Reviewed: March 29, 2011
Released: February 15, 2011
Sometimes it's hard to believe that at one time games were much simpler then they are today. In the RPG genre this is ever more abundantly noticeable. Today's RPGs are often times cinematic experiences with deep combat and more options than you know what to do with. Things weren't always this way though and in the instance of the newly revamped and rereleased Ys I & II Chronicles for the PSP newer gamers can get a taste of the enjoyable but often bitter sweet taste of an age gone by.|
Ys I & II Chronicles (Books I and II) for those unfamiliar with the franchise is what started one of the oldest running series dating back 20 years ago and was most widely known thanks to the Turbo-Grafx CD release. This release like both the PC and DS versions features Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished and Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter in one complete package. Since this is a dual game review I will cover each title in some detail though the fundamentals remain the same across both adventures.
Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished features a young red-haired swordsman named Adol Christin who seeks out adventure wherever he goes. After washing up on the shores of Esteria miraculously having passed through a storm wall alive and patched up, Adol takes on the daunting task of seeking out and ridding Esteria of its troubling curse. The main task of this adventure is to eventually seek out 6 lost books of Ys that harked of a peaceful time lost since past governed by two goddesses and 6 priests.
After the events of Book I, Adol is transported to the land of Ys in Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter. In this adventure Adol must return those Books of Ys to the statues of the late priests that once held them. Once completed, the true source of the evil is revealed and it is up to Adol to finish what he started. One thing that I have to point out here is that Ys I & II in any form are one of the very few direct sequels in gaming history. This in itself is really cool and having these two titles separated would be nothing short of a crime today. These are also two of the toughest RPGs that Iíve ever had the pleasure and patience to play which of course tells you that Iím truly showing my age here. Seriously, sharpen your detective skills.
Ys I & II both feature a very simple combat system that requires nothing more than literally running your character into your enemies as hard as you can repeatedly. There are no attack buttons whatsoever, with the exception of the magic abilities. While this may seem like an outdated mechanic, one that shows this packages true age, it actually takes a bit of strategy to attack your enemy. The trick is that you canít hit them head on or you take damage. You have to hit them off center, which takes a bit of practice, from the sides or from the back. If you land your hit correctly you will cut them in to bloody bit. No Joke. Ys II received an upgrade which allowed you to attack at a diagonal which is a nice addition to the series.
In classic RPG fashion you do level your character up by defeating enemies and completing quests. You even gain the ability to use magic spells such as fire and even time. Time is one of my favorites as it allows you to freeze all enemies in their tracks for a short while allowing time to take out your enemies with relative ease. All the enemies in the world respawn every time you enter a screen or area so there are plenty of enemies to gain experience from. To make your journey a little easier you can buy weapons, armor, and items to use in battle.
Both games feature fairly big world maps, though you wonít be able to really see that due to the lack of a map screen. Think original Zelda. Though Book I has something Zelda doesnít have. The first half of this adventure features the Tower of Darm, which has to be the biggest dungeon Iíve ever encountered in my years of gaming. The Tower of Darm, contains 25 different and distinct floors to explore and puzzles to solve along the way.
Doing things in both parts of Ys I & II Chronicles takes time as the majority of the time you have no idea where to go or what to do. Unless youíve played a previous version, but even then itís a chore remembering everything. The manual does give players, new and old, a little aid on their quest however. It is prudent to mention that talking to everyone is crucial especially at the beginning of the first title. This old style of gameplay could be a bit of a mixed bag for newcomers as this one doesnít hand things to you easily. Personally I found it a nice change of pace from the current modern offerings.
Graphically, Ys I & II Chronicles is a tough one to grade. This release features the updated PC version graphics and animation. It does this not once but twice per game. The UMD or PSN download features both the specifically designed modern style animation/portraits for the 2009 Chronicles release as well as the 2001 retro styled look found only in the Japan-only PC release. Both look surprisingly crisp and clean on the PSPís screen and the animated movies are very well done. You can definitely tell the difference between each of the versions particularly in the animations and portraits. I personally donít have a preference either way but the 2009 release is the one that newer players would probably flock to. No matter which one you choose you can tell that it is a very old title, partly due to the gameplay mechanics and the character designs.
The music of Ys I & II Chronicles is as varied as the visuals. Players can choose from the smooth modern Chronicles score, the revamped 2001 Complete mix or the original PC-88 score that I am more accustomed to. Each version sounds good and will probably appeal to a variety of people. I prefer the original old school roots personally but the new Chronicles mix is without a doubt the best sounding. My favorite parts however are the opening videos in both Ys I and II. Both are extremely well done and feature fine examples of good old fashioned RPG music.
Ys I & II Chronicles contains two versions of each title, the 2001 Complete and the 2009 Chronicles version. While this gives players the choice of visual styles the real choice is in the difficulty. There are 4 different difficulties including Nightmare mode for those seeking a real challenge. The only thing is once you select your difficulty you are in it for the long haul. Ys II on Easy allow you to change your equipment and use items during any of its boss battles which is nice especially for younger players. For those that beat the game, you can test your skills in Time Attack mode against all of the currently selected/completed titleís bosses in rapid succession. Not too bad for the roughly $25-30 price tag.
Ys I & II Chronicles may not be the first release of this two part adventure it is without a doubt the best version. It looks great on the PSP vibrant screen and thatís saying something for a 20 year old classic. This PSP release may not be for everyone due to its old school mechanics but for me it was a journey well spent with everyoneís favorite red-haired hero. If youíre a fan of the Ys series and are looking to complete your collection look no further. If youíre a newcomer itís time to see where this classic RPG all began.