Release Date: 02/14/2013
Available Exclusively On
Ys I Chroniclces+
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.
Ys II Chroniclces+
Being a direct sequel to Ys I, and being the late 80s, I came into this not expecting much. While content-wise it’s completely new, with new locales, new characters, new weapons, and armor, otherwise it looks the exact same and plays the same way. You still play as Adol Christin trying to save the world of Ys from another evil source and rescue the Goddesses Reah and Freena.
The game even starts out the exact same way. You wake up in a house in a quiet village and must start your adventure in a green forest area like before. Sadly, the game is just as cryptic and obscure when it comes to figuring out what to do. I followed a guide through my entire playthrough, but if I hadn’t there would be so much backtracking and aimless wondering. Some of the dungeons are more improved layout-wise, but the final two dungeons are a labyrinthine mess, more so than anything in the first game. I had to resort to a map online to figure out where to go, especially when I had to backtrack and start learning shortcuts.
The bump system still exists but seems a little easier and more forgiving this time around. You don’t need to hit enemies off center, but it’s still not a fun combat system. It makes the game fast-paced and I like the lack of random battles, but it’s still not engaging in any way. Thankfully, this time around, you don’t need to rely on hidden obscure equipment and can just buy stuff as you can afford it. Only the short sword, in the beginning, can be had for free in the first dungeon, but everything is to be purchased. I liked the addition of magic wands in this game. It helps add a layer to combat, but sadly it’s abused with boss fights. All but the final boss need to be beaten with the magic only, and the only offensive magic is fire. Which I found a bit weird. Everything else is passive magic such as being able to turn into a Roo to talk to enemies to pass certain areas, Light Magic which is used to see secret doorways and light dark areas, and Time Magic which slows enemies down. Unfortunately, a lot of items, required or not, are hidden in obscure areas and can be easily missed without thorough exploration or a guide.
I did find the boss fights more manageable this time around and less frustrating. The leveling system is also improved, but only slightly. While the cap this time around went from 10 to 55 you can easily reach the first 30 levels in the first two hours of the game. Before the first boss, I was already almost level 20. Bosses are a lot more reasonable and I only struggled with a couple of them, but once you learn their attack patterns it becomes much more manageable.
Overall, Ys II is a good sequel to the first game. With enough new content to explore and an interesting story and fun characters. While I wouldn’t say the story itself is memorable, the adventure itself is fun I just wish the magic system was more expanded and there was less backtracking. Most of the game’s fault comes from the cryptic items and confusing dungeon layouts, but it’s manageable with a guide. It’s a fine Ys game to send out with the 80s and still remains a solid RPG today.
The entire series is well worth playing, but only if you’re curious about the beginning of the series, want to start the series from the beginning, or just like 80s JRPGs. Expect basic combat, cryptic progression, confusing dungeons, and unbalanced bosses in the first game. If you play with a guide you will most likely have a great time.