It is customary to do a bit of research when doing a more underground game for a series that is fairly sizable. Yet, Ys is one of the odder ones I’ve seen. With the entire series only spanning about 10 games in reality, but 25 or so years. While the prospect of obtaining the entire collection would cost a couple thousand easily, due to how often the core group of these games have been remade and re released. Hell, the one I’ve got right here is the repackaging of two originally separate NEC PC-8801 games, which I’ve never even heard of. That was remade for the Turbografx, PC, PSP, and is now the compilation of two of the remakes because of reasons!
Ys Chronicles+ Review
Release Date: 14/2/2013
Platforms: PC (Well, at least this version
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: XSEED Games
Rig: AMD FX-8320, 8GB of RAM, Radeon HD 7770, Windows 7 64-bit
Aggression towards the overly complicated and revision heavy history of the Ys games aside, the package of Ys Chronicles+ contains the original two titles in the series that most people are unfamiliar with due to how few Western releases it got before 2005. Which apparently all follow the same washed ashore red haired hero, Adol Christin and his adventures on an unknown continent where he must uncover secrets laid to rest 700 years ago. Actually, the plot and characters in Ys and its immediate sequel are pretty hefty considering the game was released during the late 80s. With a log for every random NPC you run across, and a lot of aspects to manipulate on your quest to ultimately get the best gear and ram into a monster.
In fact, I’d say that it is one too complex and filled with characters for its own good. With side quests underhandedly mentioned and important progression details being based on whether or not you talk to everybody, or have a certain item equipped while doing a specific act. Cripes, the Wikipedia summary for the first two games’ narrative is about as wordy as two of my reviews. With the worst part being how it actually amounts to a more digestible story than the one presented by the game. Which is easy to ignore because of nearly every other part of the game.
Ys can easily be considered one of the first action RPGs, with the remakes mutating it to be more of an action game with a complex string of events that make up a story and an inventory of about thirty unique items. But the actual gameplay uses something known as the Bump system, where if you hit an enemy to the side or diagonally, Adol automatically slashes at them and eventually explodes them into pixelated blood and bones. For the first game, that is pretty much all there is to gameplay, upgrading your gear while ramming into baddies, and getting exp to reach the ever so high max level of ten at the 60% mark.
I don’t mean to necessarily knock it, as the game is as much fun as it is to tackle or crash into something, but it is about as far removed from a very old fashioned JRPG plot as can be, and I’d be buggered if my attention lasted long enough to properly understand what I was supposed to do most of the time because of how much running and ramming you get to do in the game. With side activities and easter eggs being things I would have zoomed through unless the guide I used made note of them and I wanted to make Adol look like a rapist after he decided to shove a captured woman into a monster to level her up.
Ys II, or Ancient Ys Vanished: The Final Chapter on the other hand gives you magic spells to play with. Though most of them are questioning in their usefulness. I can understand how transforming into a little demon so the others leave you alone, or having a light to uncover secrets, but the powers are rarely called for, and MP is a factor that is far more valuable than health, especially after you gain the ability to slowly heal it all up anywhere. As opposed to Ys I’s step outside and you’ll heal all wounds super quick-like.
The most useful spell you get would need to be the fireball, but even then I only ever used it to torment townsfolk or defeat the game’s very action centric bosses. Where things such as the fire being able to split up into little lines of homing flares being something of a shock to me when I used it for that battle, and only that battle. With the rest of the bosses being defeated as such: Ram into the prick and try not to get hit too much.
A pretty simple extension of the main game’s stance on combat, but things do ramp up in challenge, as they should. But there is a certain point the game does very much pierce with the ending of the first game being a boss fight that I completed, but I’d be the first to say that I chose to cheat after my thirtieth failure. Quite simply, there is a large figure floating around a platform, bounding from a place in between the game’s visual borders and the platform’s. There are homing bombs constantly bombarding poor Adol, while he needs to be sure to hit the shadow, seeing as how this is A, an overhead view, and B, misunderstanding the instinctive reaction to aim for the center of mass. To make things worse, if you hit the big bad, the platform breaks apart, killing Adol or leaving him on a little platform to be killed slowly.
Oh, and I must mention that you need to talk to a person twice before they tell you that you need to have your B tier of armor equipped to have even the slightest chance of winning against the final boss, who is oddly shoved in about a minute after the second to last one. All of which I’d guess would gel with the original earlier titles that weren’t able to resemble a trip down to the bullet hell. Which results in a very fast gameplay style that feels really good being surrounded by so many weird design choices that instead of being modernized or altered to fit in with the fast combat, are kept preserved and feel out of place, despite being core aspects from the original version of the game.
None of which is really helped by the game’s presentation, which pretty much sealed the deal as much as how everything is on auto-run. I’m not so good with the technical terms, but I’d say that Ys Chronicles looks like a mix between an RPG maker game and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Where there are a plethora of semi-reasonable looking townsfolk and a surprising amount of baddies that follow a sprite style that I can’t help but draw comparisons to. While there is actually a lot of detail when it is requested, or when a boss is present. As both them and Adol launch out a series of colorful blurs with an occasional 3D model or surge of balls of death being shoved in as if to prove that it is above SNES limitations.
Although, it would’ve proven its modernity with the rocking soundtrack alone. While ultimately optional through the ability to choose more calm versions of the same tracks. The out of town music in Ys Chronicles fits the gameplay of bashing into things to murder them a bit too well for every other aspect of the game. So that even when going through a more mellow town theme, I was still thinking of the majority of the game, as nothing changed from a control aspect, aside from ramming people to talk replaced ramming into monsters to kill. Leaving most of its narrative attempts falling flat because of how situated I was into the completely opposite mindset.
Ys Chronicles is the gel of two very different, almost polarizing types of games. After playing a bit of the later title, Ys Origins, and watching some gameplay of Ys I classic, I think this can be attributed to the developer’s attempt to bring their earlier titles up to snuff with the current title’s gameplay, while not changing enough of the things around the gameplay to make it work. Or in other words, you can’t have a game about shooting fireballs at giant crabs that shoot lasers, and one where you’re expected to sit down and read some lore in the middle of a dungeon. It’s well made, but oh so poorly designed, as it represents an almost ancient mindset that I presumed vanished long ago. Yes, end it with a pun, you master of class you.
Fans of the genre or premise might enjoy the product. There is a kernel of goodness, but it’s still surrounded by some non-goodness, making the final product a bit “bleh”.