In any game that features a dodge maneuver I always perform the check. You know — as in whether or not dodging is faster than the default run speed. Now, nine times out of ten the answer is no. The developers put an extra animation or slow you down after a roll or leap. But in Ys Seven this is not the case. In Ys Seven, you can and should roll through the entire game because it’s clearly faster. And not just around enemy attacks, but through zones and down roads and among towns folk and creatures alike, crashing into loading screens and lowering the shoulder as as you fly into houses and shops, a red haired adventurer out to save the world.
Adol and his pal, Dogi, are literally that: Adventurers. It’s their described profession. You’ll come to find there’s a lot of money and loot in adventuring, too, as enemies burst like pinatas full of coins and items upon death. It’s the most satisfying aspect of Ys Seven, both in its PSP standard visuals, and among the gameplay in general. You roll and roll and roll and smack the shit out of anything in your way with flurries of 3-swing combos, exploding everything into items. Several party members will eventually follow your tail, swinging with you but not as rapidly or enthusiastically. But if you need a particular character’s weapon proficiency to better handle enemies with soft or armored skin, you can switch party member control at the flick of the D-pad and continue to mash away.
Adol and Dogi roll their way into trouble when they arrive in the harbor city, deciding to intervene when they see city guards bullying a poor flower girl. This leads to a meeting with Altago’s king, a kinder man and one in need of assistance of an adventurer like yourself. Corruption and disease spreads throughout the land, and you are to find out why. Adol tucks and rolls out of the palace and hits the road ahead, leaping his way to a shrine of the Dragon Gods, who decide that you are the destined savior of the land. A sweet finishing move power is added to your arsenal, and now Adol is off to meet the other Dragon Gods in the dungeons throughout the land.
Not to advance the plot in any interesting way, no — but to prove what’s already very clear. Cast members will constantly question the legitimacy of Adol’s very obvious imbuement of power. “Is he really the Dragon Warrior?” they ask. The slaying of Godzilla sized creatures and the endowment from godly entities is apparently not enough to bring the point home. Thus, all the dungeons and shrines you visit repeat that question — “Could it be true?” “Is Adol the Dragon Warrior?” And then the second half the game backtracks you to each location again to confirm that, yes, Adol is DEFINITELY the Dragon Warrior.
Nonetheless, it’s all neatly setup. You have towns with shops, craftable weapons vendors that use all the materials those enemies are exploding into, and have neighboring dungeons to clear. However, while organizationally sound, Ys Seven becomes more easily exposed in the impotent combat and uninspired environments that carry the game. And don’t forget you’re dodge rolling throughout its entirety. I mean, call me nitpicky but it just looks and feels ridiculous.
And it’s so effective. The dodge window is super large in Ys Seven, so no enemy can really hit you if you’re doing it even half consciously. Bosses simply require more rolling, in this regard. They’re intense in the idea that you’re never not rolling other than to briefly throw down a combo or special attack. These giant creatures called Titanos flood the screens with fireballs and full screen charge attacks. But if you don’t stop rolling, well, you simply won’t be hit. As hard as the boss themes bang in this game, it all exaggerates the silliness of your rapid rolling.
With a game breaking dodge maneuver in place, the creativity of the skill system is bottlenecked by the primitive need for just one other thing: damage output. Adol and other characters can learn all these cool looking attacks from new weapons you purchase and find in Altago, and you can customize your loadout by mapping each skill to a button. The idea of having uppercuts, leaps, dashes, jabs, flurries and other animations is awesome, but in Ys Seven, these same animations just get in the way of doing what needs to be done: damage. Out some dozen special moves Adol learns in Ys Seven, all are horribly inefficient except ‘Whirlwind,’ a spin move that handedly outmodes everything else you learn for most of the 20 hour playthrough.
There’s no thought put into any of these elements, and it’s story is beyond sanity, having you fight something called “The Root of All Existence” by the end of it all. Perhaps a game that is all about ‘going through the motions’ of a masher so you can better pass the time on a bus ride is appreciable in that aspect, but honestly, I’d rather just stare out the window. Ys Seven is completely terrible and may very well be the poster child of what’s wrong with so many PSP games.