A port of a remake of… hell, I give up writing the history of Ys I and II, a story as convoluted and impenetrable as the series’ mythology. Ys I and II Chronicles Plus is in no way a novel experience. Separately or, more frequently, bundled together, these two games have been consistently remade and re-released through the years for a variety of platforms, and this isn’t even the first PC iteration. Closely resembling the PSP remake of the same name (sans “Plus”), the latest version is compatible with Windows 7, but there are too few enhancements to make it worthwhile to those who have played the game before.
Keyboard controls, adjustable resolution, a greater viewing area, and an ornate screen frame from the Japanese release are among the only “special” features of Chronicles Plus. Perhaps more significant are the Steam achievements, which are as unique and compelling a set of trophies as I’ve seen. Veterans of the series will enjoy unlocking all these thoughtful and occasionally puzzling achievements, but this is hardly an enhancement to the actual game.
For a few dedicated fans, this might be the perfect excuse to replay the beginning of Ancient Ys’ tale, but for those who played the PSP remake, there’s almost nothing to be gained by doing so. There’s nothing else to it: you’ve played these games before. If you’re like me and, by some odd alignment of extraterrestrial objects, have not played Ys I and II, this release might prompt a lesson in the history of Japanese RPGs. That being said, impatient gamers and those who dislike giving up modern design conveniences will not be pleased by this port of a remake of a…
What follows is a brief critique of Ys I and II from the perspective of an Ys novice. Taken together as a modern PC port, I give the game a 75%, but the games themselves in their current state elicit an 80%.
Most memorable for its combat, Ys I and II combine all the elements of a traditional JRPG: towns, shops, NPCs, equipment, character levels, exploration, and even some minor side quests and secrets. Ys I is more simplistic than its sequel, but both games are strikingly similar and tell two parts of the same narrative, even if those parts are two nearly identical story arcs. Each game can be beaten in less than ten hours, both have moments of great frustration, and they both climax in thrilling and memorable bosses.
Ys I and II may be most well known for their shared “bump” combat system in which our hero Adol collides with enemies to injure them (and to be injured by them). The lack of an attack button and Adol’s swift running speed make the action so frantic as to be absurd, and at times I found the red-haired sprite’s action downright hilarious. I was skeptical and critical at first, but I learned to enjoy the simple combat, particularly during boss fights, which require much more thought than the dull standard enemies. Unfortunately, diagonal attacks are so overpowered in Ys II that regular enemies are slain with ease, and both games suffer from clumsy menus and balance issues.
In Ys I, Adol can only reach level ten, but each level earned provides an immense boost to attack, defense, and HP. This can be exciting, but it also means that some bosses and enemies are almost impossible to beat without first grinding to an appropriate level. The maximum level is also too easily obtained, which makes later fights pointless. The grind sees significant reduction in Ys II, and I didn’t even have to be at the maximum level (now 55) to beat the final boss. Both games feature labyrinthine dungeons and plenty of backtracking. Ys I is too short to have much filler, but a lack of direction could have a player wandering for needless hours. Ys II has far too much filler, particularly toward the end, as Adol is forced to go back and forth between a few locations with frustrating layouts with no compelling reason to do so.
Despite these archaic designs and fundamental flaws, I enjoyed playing Ys I and II. While both games feature a rather banal save-the-world plot, there’s an underlying sense of mythology that remains just clouded enough to suggest a grander scheme. Although the characters are somewhat lifeless, the games themselves bear a strong sense of personality heightened by the music, the frenetic action, and the very sound of their name. Although I don’t place Ys I and II among my favorite games, I’m sympathetic to those who treat them with reverence. There is magic in Ys.