As a big Ys fan, I was delighted to find out that the US would be getting both Legacy of Ys games on one cartridge. Having one is great, but having both together sounded like a real value. I was worried, however, that Ys would have some trouble jumping from more traditional platforms/PC to the handheld, two-screened Nintendo DS. Would the music quality remain the same? How would the graphics fare? And would the stylus be used in some sort of gimmicky fashion, or would it be implemented well? Read on to find out.
If you’re not familiar with the original Ys games, they feature a young red-headed swordsman named Adol, who washes ashore on the island of Esteria after his ship is wrecked by the Vail of Storms. Esteria had been cut off from the rest of the world for a while thanks to the storm, and Adol quickly finds out that monsters plague the land. So, being the brave adventurer/mute bastard that he is, he quietly goes out into the countryside to slay monsters, find items, and tell people his name.
On his journey he meets mysterious girls who all want his junk, but apparently Adol doesn’t HAVE any, or just doesn’t swing that way, because he ignores them all to focus on finding the 6 books of Ys and eliminating the evil Dark Fact. That’s Book I.
Book II starts up where Book I leaves off, with Adol being shot into the sky after defeating Fact, and landing in the floating island of Ys. It is there that he must ignore more adoring women to get to the bottom of Ys’s problems and defeat the evil Dahm.
Having played Ys Eternal (a remake of the first two games) on PC, I have to say that there were some changes to the story I liked, and some I didn’t. Basically it’s the same thing, with some slightly changed dialogue. However, some subtle name changes that were probably not fan-accepted translations, as well as somewhat flatter conversation than I remember detracted a bit from my enjoyment of the game’s story. That being said, it’s still Ys, and if you’re playing it for the story, you’re really playing it for the NPCs, who all have distinct personalities, even if they don’t all have character portraits.
While the main plot is kind of “meh,” the interactions with NPCs are enjoyable, and so the game doesn’t totally fail in this regard. But come on, you’re not playing the game for the story, right? You’re playing it for the…
Now, I’m sure every fan is dying to find out how Ys made the jump to the DS, and I don’t blame them. For those not familiar with the first two games, they took an interesting bent on combat; to fight enemies you bash yourself into them repeatedly on an angle. No sword swinging, and until you get to the second game, no magic, either. So how did the game make the transition? Well, that’s a bit complicated.
There are two control schemes you can use; D-pad and stylus. Using the stylus, you drag Adol around the screen, running into enemies as is tradition. However, using the D-pad you actually …wait for it… SWING YOUR SWORD! At first I wasn’t sure whether to be appreciative or insulted; there’s no sword-swinging in Ys! Well, at least not in the first two games. Yet, here I was, actually swinging away at enemies to great effect. The bottom line is, in Book I, you should use the D-pad all the way, as it is very effective against the rather mindless enemies. In Book II, when you’re not using magic to blow them all away, stylus-bashing is the way to go.
I have to admit, I was surprised to find myself using both systems in the game, and I think the only downside was that it made the game too easy. Ys fans expect Ys games and Ys bosses to be painfully difficult until you get settled in. However, I didn’t have much trouble beating any of the bosses, and only had to repeat a couple fights. Even Fact went down in two tries. So if you’re expecting a tough game, only play on the highest difficulty, and even then, you’ll probably find yourself wanting.
However, it’s not just combat that has been made easier; exploration has as well. The addition of a mini-map makes one of the most frustrating things about Ys, the maze crawling, a million times easier. I actually managed to navigate the Temple of Salmon without much difficulty, thanks to the map, and fans of the series know that’s saying something. It should also be noted that a completely new area has been added to Book I, and while it’s by no means extensive, it contains a whole new set of armor that comes in very handy in a certain situation at the tower of Dahm.
Finally, a multiplayer mode has been added to the DS version, where up to four players can compete using the DS’ wi-fi features. Frankly, having a preview copy, I had no way of using this feature, since nobody else had the game. However, I really don’t think Ys needs multiplayer, cooperative or competitive. It’s really a solo experience, and if you want a different mode to try out, there’s always the boss rush.
Most fans of the series will tell you that one of the things that makes it great is the amazing music by Sound Team JDK. For all of you who played Ys Eternal, however, don’t expect the music quality from Ys Eternal. The problem is not only with the DS’s tiny speakers, but also a downgrade in the synthesized sounds and sampling rate, likely due to the limitations of the cartridge format. All the classic tunes are there, just MIDI-ized back into a more primitive form. It’s still great music, just… smaller.
Fortunately, they left the Eternal openings intact in their full-motion glory (Book II having one of the best ever), and they retain the original music, so it’s not a complete wash. The sound effects are still reasonably good too, so don’t fret too much.
I’ve been doing a lot of comparison between the DS and PC versions of the games in this review, and I think it’s only fair, considering that the PC version is probably the pinnacle of the games’ multitudinous remakes. And, while in many aspects, the DS version takes an expected hit, one of the places it suffers least is in the graphics department. Vibrant colors and well-detailed monsters abound, character portraits in dialogue sequences retain their detail, and (as mentioned before) the opening cinematics are intact and still impressive. The only niggling problem I had is that the landscapes are all made out of polygons, rather than the smooth sprites of the PC version, and it’s a little ugly, honestly. Still, most casual players won’t notice, and only hardcore fans will probably actually care deeply.
As has already been discussed, the control comes in two versions; stylus and D-pad, and I discussed most of the merits in gameplay. However, one other thing needs to be mentioned; if you switch between D-pad and Stylus controls (which you can do any time you are able to access the menu) be ready to use whatever item you have equipped immediately, since the D-pad suddenly turns into the item button. Overall, though, control doesn’t suffer as much as it could have, and the game flows smoothly, with some little hiccups here and there.
In the end, Legacy of Ys made the transition to DS well, presenting an enjoyable experience even to those who have played the games to death. For all those fans who can’t get enough of Ys, and for all of those yet to experience these classic titles, this is a great way to take the legend on the go. I highly recommend Legacy of Ys: Books I & II for everyone who enjoys Action RPGs, as it’s probably one of the best entertainment values in recent memory.