Ys I & II Chronicles - Staff Review  

Chronicles of the Past
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Ys I & II Chronicles
Less than 20 Hours
+ Speedy, entertaining gameplay
+ Wonderful presentation of classic material
+ Charming characters and narrative
- Good luck figuring out where to go
- Occasional frustrating bosses
- No new content
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   Nearly twenty-five years and more than half a dozen ports later, Falcom has once again taken up the Ys mantle with a compilation of the first two games in Ys I & II Chronicles. The PlayStation Portable collection is based off of the 2001 PC remake Ys I & II Complete, though the PSP release is the first updated version directly from Falcom to hit North America. It was just a couple of years ago that a third-party remake hit the DS, but thanks to XSEED, North American gamers are getting to try out Falcom's take on its very own flagship series for the first time in years.

   Ys I & II are two parts of a whole. Originally crafted as two separate games back in the late 1980s, these two tell a complete story when placed back to back. Adol Christin is the hero of legend, unbeknownst to him. At the start of Ys I he's just a simple adventurer who has set out to explore the world. He finds himself washed up on the shore of a village in Esteria and so his destined journey begins. While light on narrative, what Chronicles offers is fairly competent. Players are introduced to a varied supporting cast, and while none of the supporters play too large of a role, they add a decent amount of supplementary material to the story. The localization is clean and does a great job of adding little bits of entertainment here and there. For instance, in Ys II players can blast villagers with fireballs for unique dialogue and every monster in the game also has dialogue and will converse with Adol when he transforms into a creature called a Roo. Neat little additions like this that Falcom tucked into the game make this collection stand out as a charming experience despite its age.

Party crashing Adol in the pale moonlight.

   The original two Ys titles offer one of the simplest combat systems ever. The bump system will have Adol charging into enemies in order to attack, though players will have to make sure to ram monsters off center in order to actually deal damage instead of taking it. There are no buttons to press to have Adol swing his sword. This makes the battle system extremely fast, as Adol will attack as he simply moves around the screen. Stronger enemies will require longer bouts of smashing into them, especially in Ys II, but everything is still quick and efficient. Attempts at replacing the bump system, such as with the DS version released a couple years back, only succeeded into slowing down the flow of battle. Ramming into enemies will take a little adjusting to, but once adapted to it, the flow is unlike that of any other action RPG system. In Ys I, attacks must be much more precise, though enemies tend to have less health. Ys II strengthens enemies, but makes combat require less accuracy, as well as enhancing the battle system by adding ranged fire magic to Adol's repertoire. While the system hasn't changed much since its original inception, it still holds up quite well and is more than just a nostalgic throwback.

   The Ys series as a whole tends to feature some tough boss fights, and it all started here. So while players will be dashing around, taking out enemies left and right, it will be impossible to take down some of these bosses without strategic thinking and precise timing. While not as big of a deal in Ys II, a single level increase for Adol can mean the difference between life and death against Ys I bosses. Ys II takes the focus off levels and places it more onto skill with fire magic, as the majority of bosses must be defeated with it. Thankfully, players can save anywhere, as they will need to do so often. Dying during exploration should not be too common of an occurrence, but it can happen through carelessness. Bosses are a different story; most players can expect to retry these fights a few times. Overall, the balance is just right and is further mediated by allowing players multiple difficulty selections at the start.

not hentai No, this is not a hentai game, but with an image like that I'm sure rule 34 applies.

   While most things are simple enough to manage in Chronicles, there are a couple of areas that can cause a bit of frustration. A few times throughout the adventure Adol must escort a weak character through an area full of enemies. The chaotic nature of the battle system might be great for general combat, but it makes an escort mission a tad more challenging than it should be. By far the most irritating part of both titles is the opaque flow of events. Without guidance or prior knowledge of what to do next or where to go, things can be very confusing, as the game does little to direct. While nothing is impossible to figure out without assistance, finding what is needed for progression can take a lot of time and backtracking. This is especially true for Ys II where almost every map is a maze of twists and turns. With a good bit of patience or a nice walkthrough, these frustrations can be mitigated fairly well, though the game would have benefited from a mini-map at least.

   Ys I & II Chronicles is not a shining beacon of excellence in terms of graphical presentation, but the sprite work is detailed quite well and shows up nicely on the PSP screen. The simple animations throughout the world are crisp and smooth, even if they don't stand out as being amazing when compared to other titles on the handheld. One area where Chronicles makes its mark is the music. From the piece that plays during the animated intro to the overworld themes, both Ys titles make the most of their soundtracks. Players even have the option of listening to three different versions of the soundtrack: the original from the PC-88, the one from the PC remake Ys I & II Complete, or the newer, more rocking version crafted specifically for Chronicles. While the overall soundtrack might not be memorable to all, most pieces are fast and frantic, fitting perfectly with the pace of the games.

   Much like the original Final Fantasy, Ys I & II have seen quite a few different versions over the years. For those who want to see how it all started, Ys I & II Chronicles is the way to experience it. Ys I lasts just over five hours and Ys II boasts a little longer playtime at around eight, but with the game's fast pace, it doesn't outstay its welcome. For those who want more, there are multiple difficulty levels and timed boss trials after the game's been completed. This was my first complete experience with the first two Ys titles, and I found both to be immensely more enjoyable than I expected a nearly twenty-five year old RPG to be. For others like me who are tackling these for the first time or for long-time series fans, these two games are well worth checking out.

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