Review: Legacy of Ys: Books I & II

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Nihon Falcom’s Ys series has been huge in Japan for over two decades now, but here in the US it’s never quite managed to ascend above cult status. My own personal experience with the series is limited to The Ark of Napishtim from a few years back — the PS2 version of which was excellent, while the PSP version wasn’t worth the UMD it was stored on due to excessive load times and poor all-around optimization – and now Legacy of Ys: Books I & II, Atlus USA’s new DS compilation of the series’ first two installments.

So admittedly my knowledge of the series is rather minimal, and therefore I can’t really tell you how the new DS remakes compare to previous incarnations in terms of what’s been lost or gained in the translation. But what I can tell you with absolute certainty is that Legacy of Ys is a must-play retro RPG.

Legacy of Ys is a two-in-one bundle of the first two Ys games chronicling red-haired hero Adol Christin’s journey to rid evil from the lands of Esteria. As should probably be expected, the first book is very much a Ys “beginner’s course,” as the level cap maxes out at 24 (I hit the cap halfway through the game!), the adventure only takes around five hours to complete, and the gameplay is more straightforward hack-n-slash. Book two, on the other hand, delves much deeper with more like 10-15 hours of adventuring and more evolved gameplay with the introduction of a spell system, greater dungeon variety, and a level cap of 55.

With Book II you also get a simple 2-4-player multiplayer mini-game, but seeing as it requires multiple copies to play I haven’t been able to try it out. Both books do share boss Time Attack modes and music players, though, and you also get a 30-song soundtrack CD as a pack-in freebie. Ys features some of the finest retro videogame music ever, so the soundtrack is almost worth buying the game for alone.

But anyways, back to the game…if you haven’t played a Ys game before, the style of play is that of a top-down, hack-n-slash action-RPG somewhat akin to the original Legend of Zelda, only faster paced and slightly deeper in stat building. As Adol, you visit villages, chat with Esteria’s common folk, explore dungeons for loot and experience, collect special items and equipment to access new (and often more dangerous) areas, and slay mighty boss beasties. Typical action-RPG formula, yes, but it’s incredibly satisfying and addictive in a retro kind of way.

On the DS, both traditional and stylus (left- and right-handed) control options are provided to suit individual tastes – personally, I didn’t care much for the stylus-based scheme so I went the traditional route and had a ball dispatching foes with a pluck of the Y button.

Aside from frequent backtracking and the curious inability to pause during boss battles, there really isn’t a whole lot to complain about with Legacy of Ys. Sure, I could rag on the bland, chunky 3D graphics and formulaic fantasy storyline like I know many reviewers would, but to do so would be unnecessary, even unfair. These are 20-year-old games for crying out loud, so certain things are just going to feel dated. The whole point of this collection is to give fans a chance to relive and celebrate the origin of one of the action-RPG genre’s most influential franchises, and, better yet, give a new audience the chance to experience it for the first time, and in this Legacy of Ys is a triumphant success.

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Pros:
+ Fun and addictive retro action-RPG gameplay
+ Soundtrack is a masterpiece
+ Multiple control options
+ Excellent value – two games and soundtrack CD for price of one

Cons:
– A lot of backtracking
– Can’t pause during boss battles

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Interchannel-Holon
Release Date: 2/24/09
Genre: Action-RPG
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-4
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!