be more forgiving if the final boss was awesome, but it's a bit lacking.
Surprise, surprise, the game has loot and equipment systems. And naturally, they're connected by a crafting system.
When rampaging through the game, you'll get showered in material to use at your leisure. And unlike most JRPGs under the sun, the game is actually nice enough to tell you what mining spots and enemies get you what, which is a nice little improvement over Ys Seven. The quests also require less grinding for rarities, thankfully. And most things can actually be traded for by collecting lower-grade material of the same type, which is really nice.
Once you've accrued stuff, you can use it to tune up weapons and armor with neat effects. Status effects in particular are pretty useful, since they actually work. At least on non-bosses. All the other stuff, like SP gain and defence works as you'd expect. The only upgrade that doesn't work is the HP-steal property, since it doesn't scale with your max health and quickly becomes useless.