A pure classic, refined for modern times.
Adol, the hero with hair so red, he bumps into demons until they’re dead. Oh you didn’t know? Before this reviewing gig, I used to be a poet. Only the beauty and wonder, present in the Ys series, could inspire me to weave such…enchanting rhymes. Since 1987, Falcom’s most-popular franchise; has been one of finest examples of an action-rpg. Attention PC gamers. Now is the best time to see how it all began, with what can be considered the definitive edition of Ys 1 & 2. XSEED has done an admirable job porting these classic games.
Technically, the story of Ys began with the more recent Ys Origin, Ys 1 & 2 focus on the humble beginnings of Adol Christin. Adol’s occupation is “mute swordsman”. The only time he speaks, is when he agrees to help others, or to explain events that he has witnessed. He’s not a man to be crossed, as he fights with all the ferocity of a dozen saw-blades swirling in an inferno. His destiny is to travel the world, destroying evil wherever he goes. His most well-known adventure begins in the land of Esteria, and will end on the floating continent of Ys.
Ys 1: Ancient Ys Vanished is notable, for its unique combat. Unlike the more recent games, which feature all sorts of stylish sword swinging and other maneuvers, Adol defeats his adversaries by running alongside them. The indirect approach, is what keeps Adol from being knocked back and damaged. Despite its simplicity, mastering this method of attack makes the game entertaining. Adol cuts through his enemies rapidly, wiping them out in 3 seconds or less. However, sloppy fighting can quickly become fatal. Also Adol has to sit still to regain lost health, which leads to a lot of wasted time. This method of fighting isn’t necessary for the bosses. Their tactic is to throw everything they’ve got at Adol, and hope he can’t get close enough to run into them. Unlike almost all other RPGs, the level-cap in Ys 1 is very low. A mere ten levels, is all that is granted the player. In fact, it’s absolutely required to level-up. One level can make the difference between instant death, and having a fighting chance.
The first portion of this game consists of now-typical RPG locations; such as towns, ruins, and caves. After acquiring three of the books of Ys, Adol scales the 25-floors of the Dahm Tower to collect the other three. This is where the majority of the game takes place. While it is an astounding structure, most of it will be spent running back & forth, acquiring various trinkets. These are necessary for opening the doorway to the final boss. By this point, players should have reached level 10, which makes combat absolutely meaningless. There are a handful of bosses to contend with, and some have gotten noticeable upgrades. Unfortunately, this has negatively affected a few bosses. This is most apparent in the fight with Dark Fact, the final boss. As he flies around the room, he floods the screen with bullets. When Adol manages to hurt Dark Fact, he responds by tearing the floor out from under the hero. It’s instant death, if Adol is caught in the pit. In order to survive, Adol not only has to keep moving, but also not get trapped. This is not a well-designed finale. Thankfully it goes by quickly, even though it will take several tries. Look forward to the possibility, that Dark Fact will also ruin many time-attack runs.
All in all, Ys 1 is a solid opener, but it will have worn out its welcome towards the end. Aside from the tougher bosses, and the ability to run in any direction, Ys 1 has not seen many changes. The structure and general design of this game has gone untouched. In some ways this is good, because it makes for a decently paced game. In other cases, it can lead to unnecessary and dated back-tracking. The level of difficulty also tends to be unbalanced. Still, if Falcom were to implement dramatic changes to this game, they would have done so. While Ys 1 is one of the weaker entries in the series, it is still enjoyable enough to warrant a play-through.
Ys 2: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter, is everything that is expected from a great sequel. While Ys 2 is only an hour or two longer, it features more diverse locations, and a more involved quest. The most noticeable aspects, are the dramatic changes, in how the game is played. Adol can now diagonally attack demons. He can also acquire various staves that grant magical powers. One such staff, allows him to shoot fireballs, and will be Adol’s weapon for many boss-fights. There are numerous other unique aspects, such as gifting townspeople to raise their opinion of Adol, and talking to every creature in the game by turning into a Roo. The areas that can be explored are also better developed. There are more secrets to find, and accomplishing tasks will require Adol to be more thorough.
Naturally, with the implementation of diagonal-attacking, the demons of Ys have become stronger. Some will slash with their claws, or swing their weapon. Other monsters will even fire projectiles. Everyone does a bit more damage overall. Unfortunately, all of these changes do little to overcome Adol. This is simply because diagonal-attacking is over-powered. Even in narrow corridors, simply having Adol face diagonally while running, will allow him to easily defeat anything in his way. On the bright side, the flame staff makes for some great boss-fights. In a sense, these battles are akin to overhead arcade shooters, such as the Capcom title Mercs. This also allows for a bit more freedom, for players seeking a challenge. Leveling up isn’t quite as necessary as before, and players can do the “running alongside” method of attack instead.
Solomon Shrine is where the last third of Ys 2 takes place. This chapter of the game requires a lot of running back & forth, and liberal usage of Adol’s shape-shifting power. This can either be considered a clever finale, or an exhausting slog, as various NPCs stuff macguffins into Adol’s pack. This last segment of the game comes off as slightly rushed, since Adol receives two sets of equipment upgrades over the course of it. I get the impression, that there should have been another dungeon where all the best equipment could be acquired. The area just before the final boss could have been expanded into a full dungeon. Instead, it’s merely there for NPCs, to give Adol that last-minute pep talk. At least the final boss itself is an improvement. Overall, Ys 2 is a great sequel, and an invaluable addition to any library. It’s not a long adventure, but it is a fulfilling one. It’s also simply a lot of fun to play. Plus its short length and excellent pacing, make for great replay value.
The additions and improvements, XSEED has made to this port, make it not only the most accessible, but also the best. Not only does it compare favorably with the recent PSP version, but Chronicles + also offers a wealth of screen and visual options to deliver the right experience for everyone. The numerous easter eggs will appeal to Ys fans, while the boss-rush and nightmare difficulties provide that added challenge. Still, I have to admit. While these games are classics, I’d certainly appreciate a new edition of Ys 1 & 2. It could be reworked from the ground up, like The Oath in Felghana (Ys 3) or Foliage Ocean in Celceta (Ys 4). Then again, maybe those games were made, because Falcom was dissatisfied with how the originals turned out. Also, if they went back and re-envisioned Ys 1 & 2, it would most likely lead to the “bump” combat being replaced. Something that is so commonly associated with Ys, shouldn’t be removed. It would give off the impression, that Falcom has forgotten where they came from. Besides, there’s always Ys Origin. That game features most of the bosses from Ys 1, and Adol is a secret playable character. This is why one of the Ys 1 & 2 re-releases was called “Eternal”. Falcom believes that these two games stand the test of time. I have to agree. Enduring like the light of hope, Ys 1 & 2 is pretty dope. I didn’t say I was a good poet.