Ys X: Nordics Impressions – An Outstanding Evolution

The Ys series is one of my favorite gaming franchises of all time. Its addictive combat, stellar soundtracks, and continually endearing protagonist make almost every adventure genuinely memorable. However, even I must admit that the last four Ys games having the same style of combat has left me wanting more. Ys Seven initiated the party combat system way back in 2009 before Memories of Celceta, Lacrimosa of Dana, and Monstrum Nox all adopted it and refined it in various ways. Thankfully, Ys X Noridcs has finally changed things up, and I have been impressed beyond belief.

Since we have no word on when Ys X Nordics will get localized and arrive West, we purchased the Japanese version of the game for the purposes of this piece. As a result, and because I don’t know Japanese, the story and characters will not be discussed here. Still, it’s worth noting that unlike Ys IX: Monstrum Nox, which is currently the latest game chronologically, Ys X Nordics occurs after the events of Ys II, taking the place of Memories of Celceta’s place as the new third canonical entry.

Ys X Nordics has not wholly abandoned elements from the party system games, but there’s more than enough distinction here to set itself apart and establish a new norm. For example, while there are learnable skills assigned to the face buttons once again, there are now only two playable characters, except they’re tethered. Returning protagonist Adol Christin and new character Carja Balta are both the heroes this time around, with them both controllable simultaneously during combat. To elaborate, by holding R2 (on PlayStation), the duo can perform special cooperative skills by consuming both of their SP gauges. Plus, these are doable alongside the more traditional solo-based skills.

But what makes matters quite standout is how even standard attacks can be performed with Adol and Carja as a conjoined unit as long as R2 is held down. You expectedly deal far more damage this way at the cost of agility, meaning you must best assess whether you should prioritize offense in duo maneuvers or agility in solo navigation. And it doesn’t end there because you can swap between Adol and Carja at a moment’s notice, even mid-combo, enabling seamless combat encounters where the momentum never stops as long as you know what you’re doing.

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These two combat styles are the crux of Ys X Nordics’ battle system, and it seems to have stuck the landing based on what I’ve played. The constant switching between characters in the party games for the sake of their affinities grew a tad dull as the experiences progressed, but I don’t see any sign of that being the case here whatsoever. However, I have to emphasize another collectively significant aspect of Ys X Nordics’ combat: the altered speed and weight. Attacks in this entry feel far slower and more methodical than in previous games, giving each strike far more impact than ever before. Honestly, it reminds me of Ys Seven a bit. This change alone gives Ys X Noridcs an identity all its own.

Some other facets worth mentioning are the exploration and the new upgrade system. The former is now bolstered by multiple tools, like a waveboard of sorts that can traverse land and water and a grapple that can hook onto select landmarks. Additionally, Adol and Carja have unique charge attacks that burn or freeze the environment, respectively. Aside from damaging surrounding foes, these techniques can remove blockades in select areas or provide access to ordinarily unreachable platforms. Everything about exploration so far is just magnificent.

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As for the upgrade system, it’s akin to the Sphere Grid from Final Fantasy X, except it’s far more straightforward. Adol and Carja have nodes you can insert gems inside, with various types offering stat boosts. Further, specific nodes will give the two heroes new battle skills altogether, so there’s a constant sense of reward here that I’m hoping opens up more pathways the later you progress. This is not what the entire leveling system comprises, as Adol and Carja still gain regular character levels. So, you can view this new Sphere Grid-like system as a supplemental mechanic meant to change things up.

Ys X Nordics is proving to be exactly what I wanted from the franchise. The refreshing combat structure consisting of melded old and new features has already made me addicted. The soundtrack is exceptional as well, and the new ship combat system, while simple, has left me wanting to experiment with it more. Here’s hoping Ys X Nordics greets Western audiences sooner rather than later because I feel fans and newcomers alike will fall in love with this ambitious step forward.

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual.

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