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Ys I & II Chronicles

 

Ys I & II Chronicles

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PSP
Category: RPG
 
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Developer: Nihon Falcom Group
Publisher: Xseed Games

Features:

1 player
1152 KB UMD save
980KB Download save
Rated Teen

Nearly twenty-five years and more than half a dozen ports later, Falcom has once again taken up the Ys mantle with a compilation of the first two games in Ys I & II Chronicles. The PlayStation Portable collection is based off of the 2001 PC remake Ys I & II Complete, though the PSP release is the first updated version directly from Falcom to hit North America. It was just a couple of years ago that a third-party remake hit the DS, but thanks to XSEED, North American gamers are getting to try out Falcom's take on its very own flagship series for the first time in years.

Graphics

Ys I & II Chronicles is not by any means a reference piece of excellence in terms of graphical presentation, but the sprite work is detailed well and flows nicely on the PSP screen. The simple animations throughout the world are crisp and smooth, even if they don't look like newer more modern RPG game titles on the handheld. The sprite art still looks pretty slick, and it's totally at home on the PSP screen. For a decade old port they still hold up very well.

Gamers can play both Ys titles in one of two forms: the new Chronicles form, or the 2001 Complete form. The difference is mostly in the story-telling methods. The Complete version has more primitive hand-drawn art than the very smooth and beautiful semi-animated stills of Chronicles. Both styles are pleasing, invoking a nostalgic, simpler mood throughout the games.

I found a few areas with frame-rate issues, but there was zero screen tearing and loading times were tolerable. The colours are lush with some really nice texturing scattered throughout. The full motion scenes are really well done and force you to watch them in all their widescreen glory.

Sadly, I didn't see any place for an image gallery or a place to re-watch FMV sequences. I seem to remember such a thing existing on the Felghana PSP release that XSEED gave us a few months ago. What happened?

Sound

The highlight and one true new feature of Ys I & II Chronicles is its beautifully remixed soundtrack. One area where Chronicles makes its mark is the music. From the piece that plays during the animated intro to the over-world themes, both Ys titles make the most of their soundtracks. Players even have the option of listening to three different versions of the soundtrack: the original from the PC-88, the one from the PC remake Ys I & II Complete, or the newer, more rocking version crafted specifically for Chronicles. While the overall soundtrack might not be memorable to all, most pieces are fast and frantic, fitting perfectly with the pace of the games. As a side note I really love the old Turbo Duo versions; those mixes are really the perfect match for the gameplay. Another thing — utilize your headphones, you won’t be disappointed.

Gameplay

The Ys story is one of the original RPG games that really caught on, not only in Japan but here in the west. Overall the story is nothing spectacular but at the time it was a pretty new concept; it is your traditional RPG story. Adol is the main character and he is tasked with saving the land from evil. Essentially Adol must find the Books of Ys, which will give him the knowledge to defeat enemy masses. Along this journey of gathering the Books, you will encounter many enemies. The reason for the large amounts of monsters is due to the storm wall that has appeared around Esteria. This has not only hurt the economy and trading between towns, but caused people to remain within the towns and not travel. Ys I & II are two parts of a whole. Originally crafted as two separate games back in the late 1980s, the two tell a complete story when placed back to back.

While light on narrative, what Chronicles does offer is fairly competent. Players are introduced to a varied supporting cast, and while none of the supporters play too large of a role, they add a decent amount of supplementary material to the story. The localization is clean and does a great job of adding little bits of entertainment here and there. For instance, in Ys II players can blast villagers with fireballs for unique dialogue and every monster in the game also has dialogue and will converse with Adol when he transforms into a creature called a Roo. Neat little additions like this that Falcom tucked into the game make the collection stand out as a charming experience despite its age.

The original two Ys titles offer one of the simplest combat systems ever. The bump system will have Adol charging into enemies in order to attack, though players will have to make sure to ram monsters off centre in order to actually deal damage instead of taking it. I think some gamers may feel this is a bit awkward, as it is quite a departure from some of the newer RPG games, but overall it does work well. There are no buttons to press to have Adol swing his sword, which is strange, but the system makes the game's battle system extremely fast. As Adol walks he will bump into and attack his enemies; they are totally hidden and generate randomly. Stronger enemies will require longer bouts of smashing, especially in Ys II, but everything is still quick and efficient. Attempts at replacing the bump system, such as with the DS version released a couple years back, only succeeded in slowing down the flow of battle. Ramming into enemies will take a little adjusting, but once adapted to the flow is unlike that of any other action RPG system.

As I played through both games I found attacks must be much more precise in Ys I, but enemies tend to have less health. Ys II has much stronger enemies, but makes combat require less accuracy with an enhanced battle system, adding ranged fire magic to Adol's repertoire. While the system hasn't changed much since its original inception, it still holds up quite well and is more than just a nostalgic throwback. The only gripe I have with the system is the sheer amount of enemies. The randomly generated enemy system is okay but you will bump into more than your fair share of battles. This is nothing new as it was gripe of mine many years ago when playing the original games. Gamers will get pretty frustrated as they make their way through the game, although it does get better as you become stronger.

The Ys series as a whole tends to feature some tough boss fights. It will be impossible to take down some of these bosses without strategic thinking and precise timing. While not as big of a deal in Ys II, a single level increase for Adol can mean the difference between life and death against Ys I bosses. Ys II takes the focus off levels and places it more onto skill with fire magic, as the majority of bosses must be defeated with it. One fantastic feature is that you can save your progress anywhere, be sure to do so often. Gamers must also be prepared to fight bosses repeatedly; it took me several attempts to learn patterns of some bosses in order to finish them off. I thought the simplified system worked well with the PSPs control scheme. I found myself not having to fight with the PSP’s small analog knub, which is always a good thing. The fighting mechanic is helped by the system, and by attacking your enemies diagonally you could progress along quite nicely. I noticed that the enemies only walk in the four directions (up down left and right), they never face diagonally. So if you run at them diagonally, you have a mighty fine chance of doing a crazy combo-run into them. The only real danger Adol faces in combat is being swarmed by enemies or facing enemies with special attacks.

The game's scope is huge — its map and environment is quite large for a handheld title. You will find yourself wandering aimlessly around, running into numerous enemies while attempting to figure out what to do. This is honestly the one downfall of the game since you will have no clue as to where you are supposed to be heading. The dungeons themselves feature huge maze-like layouts that are both challenging and fun at the same time. For myself it reminded me again of the older versions that had the very same confusing elements. But for those that have been playing games for a long time, this may not be a downfall, but actually a plus. It will be a trip down memory lane of how games used to be unforgiving and required gamers to think and explore.

While nothing is impossible to figure out without assistance, finding what is needed for progression can take a lot of time and backtracking. This is especially true for Ys II where almost every map is a maze of twists and turns. With a good bit of patience or a nice walkthrough, these frustrations can be mitigated fairly well, though after all these years the game could have benefited from a mini-map at least.


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