Ys is a series I’ve never been into, or more accurately, haven’t had a chance to get into. The only European release I’ve been aware of was Ark of Napishtim which got a limited release by Konami and possibly a Master System release. For the longest time I never even knew the series existed. The weird play mechanics were you ‘bump’ into enemies rather than press an attack button kind of put me off playing the games as well. Xseed recently released three Ys games on PSP, Ys 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ys Oath in Felghana and Ys Seven, which are available as a UMD release in America and on the Playstation store in the US and EU. After hearing so much good word of mouth about the series I thought it was about time to try it out. So what better place to start than where the series began?
The first two Ys games have appeared on nearly every system imaginable, from Japanese home computers like the NEC PC-88, to the NES, PC, PC Engine CD and even a recent DS release. The PSP release is supposedly the definitive release according to fans. There’s been a lot love and attention paid to this collection and it shows. While some people have complained about the art I think high res 2D looks great especially on the PSP screen. Boss fights are visually stunning as are the use of effects like water reflections and some really snazzy light and shadow effects. You also have a choice of 3 soundtracks for each game, the original PC-88 soundtrack, the recent Ys 1 & 2 Complete soundtrack from the PC version and a new re-mastered soundtrack for the Chronicles collection. The Ys series is famed for its amazing soundtracks, the first two games are composed by the legendary Yuzo Koshiro, and this collection doesn’t disappoint. I’m particularly fond of the chiptune PC-88 tunes, although the guitar rock of the chronicles soundtrack has its cheesy charms. All three soundtracks are available at any time from the menu.
The ‘bumping’ mechanic wasn’t as weird as I initially thought it would be and it’s actually quite intuitive. You have to run into an enemy slightly off centre to damage them, running into them head on will damage you. Grinding for levels is easy and lots of fun. Initially killing enemies is slow going since they require multiple attacks to take them down, but Ys is a series were even one level or a better weapon makes all the difference. Levelling up is fast and in no time you should be ploughing through enemies as they explode in a hilariously over the top shower of body parts and blood until you reach a new area presenting a tougher challenge. The game plays at a blistering pace; the main challenge is handling the speed of the main character Adol and hitting enemies accurately. Ys has been compared to Zelda but its really far more action orientated. There are also light RPG elements; nothing more complicated than levelling up and equipping new armour and weapons.
|Ys has a large male fanbase?|
Out of the two games Ys 2 is definitely the better. Ys 1 is fun and well worth your time but it has some archaic design flaws, chief of which is how obtuse some of the puzzles are, which can leave the player unable to progress the story. Xseed recognised this and have thankfully included a walkthrough of the first game in the manual to help players out. There’s really no shame in using it since the meat of the game is having to skill to pass the rock hard boss fights, not solving obscure puzzles. Ys 2 is a much longer and more satisfying game, although it’s not without the odd obtuse puzzle; again there’s no harm in checking an FAQ if you are stuck. The RPG mechanics have been enhanced, Adol can learn new magic spells and there’s some weird items to experiment with, my favourite being one that disguises you as a monster so you can walk around and chat to all the enemies in the game.
Ys 1 & 2 Chronicles is a loving homage to the original games and makes a great introduction to the series for new players. The fast pace and simple RPG mechanics combine to make a game that’s quick to pick up and play but remains compelling to the end. It’s also recommended for anyone looking for a stiff old school challenge. Xseed’s localisation is excellent as always. I’d like to thank them for bringing this series to my attention and I can’t wait to try some more of Nihon Falcoms games.
By the way, it’s pronounced like ease not why’s :-)