The Ys series is a time honored and critically acclaimed action rpg series with a rich setting and notable characters. Thanks to XSEED the games have been seeing stateside releases. Originally on the PSP Ys Chronicles has been brought to the PC through Steam with fully integrated achievements, extra content, and enhanced graphics. On Steam they are the YS I & II Chronicles +, but do they age well? I can safely say yes with no hesitation.
While the development of RPGs have been rather stagnant these days it is refreshing to see classics rereleased on a more modern platform to see just how far the genre has come. Games like Dragon’s Dogma or Kingdoms of Amalur focus a lot on character skills and convoluted skill trees with complex game mechanics and too many side quests to make the game seem like it is bigger. In many cases this is the truth. The Ys games are not known for being the longest RPGs because they are so fast paced, this is the case for the original two titles. However, the series has come a long way and seeing what started the craze is nothing short of historic.
You play as Adol the red haired swordsman who always seems to have a habit of finding his way into conflict. Esteria has begun to become the home of not only humans but monsters of every kind. Now the Esteria is run by those who have the strongest army. Adol Christin is the man who will help solve Esteria’s problems. The monsters appeared 700 years ago and this young man is on a journey to solve the mystery of the monster scourge.
The story is pretty common among RPGs. The save the world with the end of the sword kind of story. Adol himself doesn’t have much development but your interactions with NPCs beg to differ. This has always struck me strange with silent protagonists like Link and Gordon Freeman. However, the story is still very likeable as it has the feeling of a fairy tale heroism archetype that we as a human race love so much. By today’s standards, the story is really played out, but the lore of the series is what saves it from begging the bad grade. You don’t have to read a bunch of novelizations to get the full lore of the game.
While the Ys games have evolved over the years, the game actually pioneered a rather unique combat system. It is known as the “Bump” System. This is when the character “bumps” into an enemy at an angle and deals damage. While the series is now known for fast paced button mashing (Ys Origins), there are some reasons why this system was abandoned but leaves me curious as to why it was left in the dust. The downsides to this system are that it is very easy to get hurt and even easier to lose track of where your health is against bosses. The positives include an element of skill and strategy on how to approach enemies. The system is rather odd and difficult to use at the beginning of the game. You do get used to it as you play the game more.
The gear is rather simple and easy to use as well. Upgrades are pretty obvious and you do not have to keep track of a bunch of numbers and passive effects like most RPGs these days. You level up as you do with any other RPG and your HP increases along with your other base stats. In the second installment you are able to use magic and it adds a nice element to the game. The controls are best with a gamepad as the combat system has been revamped for the use of analog sticks etc.
I guess my main problem with these games is that the conveyance is pretty bad. Even if you read through all of the dialogue with everyone, you still may not know what to do or where to go. How am I supposed to know I get a sword from the militia member after I talk to everyone in the village? The games are also really fast paced, so it feels like it ends really quick but nothing as quick as Ys Origins.
The Ys I & II Chronicles + collection on Steam not only has remastered versions of both games, the extra content allows you to listen to the soundtrack in three different ways. FM-Synth, MIDI Style, and Falcom’s in-house rock band are the three ways to listen and each method is nice and unique. With remastered graphics engineered for the PC, four different difficulty levels and a boss rush mode. The reasons to relive this classic franchise are numerous. For 15 USD it is well worth your money. You can pick it up on Steam now. I give the Ys I & II Chronicles + Collection a 9/10. Very well worth your time.