Anyone who thinks that the PSP should be put to pasture may want to reconsider, as the system is still a-ticking over sales-wise in Japan. Ys creators Falcom are still sticking to the system before their official "move" to the Vita with Ys: Celceta Tree, and it goes to show with their latest action game Nayuta no Kiseki.
And before you start comparing notes and seeing the lineage between this and past "no Kiseki" games like Zero no Kiseki and Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, don't bother, because there aren't any story ties between this and past Legend of Heroes games. This is a good thing, as no prior knowledge of past Kiseki games is needed to enjoy the narrative.
Players control a boy named Nayuta, whose fishing village lifestyle was disrupted when a giant meteor crashed from the sky and created a giant tower nearby. After much exploration, Nayuta ends up having to solve the mystery of the new continent known as Lost Heaven together with his friend Signa and the fairy Noi while figuring out who the mysterious girl in the coffin of the Star Garden is. Along the way, they come across different continents filled with all manners of monsters and platforming action.
Our tag team duo of Nayuta and Noi aren't defenseless, thankfully. Nayuta brandishes a sword to cut foes apart while Noi can cast spells ranging from giant red spinning blades to whirling tornadoes that damages enemies over time for a short period. There's no such thing as mana management here; attacking enemies with melee force will charge up Noi's magic stock fast so that you can continuously pile enemies with magic without much repercussion.
Chaining as many hits together will yield a temporary stat boosts for our hero until he either gets hurt or until the combo counter meter on the bottom left side of the screen goes to zero. Suffice to say, combat is really fun as Nayuta controls like a breeze and the enemies provide ample challenge.
In addition, our hero has access to special gear moves that are bolstered by his fairy compatriot. After acquiring one of these powerups early in the game, players can press and hold the circle button after an attack to unleash a short-ranged gear-powered slash that breaks down tough barriers and walls. Later on, you can hold onto green bulbs using a gear hold maneuver that lets you traverse to hard-to-reach spots.
The catch is that you'll expend a bit of blue energy; deplete it and Noi gets stunned momentarily. While doing the charged gear slash was helpful in dealing big damage, we had to take some time getting used to the gear hold maneuver. The controls were easy enough, but calculating your jumps from one bulb to another required a bit of guesswork.
Rather than having each area interconnecting with each other seamlessly like a typical RPG, Nayuta no Kiseki divides each area into stages you can revisit over and over (like Super Mario). Players can replay them after their first playthrough just to boost up their rankings and collect anything they missed out on. Thanks to the game's weather-changing system, the game encourages you to as certain parts of a stage won't open up unless you change the game's weather.
For instance, certain parts on the second continent aren't accessible unless you change its climate to winter; paths that were bodies of water can now be traversed to reach new areas offering new spells for Nayuta and Noi to use. Changing the weather of another continent from spring to summer will make trees within the area shrink, therefore leading to previously inaccessible pathways to treasure and new spells for Noi.
There aren't any standard potions to use here; you'll need to prep in advance by getting your sister Eartha to make your lunch. Depending on what ingredients you find during your time in Lost Heaven, you can create all sorts of foodstuff that bolsters health and experience as long as you have lunch boxes ready.
We can't complete our analysis of Nayuta no Kiseki without bringing up the spectacular boss fights. One fight at the start had us going at it with a giant scarecrow wood statue. As it does ground pound attacks with its fists, the platform we were standing on elevated close to its head, meaning that it was our cue to attack its head. What surprised us was that there was another statue that proceeded to attack us in tandem with its partner.
Another boss battle had usu fighting a giant mechanical fish that shoots out lightning; halfway through, we ended up fighting it on a platform heading downstream while it was chasing after us. When it lunged its head towards to bite us, we had to use our gear strike to knock its teeth out, and then attack two of its inner mouth tentacles to expose its core. Yes, demonic fishes have inner mouth tentacles presumably for flossing out dead seamen.
The mechanical crab fight on the third chapter warrants mentioning. It attacks first with laser beams and projectiles; you need to climb up to its position and hit its exposed red spot by using the green orbs using your gear hold maneuver. The crab then assaults you with a spinning attack and its crab spawns for its second phase, while it forms a giant whip made out of other mini-crabs for its third and final phase. Killing the crustacean was a matter of learning how to use the gear hold effectively to reach its weak point while also grinding a bit to make sure you're dishing out enough damage.
As icing on the action RPG cake, there really isn't any huge language barrier for this action RPG within ten hours of playing through Nayuta no Kiseki. So far, it's been incredibly fun thanks to responsive controls, great boss fights beyond the first, and well-paced action with a few platforming and puzzle bits in-between the killing of fantasy creatures. Furthermore, finishing the game nets you the Infinity mode where enemies level up alongside your character just for that extra push of difficulty.
Nayuta no Kiseki is out now for the PSP via parallel importing and download through the Japanese PSN store. There is currently no word on a North American version at this point in time.