A young red-haired man suffering from amnesia awakes in the town of Casnan. It’s not long until he meets a burley information dealer named Duren. It turns out that they have actually met before and Duren tells him his name – Adol Christin. After a few beers (usually the cause of my memory loss), Duren offers to assist Adol in exploring the forest of Celceta to find out the cause of his forgetfulness.
At first, Adol is charged with charting a map of Celceta and it doesn’t take long for him to discover dungeons and other towns. Entering these can be tense as you’re never quite sure how they will receive Adol. He may have forgotten the past but the inhabitants most certainly have not and you can guarantee they’ve encountered Adol before. The plot is predominantly told through the JRPG staple of blue dialogue boxes, of which there are far too many. They’re particularly frustrating when you power up your Vita to slay a few monsters on the bus and haven’t got time to read a novel. A few hundred pages of dialogue could have easily been cut without ruining the story, which is uninspired at best. The more interesting narrative was my own in uncovering the forest and discovering new areas and monsters to stab in the face. This is what kept my attention.
The Vita may not sport the power of home consoles but Memories of Celceta still falls short of the visual benchmarks set by the likes of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Killzone: Mercenary and Tearaway. Shoddy textures, fixed camera angles, repetitive music and basic character models with limited animations all contribute to the sensation that you’re playing a classic from yesteryear. Quite appropriate when you consider it’s a reimagining of Super Nintendo title Ys IV. The visuals wouldn’t look quite so ropy were it not for the crisp anime slides that are interspersed throughout. These make you wish the gameplay was rendered in that same beautiful art style. Sadly, the retro theme continues with the soundtrack; containing a few overused tracks, standard sound effects and minimal voice dialogue.
The forest itself is variegated nicely with numerous environments including the obligatory snow section. Unfortunately, this isn’t a large sprawling open world with distant horizons to run towards. Rather, it’s a series of corridors branching out into multiple paths, all tediously separated by loading screens. Yet you’re still compelled to explore the forest because of a constantly rising percentage as you uncover the map. It’s a neat touch that gives you a sense of progression often missing from other RPGs. It eggs you on to discover more.
Combat is oversimplified too with just one attack button. Special moves can be unlocked and equipped to four commands but they can’t be chained together to form combos. Some variance does come from block and evade moves, which when timed correctly, can be used to unleash critical hits or to slow down targets. Whilst the hits are satisfying and movement is slick, it doesn’t stop Memories of Celceta from being a
rudimentary and repetitive hack and slash. It means you spend most of your time wandering through the forest mashing square until you get to the next dungeon or town where you mash square again to skip through the dialogue, stop to feed dogs Chito nuts and then move on to the next quest.
The controllable cast of characters that join your party do offer some variation. Sporting weapons with different attack types from Duren’s strike to Karna’s pierce as well as their own special moves. Unfortunately, their “Unique abilities” are nothing more than a new method of opening up previously inaccessible parts of the map. There is a hint of Metroidvania to this but usually they are just required to progress rather than tracking back to unlock old areas.
The upgrade system is intriguing as weapons and armour can be reinforced with items mined from resources located in the forest. These can improve or impair statistics forcing you to play around and find the right combination of materials. This is all rendered redundant though thanks to the expensive cost of upgrading. It makes more economic sense to just sell the minerals to buy better weapons, armour and items instead. They’re also easily obtained from quests and numerous treasure chests. It’s a crying shame as interesting weapons could be forged but there simply isn’t any need to.