Fans of old-school action RPGs from Japan probably know about Falcom and one of their most popular series: Ys (pronounced 'ees', rhyming with 'cease'). It's an action-RPG series that's been around since 1987, and from what I've seen, it's still going on the PSP, now with the system's first exclusive Ys title.
I was able to sit down with a Mr. Lipschultz, a man who was very enthusiastic about the series that he was given an opportunity to work with. He showed me Ys Seven (not Ys 7, or Ys 7: Subtitle Here, but just Ys Seven), the latest title to be released on Sony's handheld system. Following the ever-growing adventures of Adol and his companion Dogi, Ys Seven looks to change up the system just a little bit, but hopefully not too much. You see, this is the first game in which players will be commanding a party of adventurers, instead of just Adol by himself, but with your other party members under control of an AI, it shouldn't be too overwhelming.
From what I've been told, the AI is as unobtrusive as possible while still being as helpful as it can be. It attacks when you do, only uses special moves if you tell it to, and tries its darndest to stay out your way. Though if you want something like a specific move done, you can always just switch characters on-the-fly. From what I saw, the AI did look pretty competent, though it was hard to tell since the characters I was watching were quite overpowered for the area they were in.
Special moves are granted by equipping armor with the moves attached to them, then using them until you level them up to level 1, which means they're now yours even if you remove the armor. You can also just level up the skills, which gain power, and even change forms at levels 5 and 10. For example, one female character with a bow had a move which sprayed a volley of arrows in front of her. Level up the skill high enough, and the arrows would also be shot out behind her. And in addition to character equipment, party equipment could also be equipped, which meant granting certain abilities like being able to walk on lava or ride powerful winds through the air. By finding and equipping these, you're granted access to areas, and the man I talked to said that this really gave the game some strong Metroidvania-style aspects, as it meant seeing an area that you might not be able to get to until you return with a specific item.
From what I've seen, Ys Seven looks like a game with some serious promise. Hopefully with the changes made to a very entrenched franchise, the fans will not see it as a game too far removed from its roots, as it looks like a title with potential (and a whole lot of length to the game, too). Fans of action RPGs will want to take note of it when it comes out late this summer.