Release Date: 02/14/2013
Available Exclusively On
Ys is a series I have barely dabbled in. I rarely finish JRPGs either due to their insane difficulty spikes, incessant grinding, or boring story and characters. Ys I is a game that’s older than I am. It’s also incredibly short because of this and due to the cryptic nature of games from the late 80s, I decided to play this game using a walkthrough guide. This is sadly one of those JRPGs that has a specific way to play or it becomes an incredibly hard game. There are so many things you can miss, but also encourages multiple play-throughs. For a game this old, I don’t see any reason to play it other than to complete the Ys series from the beginning. It is as basic as JRPGs come due to its age as well.
The story is pretty decent despite the short playtime. I actually enjoyed the characters as well. There isn’t a lot of talking that drags on forever. The game does get to the point with some short and sweet dialog. You play as series’ main protagonist Adol Christin who must collect the books of Ys to save the world from evil. It’s pretty typical, but I enjoyed the small little world they built around the books of Ys. They were interesting to read and I felt this was a world you could get sucked into if it were to progress (which surprise, it did). The art is amazing with beautiful backdrops. The music is also fantastic thanks to legendary composer Yuzo Koshiro. Lots of rock and beautiful orchestral music. The Chronicles+ version contains both the chiptune versions and the arranged versions.
Ys‘ main combat system is called the “bump” system in which you just walk into enemies and are dealt knockback damage if hit straight on. The idea is to hit them on the edge of their sprite kind of like speed jousting. It’s a weird system but keeps the pace of the game moving and I like that. Again, the game is really hard unless you quickly level and are constantly acquiring the best equipment. You can get some for free if you do things in a certain order or find a certain key for a certain chest. These are JRPG tropes that I absolutely hate because most of the time no one will know this without a guide or accidentally coming across it. Easter eggs and extra dialog are fine, but essential things to play are something that really irks me.
Due to the short length, you can easily hit the level cap in a few hours. The cap is 10 and you quickly acquire money and XP as you advance to more powerful enemies. For such a short game there is a large variety of them as well and their design is really cool. I always looked forward to seeing what was next. The dungeons are also varied such as a mine (which is dark), an ice floor with mirrors, a 20-floor tower that you must climb towards the end, forests, and other places. It’s crazy just how much unique content was crammed into a 4-5 hour game. One thing I was relieved by is if you keep up with the equipment and level up to maybe 4-5 before the first boss you can easily fight each boss with just a few hits. I know that sounds crazy, but there’s only so much balancing in a game this short. The final boss is notorious for being impossible to beat, and even with the best armor/weapons, level cap, and on Easy I still had to try nearly a dozen times to beat him. You also can only fight him with a specific weapon.
Overall, Ys I is a memorable JRPG if you play it the way it was supposed to be played. Many will get frustrated due to needing to constantly level up fast and always have the best weapons, and the weird boss difficulty spikes will turn many away. I only recommend this game if you’re a fan of the series or really want to start from the beginning like I am. It has fantastic art and music and is a well-contained and fun JRPG…if you play it right.