Ys X: Nordics Hands-On – Adol’s Next Adventure is Filled with Action, Vikings, and Boats

Per the series’ longstanding tradition, Ys X: Nordics, the latest chapter in the long-running action-RPG saga starring Adol Christin, has left fans in the West waiting quite a long time before they can get in on the fun. Thankfully, that wait is about to end, and after an hour hopping between various sections of the game to check out its dual-combatant action, get a taste of its all-important story, and even try my hands at the new naval battle system, I’m inclined to think this seafaring tale might end up being worth the customary localization delay. By swapping out the usual larger party seen in recent Ys games for just two characters, Nordics benefits from a more focused experience, whether that be its action-packed combat or its seemingly more concentrated story. Those changes proved more than enough to reignite my interest in this longrunning odyssey.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid Ys (pronounced like “ease”) for the past 37 years, this series follows the dramatic adventures of a young adventurer named Adol, most of which involve a whole lot of swashbuckling sword fights and larger-than-life stories. Ys X: Nordics brings him to the viking-inspired Obelia Gulf to fight against undead creatures called the Griegr, and make a new warrior princess friend named Karja. If you’ve missed some entries in the series though, fear not, as each adventure is mostly self-contained, and as this one takes place after Ys II from way back in 1988, you won’t be expected to learn too much anyway. I was basically caught up on everything I needed to know after a quick cutscene introducing a couple returning characters and ready to beat up a giant, evil salamander in typical Ys fashion.

Each Ys game brings its own particular style, and Nordics is no exception. The biggest change is the decision to move away from the typical party system found in more recent entries, opting instead to focus on just two characters: Adol and Karja. This impacts everything from the combat, which has been tuned around these two mighty warriors, and the story, which even early on already felt like it would be much more focused than some previous Ys entries.

The biggest change is the decision to move away from the typical party system found in more recent entries, opting instead to focus on just two characters: Adol and Karja.

Combat was smooth, quick, and even a little challenging, as I was expected to swap between Karja, whose nordic strength made it a breeze to peel off enemy armor, and good ol’ Adol, who I used to deal finishing blows once my opponents had been stripped of their defenses. There were far too many menus and upgrade options for me to get a good grip of things during my brief demo, but it was clear to me there’s quite a bit to master, like learning the joint attacks I was able to unleash after building up enough mana.

That focus on the story’s two protagonist has an impact on the plot too, as Falcom president Toshihiro Kondo told me, “By limiting it to only two characters that you do more with, it actually allowed [the development team] to do more with that because they knew that they could focus everything on [Karja].” As someone who can get exhausted by convoluted stories with too many characters to follow, that was music to my ears.

There’s a more practical reason too: the smaller scope. As Kondo-san told me, “We wanted to put this one on the [Nintendo] Switch, and when you have that many party members, there’s kind of a limitation on the console itself.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Ys game without some new mechanic to shake things up, and in Nordics, that mechanic – true to the viking vibes it’s got going for it – is naval combat. In the short bit of it I played, I fought off waves of enemies with cannonfire, while targeting shield generators to power down a force field protecting an island. This goofy section definitely was amusing, with cannonballs cartoonishly homing in on their targets, but also a bit overly simplistic, feeling more like a minigame than something substantial, and I can’t really see myself enjoying too much more of it over the lengthy campaign. That said, it’s hard to say how much this will evolve over the 20+ hour runtime, and it’s quite possible it will build up into something with more meat on it.


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