Remember that time when the cast of Ys and Trails in the Sky fought to the death? No? Well, it was in a Japanese PSP game from 2011, so who can blame you. Ys vs Sora no Kiseki was Falcom’s addition to the questionable world of RPGs turned into fighting games. Sony’s handheld was the stage for a somewhat epic crossover that pit the likes of Adol and Dogi against Estelle and Joshua from Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. It’s like Super Smash Bros., only with Falcom music and even more anime boys with swords.
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OK, the Smash Bros. similarities end with the fact that there are a bunch of characters from different games fighting each other. Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki is really more of an arena fighter in the style of Power Stone. The combat is based on Ys Seven, with characters gaining SP as they throw out charged attacks, which can then be spent to unleash various skills. Since almost half the cast is straight out of Ys Seven, they play exactly as you’d expect, just with a lot more jump attacks and air dashing. The Kiseki side of things takes more creative liberties with the move sets. Players can get up close and spam spin attacks with Estelle or shoot down foes from afar with characters like Tita and everyone’s favourite, Olivier. As half of the characters are from turn-based RPGs it’s neat to be able to control them more directly for a change.
No matter who you choose, combat is absolutely chaotic. You can do four-player brawls, but it’s virtually impossible to figure out what’s happening onscreen. Matches are fast paced, a with a whole lot of dashing around. The characters have a stamina gauge that decreases as you dodge or block attacks, so players need to keep an eye on all fighters’ stamina and strike when there’s an opening. This means that fights involve a whole lot of running around big arenas without actually getting a hit in, although the wide range of attack skills can lead into some devastating combos.
So what brought these two series together? No, besides the obvious allure of crossover cash from fans of both franchises. The cast of both games find themselves waking up in another world, which is the actually the world of another Falcom title – Xanadu. I was surprised to hear Xanadu Next music as soon as I started the story mode. It’s kind of neat to use Xanadu as a shared setting since that early Falcom title indirectly lead to the creation of both series. The main story mode has your choice of four characters hunting down the Dragon Slayer sword while fighting any character that stands in your way. Everyone has an appropriately flimsy excuse for fighting to justify why Agate suddenly wants to murder Tita.
The characters are mostly taken from Ys Seven and Trails in the Sky, with a few others thrown in, like Chester from Ys: The Oath in Felghana and Lloyd from Zero no Kiseki, a few months before his game would release. There are a few cameos too; one character from the earlier “Gagharv” trilogy of Legend of Heroes titles ends up playing a surprising role in the story. Despite how much dialogue there is in both Trails and Ys Seven, there isn’t much in the way of interactions between the characters outside of the short story mode, which is a little disappointing.
The battle arenas are all based on areas from both series, like Valestein Castle and Crossbell’s central square. Whether its onboard an airship or deep within lava-filled catacombs, it’s fun to fight in creative locations from both franchises. There aren’t really any stage hazards to worry about, but you can break objects and open chests to find hidden items that restore HP and SP.
Outside of the story, there’s not much to the game other than a big grind to buy all the different songs, stages and skills. While similar games like Dissidia: Final Fantasy made this enjoyable with a range of different modes, Ys vs Sora no Kiseki just has players running through the single player arcade modes again and again. The enemy levels scale with your characters too, so repeat playthroughs to unlock new stuff seem to take even longer. There’s definitely a lot here for fans. The loading screens are full of unlockable artwork from both series and there are new remixes of classic songs, including a number of tracks from earlier Legend of Heroes titles. Actually getting to see everything in the game seems like a huge pain, but at least the soundtrack is all on Spotify now!
The lack of single player stuff to do makes sense, since Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki is a fighting game. But while multiplayer might be the focus, good luck getting a bunch of friends with PSPs together in this, the year of Gooigi. The game is obviously never going to have much of a competitive scene, but it’s the kind of fighter where the game balance is secondary to experimenting with Ys systems and throwing characters together. In the end, it’s not much more than a cute curiosity for fans of both series. But it’s also a curiousity that can be found at extremely low prices these days, so it’s worth a try.
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Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki is an odd title, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Falcom attempt something similar in the future. This kind of anime arena fighter has only grown in popularity and the newer Ys games have systems that’d make for an interesting high-speed fighting game. Now that more recent Ys games have introduced a lot more playable characters and the Trails side of things continues to grow in popularity, there’s a lot they could add to the formula and a whole lot of character models that are ripe for recycling. Heck, might as well throw in folks from Tokyo Xanadu while we’re at it!
Of course, I wouldn’t complain if they put Estelle in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate either.