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Ys Seven Hands-On

"Adol's adventures continue on Sony's portable handheld. "

Falcom's well-respected flagship franchise, the Ys series, has been making appearances on numerous consoles since its debut on the PC in 1987. Ys Seven is the first to be built from the ground up specifically for the PlayStation Portable, taking advantage of the handheld's hardware to update its visuals. While the series has undergone some tweaks and changes with the passing of time, the core of the game doesn't veer far from the standard Japanese role-playing-game formula. We spent several hours in the shoes of the adventurers Adol and Dogi and found ourselves quickly absorbed in their story. We were also surprised at how easy it was to jump right into the fast-paced combat.

Adol and Dogi arrive safely in the city of Altago.

Adol and Dogi arrive safely in the city of Altago.

Like previous games, you'll play as Adol Christin, a young man with fiery red hair who usually ends up shipwrecked but somehow finds a way to save the day. Adol actually makes it to his destination in Ys Seven aboard a ship that docks safely in the Capital of Altago with his companion Dogi in tow. While exploring the city, they manage to get themselves into some trouble with the local Dragon Knights, but because their reputation precedes them, the king summons them to help investigate a nearby shrine. The story unfolds in such a way that Adol will likely have to save the world, and a twist will be thrown in at some point. But even though the premise is pretty standard, we were caught up in the adventure and curious to find out what would happen next.

It helps that the combat is quick and easy to get the hang of and enemies are onscreen so you can start slashing at will. You can remap the face buttons to attack, but the default has you pressing X to attack and holding it to do a charged attack. The circle button lets you swap among party members so you can take advantage of their unique skills. We were told that you'll come across nine different characters to play as throughout the game. Monsters that you'll encounter in the overworld have a creature type associated with them, so some fighters will do more damage against a specific creature. For example, Adol uses a sword and is strong against softer creatures, whereas Dogi works best when confronted with armored beasts. You'll quickly learn who works well against what because the game will let you know when you're not being efficient.

You can also customize your characters by equipping them with specific weapons and using the special ability associated with the weapon. Once you character learns the skill by leveling it once, its belongs to him permanently so you can level the skill up simply by using it. The skill also changes as you level it. Each character can learn up to 11 skills, and the abilities can be mapped to any face button and executed by holding the right button at the same time. It costs skill points to use, which are drawn from enemies when you defeat them, but your meter recharges faster if you use charged attacks. There's also a limit break that you will eventually gain, which can be unleashed with the left button.

Part of what makes the game fun is the number of items that enemies drop after you've defeated them. It always gives you a sense of accomplishment to run around collecting coins, bone fragments, and other items that can be used for synthesis. There is a crafting system in the game that lets you upgrade your weapons as long as you have the cash and the items needed. You'll also find rocks and bushes that have ore or berries that you can gather as well, so it pays to wander off the beaten path a little to see what you can find.

Big boss fights await.

Big boss fights await.

Conveniently placed monuments are located before tough boss battles, so you'll get a full status restore and a chance to save. You can save at any point in the game, and if you do happen to die in a boss fight, you can choose to retry from the beginning of the fight instead of loading your save file. Bosses can be tough if you aren't the right level, but they're fun to face and massive, making it feel like a real feat once it's over.

Even though we were playing on a preview build, we didn't have to deal with lengthy load times when traveling from one zone to the next. The visuals also looked great on the PSP, with a mix of detailed 3D character models and anime-style portraits during dialogue sequences. There's a lot more for us to see in Ys Seven, so be sure to check back for our full review when the game ships. We were told that game will last roughly 30 to 40 hours, but that's not including all the things that you can do on the side. For more information on the game, check out our recent Q&A. Ys Seven is set to be released on August 17.

Posted on Jul 09, 2010