Nihon Falcom’s Ys was revolutionary when it first came out back in the 1980s and set the standard for modern RPGs. While the series have been well-received in Japan, it was largely ignored by western gamers. This is why not all of the Ys installments have made it outside of Japan. Hardcore fans of Ys have been patiently waiting for more Ys title, but until then, they will have to settle for remakes.
Atlus brings us a remake of the first two Ys in one single cartridge for the Nintendo DS which seems to be the ideal place for classic RPG remakes. This isn’t the first time the first two Ys have been remade, which the booklet attests to. How does this remake fare? Is this remake really the definitive version, and does Ys retain its charm after all these years?
Legacy of Ys: Books I & II has a weak presentation. Menus look dreadful and the graphics are nothing to rave about. The graphics aren’t extremely bad, but they still feel dated. The updated art is great and is a welcome addition. Music has been wonderfully remastered and some tunes now come with insanely awesome guitar riffs. It retains its old-school feel, and if you love the soundtrack, a music mode is available upon completing the game. A soundtrack CD with some selected songs is included with the game which seems to be a standard for Atlus games.
Ys I follows Adol Christin, a red-haired swordsman, who is stuck on the island of Esteria due to being shipwrecked via the Veil of Storms. On the island, a fortune teller informs Adol of all the monsters and evil forces roaming the land. In order to eliminate the evil forces, he will need to seek the six books of Ys which contain the history of the ancient land of Ys and the information he needs to eradicate the monsters. Adol’s journey for Book I begins here. Book II immediately picks up where Ys I left off, and without giving away too many details, Adol finds himself in a well-known land. Once again, Adol tries to unravel the secrets of Ys and remove the evil forces.
Unlike many modern RPGs, Ys‘ narrative is told through gameplay and conversations. Other than the newly added, gorgeous opening cutscenes for both Ys, there’s no fancy and lengthy CGI cutscenes or any similar substance throughout the rest of the game. The story is interesting and definitely worth a look for RPG fans. One issue with the dialogue is that it feels archaic. Even with the improved translation, the writing loses its charm and feels aged.
Ys is as simple as you can get in a RPG: meet person A, go to place B and return to person A. You should get the feeling there will be backtracking involved. The backtracking is horrendous as you’ll visit the same villages numerous times, especially in the first Ys. An annoying aspect about being in a village is if you bump into someone, you’ll automatically talk to the villager. The same applies if they bump into you. There were times where my path was blocked by the villagers, and I couldn’t get passed them because Adol will automatically talk to them.
The places you have to depart to are well-designed dungeon mazes. Some dungeons can easily give you the déjà- vu feeling but crawling through these dungeons is fun. Ys is an action-RPG and combat is in real time. There are two control styles for both Ys: stylus and normal. Stylus mode lets you move Adol around with the stylus (obviously), and Adol will automatically attack when you bump into an enemy. It’s a little cheap and boring, but you can use this control scheme to your advantage when battling tough enemies. In the normal controls, you actually press a button to attack. The combat is very straightforward, but can provide a fun experience.
Enemies respawn at a rapid pace. Good for grinding but bad when you’re on the verge of dying. Another negative is that there’s a terrible imbalance in the game. When you enter a new area, enemies and bosses can easily defeat you, and it’ll take several hits until the enemy falls. After going up a level or two, you can defeat those enemies with ease.
Longevity is another weak aspect in Legacy of Ys: Books I & II as each Book takes between 3-8 hours to complete. Replayability is also an issue. Upon completion, time modes are unlocked, and you battle against bosses and try to defeat them as fast as you can. However, it’s the same bosses you fight throughout the game and isn’t worth a brief glance. A new inclusion to Ys is the multiplayer where you can battle against three or fewer players. Multiplayer gets boring after a while, and it’s difficult finding someone who owns the game. I wish you luck in trying to find people in your area who own the game. Other than those two features and the four difficulty modes, there isn’t much to do here.
Legacy of Ys: Books I & II isn’t necessarily a bad game, but there aren’t many reasons to purchase the remake if you own the original. The outdated gameplay and presentation might not appeal to the new generation of gamers. If you can get passed the outdated presentation, this can be an enjoyable game. A better alternative for experiencing the first two Ys is to download them via the Nintendo Wii’s virtual console. It’s basically the same game but at a lower cost.
Two games in one. Good art style but the menus look awful. The story is worth a look despite the dated writing.
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Battling is simple and a little cheap when using the stylus, but it can still be enjoyable. Crawling through the dungeon mazes is fun.
The remastered music is great and retains the old school feel.
Both Ys are short, and there isn’t much to do upon completing the game other than playing the game under a different difficulty mode. Time modes aren’t worth a look, and multiplayer quickly gets old.
Even the remake feels dated and may not appeal to the new generation of gamers. If you can ignore the archaic feel, you’ll find a good RPG at its core. There’s no compelling reason to buy Legacy of Ys if you own the originals.