Ys Seven is a colourful and magical looking game, with a heavy focus on the action and real-time battling itself.

User Rating: 7 | Ys Seven PSP
From the opening scenes, we can tell that there has been quite a bit of care put into the sense of a fantastic adventure; the wide vista of the deep blue sea, floating a modest wooden ship hints at a game with scope and exploration. Our hero(es) Adol and Dogi are introduced here, and it's not long before we learn that Adol has a past (thus far unexplained), and Dogi is his right-hand man - a simplistic, 'solve-your-problems-with-your-fists' kind of guy.

Docking at the game's main town/village gives players a taste of the unusual control choices that this game employs. Characters move very fast, (none of the sluggish, 16-bit era sprite control), and we are soon introduced to how combat will play out over the quite lengthy adventure.

The camera is an automatically scrolling success, and the angle on the action is always suitable. The action itself though, is repetitive and fairly straight-forward. Very straight-forward, actually. For your party (three characters from a choice of seven or eight) are really designed to make head-on, fast attacks on the many enemies. That's right, no turn-based combat is used, rather we are destined to pound the 'X' button repeatedly until the monsters just goes away - shedding coins and materials like a confetti cannon in its death throes. Special skills assigned to each face button (in combination with the right shoulder button) will unleash character-specific arts that in themselves level-up. Some of these are pretty explosive and damaging - but they all happen so quick it's often hard to notice.

The monsters themselves are varied well, and each beautifully designed and coloured location holds its own secret fauna (and flora, actually). But, once the language of the game is learned (attack, open chest, flick switch, back-track, fall down etc.), there are no surprises left for any half experienced RPG player. Satisfaction comes from clearing out an entire 'dungeon' area, but it is soon dashed once it's learned that the enemies re-spawn after even the shortest absence (yes, even leaving a screen length and returning instantly will repopulate the occupants). Sure, this is great for levelling-up your characters, but it makes battling very routine and you may find yourself dashing past the enemies to save time and preserve your interest. Well, I did anyway.

Musically the title is very well done. That mystical and longing sound of JRPGs flows from the speakers with true beauty. It isn't always well matched to the environment though, and we often here anime-like quasi-jazz where understated themes may have added a little more pathos. In fact, some areas (rendered beautifully in true 3D) seem to be over-shadowed by some really complex musical arrangements. This adds to the overall 'hurried' feeling of the game play itself - whereas this player prefers to soak himself inside new locations admiring the scenery and intricacy, Ys Seven demands progress. Progress now.

Boss fights are challenging and fairly common. They're the only elements that pose any real challenge. It's no Monster Hunter, but learning the bosses techniques and attack patterns is usually crucial to taking them down (where allowed). See, the game pits you against creatures that often do not die, but simply admit defeat - spewing forth unmemorable dialog post scrap. This idea that the battle was not 'real', but merely a test can really only be used once that this player can see, yet Ys Seven seems to make a living off of this naughty game-design device.

Although I never emphasise most attempts at story-driven gaming (being fairly tolerant with weak writing), Ys Seven demands that I make a comment. It is neither original nor memorable in how the adventure plays out: (afflictions, resident monsters, corrupt officials, iconic items, framings, double-crosses are all standard devices). In fact, the game seems so unimaginative sometimes, I wonder if anyone on the development team had ever sat through a 16-bit era title; how banal is the term 'Dragon Power', for instance? Well, Ys Seven will throw this phrase at you consistently, so be prepared to hold the circle-button (fast-forward) if you are hoping for something more stimulating. There are many supporting characters to the story (of course, embedded in each village, with miles of explanatory dialog to chew your ear with), but again, experienced players can see where it is all going for the most part.

Ys Seven shows that RPG-style gaming can indeed become a valid action-based experience. By marrying item and character management with caffeine-infused combat has proven a success for many players. It is not exactly to this player's taste, but I see that for this style of gaming, there is no better game than Ys Seven on the PSP. Just make sure you check your intellect at the town inn, because Ys Seven won't demand that your story comprehension faculties be equipped for this adventure.

(`Adol the Red' - named so because of his hair, is a single letter away from `Adolf'.)
(The `Romun' is a single letter away from `Roman')
(`Europan' is a single letter away from `European')
(The `Medo Sea' seems to be a contraction of `Mediterranean')
And so on...