Legacy of Ys: Books I & II - Staff Review  

An Ysy Legacy
by Mike Moehnke

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Less than 20 Hours
+ Fast-paced and addictive Ys combat
+ Soundtrack continues to be catchy
- Age of the source material shows through in ways
- Changes to the source material have mixed effects
- Perspective too zoomed-in and obstructive
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   From Japanese computers to the Sega Master System, the Famicom, the Turbo Grafx CD, the Saturn, Windows, and the Playstation 2, Ys I and Ys II have seen a plethora of remakes over the years. The games had not been officially released in English since 1990's Ys Books I and II Complete on the Turbo Grafx CD, however, meaning the material within Legacy of Ys: Books I and II is unfamiliar to most non-Japanese players nowadays. To acknowledge the titles' appearance on the DS, the remakes attempt to take advantage of the system's capabilities. The attempt is not wholly successful, but the core Ys playing style does shine through often.

   The Ys style of action RPG has always been unique thanks to its combat system, or seeming lack thereof. Adol Christin's trademark is the ability to collide with enemies and inflict damage thusly. This is not the best method of combating the opposition in Legacy of Ys, however. The problem is that the only way to use the traditional combat method of ramming enemies slightly off-center is via the stylus, which directly guides Adol on his path. In and of itself, the stylus control is okay, but the screen has been zoomed in far more than any other version of Ys. This results in enemies suddenly popping up with insufficient time to react to their position, along with the environments being somewhat more bothersome to navigate because of the view. Another problem with the view is that it is not completely overhead - objects in the foreground can tower over Adol, and in their invisible shadows enemies will often lurk.

   The other method of controlling Adol is via the D-pad and an attack button, which does not feel like Ys but does work well. The two methods of control can be toggled at any time. When using the D-pad to control Adol, the use of an attack button to swing his sword turns the game into something far more familiar for action RPG veterans. Experience accrues as enemies are slain, and each level-up makes a big difference to Adol's combat prowess. In another change from Ys traditions, money is not automatically given to Adol when an enemy dies, but drops in a bag that must be manually picked up before it vanishes.

Arcade games from the 80 Arcade games from the 80's are surprisingly powerful in the hands of a redheaded swordsman.

   Recovery items are not difficult to acquire, and when standing still outdoors, Adol's hit points will recover automatically. Ys II introduces magic to the combat, with several magic spells being acquired through the game. The most important of these is the Fire magic which is a projectile attack and is indispensable for many boss battles. The ability to attack from a distance alters the combat system considerably and helps differentiate Ys II from Ys I.

   Shop menus take a long time to navigate, thanks to the store owners loving small talk that repeats itself for every transaction. Equipping and using items is very easy, however. Statistics for weapons are not displayed in shop menus. This is not a concern since a more expensive piece of equipment is always better. The use of key items is often obscure, requiring trial and error to determine their proper role. This can be frustrating when progress halts as the player attempts to determine what must be done next.

   For a plot that originated over twenty years ago, Legacy of Ys's tale is not bad. Adol Christin washes up on the shores of Esteria, where after a quick recovery at the hands of complete strangers, he shows an amazing affinity for clearing out the monsters running rampant. Having nothing better to do, Adol accepts a fortune teller's call to go forth and collect the Books of Ys that explain why the land is in such a rotten state. Those Books of Ys eventually lead Adol to the Land of Ys, a continent floating in the air, where his amazing talent for helping strangers and slaying monsters again comes to the fore. Atlus earns brownie points for a fine translation, but the story's main tenets were not sophisticated when the games were first made and have not improved since that time.

Is amnesia really such a common ailment?  According to RPGs and soap operas, yes. Is amnesia really such a common ailment? According to RPGs and soap operas, yes.

   The only impetus for replay comes from the four difficulty levels available. Playing the game(s) again on a different difficulty is easy to do thanks to their brevity. The highest difficulty level removes recovery of Hit Points while standing still in the outdoors and increases enemy attack power. Bosses are the major problem regardless of difficulty, with leveling up and having the best equipment the only solution. With experience, completing the two games together is possible in under 12 hours. Novices to Ys will require a few hours more.

   The visuals have been completely redone for the DS, and they mostly look good without being stunning. The sprites are quite nice, but many environments are unappealing thanks to a pixellation problem. Ys II, in particular, has several boss battles where slowdown is an unfortunate detriment.

   The music in the Ys series has received enormous acclaim, and its renown is easy to understand. Several of the tunes have been given lacklustre arrangements, and even at their best, display that the DS's sound capabilities are not great. Despite the problems with their presentation, the underlying strength of these compositions shows through, and the music is worthy of being listened to with headphones.

   Legacy of Ys: Books I and II represents something of a missed opportunity by Interchannel to present the best possible versions of these games. A new dungeon in Ys I and a fine translation by Atlus do not compensate for the unfortunate design decisions that make it hard to see things at times. The game is not bad, and an official English translation makes it much more accessible than most other versions of Ys I and II, but anyone with an interest in the series and an inclination to test out the world of Ys on something else is advised to do so.

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