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Amongst the staples of the JRPG genre, such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, lies the greatly overlooked, Ys series (pronounced ees). It’s one that’s been around for a good number of decades, with the first entrant making its way on the NEC PC-8801 way back in 1987. Since then, the series’ games have been released on a wide variety of consoles.


The recent release of Ys Origin on the Nintendo Switch marks a new platform for the 14-year old game. Developed by Nihon Falcom, one of the oldest game developers that are still active in the business today, and brought over to the Switch by DotEmu, the Ys Origin is one of the handful games from the series on the portable home console. So, how well does the game hold up after all these years?

Ys, Please

Ys Origin lies separately from the main series, in the sense that its events take place 700 years before the first mainline Ys game. While the other 8 Ys games feature the trademark protagonist, Adol Christin, Ys Origin takes a different path. You’re given the choice of choosing between Yunica Tovah and Hugo Fact, two characters offering different storylines with the same motive, and an additional third character after completion of the first two routes.

Before we’re allowed to start throttling some enemies, an overview of the world’s state is given. The ruling goddesses of Ys, Reah, and Feena have gone missing, and it’s up to the protagonists to scour the daunting Darm Tower to find them so that peace can be restored. One edgy anime cutscene later, the search is afoot for the divinities.


With the entirety of the game taking place in the Darm Tower, things can tend to get a bit dull in terms of the plot. The biggest piece of narrative we’re given is really only at the very beginning of the game. This makes it a relief when you come across a character on your travels throughout the tower, but none of them have a particularly compelling backstory and are often forgettable. 

In my playthrough as Yunica however, I enjoyed her bubbly personality and perseverance to do her best. Despite possessing no magical prowess, much unlike her renowned father, she makes a name for herself with her experienced ways with weapons. Hugo, on the other hand, is much more stoic and smug between the two, as a prodigy mage descending from the esteemed Fact line. Their varying personalities offer a nice contrast, making a second playthrough much more compelling.

Not as Ys-y as it Seems

Ys Origin takes a much different turn from the norm of turn-based combat in JRPGs, and instead features some very satisfying hack and slash combat. The controls don’t get any more complicated than mashing the jump and attack buttons. Adding to that was the symphony of sound effects that can be heard after collecting the item drops from an enemy.

Yunica and Hugo each offer different playstyles, with Yunica having close-up melee attacks and Hugo’s being more ranged. As is standard of a JRPG, weapons and armor can be upgraded along the way, as well as buffs that can be granted as you earn SP. 


The part where Ys Origin can get a bit grindy at times is its boss battles. They can be pretty challenging, but this made victory all the sweeter. There’s been many a time where Yunica simply did not have the chops to win, and I’d find myself getting frustratingly killed far too soon. This would lead me to go back, level up, and then barely escape alive after a boss battle. Of course, the difficulty levels can alleviate the experience, making it more welcoming for first-timers. 

There’s a wide variety of monsters and creatures to defeat, with all the details on the 92 of them logged into a compendium that can be accessed from the menu. One thing I will say, however, is that the lack of random encounters is a pleasant surprise. 

Ys-y on the Eyes and Ears

For a game that initially came out in 2006, Ys Origin is pretty good looking even after all these years. Of course, it portrays the distinct style of games from that time, with highly texturized interiors and a chunky UI. I respect that it’s not meant to be a remake of the original, which is why it can’t compete with the sleek graphics of today. As someone who really enjoys looking at the aesthetics of games from the long-gone past, I find the art style to be pretty tame, but they may not necessarily appeal to everyone. 

In true JRPG fashion, the character art features an anime art style that’s not too over-the-top, nor is it too dull. Like their personalities, the character designs aren’t particularly memorable, but they’re inoffensive. It probably helps that the tiny sprites are undeniably adorable.


I had a blast jamming out to the soundtrack of the game while making my way through the Darm Tower, with each floor presenting a new theme. As aforementioned, the sound effects that play on the collection of items also feel special, and I especially enjoyed the little jingle that played upon opening a treasure chest. It’s little things like this add to the special feeling of the game.

Ys it Worth It?

While a playthrough of Ys lasts from 6-10 hours on a single character, there’s a good amount of replay value the game has to offer while being downright fun to play. The story is simple enough to follow, making it a welcoming experience for even players unfamiliar with the series. While it can be a relic of its time in some aspects, it still remains an enjoyable game that comfortably fits on the Nintendo Switch.

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