Review: Ys I & II Chronicles

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The Ys series originated back in 1987 for the Japanese PC-8801 system, and has had a number of iterations through the years. The first two games actually form a complete story arc, and as a result they have been released together: in 2001 they came to the PC, in 2009 to the Nintendo DS and now they are back again on the Sony PSP, this time from franchise originator Nihon Falcom.

If you are thinking “wait, didn’t I just play these?,” you are correct. As mentioned, the DS game Legacy of Ys: Books I & II from 2009 was a third-party version of the first two games in the series (check out our review here). There were several changes made to ‘modernize’ the game, including an alteration of the combat system, and while some liked the updates, others didn’t appreciate the core game getting messed with.

The story of the games revolves around Adol Christin, who is revealed to the player as the great hero of legends. But as the story begins he is washed up on the shore of Esteria and nursed back to health, at which point he ventures forth and his tale begins. As is typical for a game of the era, the story and characters are fairly light and thin, but engaging and entertaining.

For the PSP game, all core systems remain intact, but the technical details have been solidly updated. The graphics won’t wow anyone, but that is hardly the point. Everything has been updated to be clear and colorful and appropriately detailed. You can definitely distinguish the various characters and enemies.

The music was excellent enough that the DS game shipped with a soundtrack CD (Ed note: the PSP’s Premium Edition retail release also comes with a soundtrack CD), and while the DS couldn’t take advantage of that, the PSP can! The music is excellent and sounds great – definitely worth listening to (I often mention that I usually just mute handheld games).

The combat system is somewhat contentious. In order to attack you simply bump into enemies, and if you have the advantage you’ll do more damage, much more if you attack from behind or the side. In Ys II you gain magic powers, which is much appreciated.

Combat is difficult and unforgiving…particularly bosses. As I encountered the first boss in Ys I, I remembered that I should have done more grinding – and sure enough I was dead in a few minutes while he still had ~75% life. So I returned to the world, wandered around battling respawning enemies until I gained a few more levels and then returned to fight again – this time I defeated the boss easily.

The need to grind – particularly at higher difficulty levels – adds to the game length. I would estimate that it took me ~15 hours to complete both Ys I & II. After finishing the game there are a few other modes to enjoy, but basically you’re done.

It would be easy to pick apart all of the flaws with the game, but as I played I fell in love with it all over again. The game feels very old in some ways, yet the light whimsical feel as I played made me forgive everything. These are two classics of the JRPG franchise, and this is my favorite version.

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Pros:
+ Fun story with interesting characters
+ Fast-paced combat system
+ Excellent music

Cons:
– ‘Bump & run’ combat is awkward
– Still too much grinding

Game Info:
Platform: PSP (UMD and PSN)
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Falcom
Release Date: 2/21/2011
Genre: Action-RPG
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!