Review: Ys I & II Chronicles (Sony PSP)

Ys I & II Chronicles
Developer: Falcom
Publisher: XSeed Games
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 02/22/2011

With the first game in the Ys series coming out decades ago, we’ve gotten a few compilations with some re-workings in the graphic end of things, and this one promises that as well by enhancing it for the PSP. I’d never set foot in the older Ys games before so this was a treat for me to play the originals on one of my favorite platforms. Is it worth picking up? Let’s take a look.

Story/Modes

In both titles included here you play as Adol, a redhead who’s managed to wash up on shore in a new land that’s beset by evil and you take it upon yourself to go out and destroy that evil. In the first game you are trying to secure the books of Ys to better get rid of the monsters brought about by the Stormwall, and well in the second you use those books by getting them to the right people who can use them. It’s pretty simple as far as story lines go and it is told a bit blandly as large amounts of dialogue end up getting summarized by “Adol tells this guy about his situation” and so forth. While told a bit blandly, where there is proper dialogue XSeed have done a great job of localizing it and injecting some cultural references you’ll get right off the bat without beating your head with it.

One of the things I thought was interesting with this set of games though is that you might not get the whole story from talking to just one person. You have to talk to the whole town to get the skinny on whether someone is a scumbag or whether you should be helping them out. Even just conversing with the person you may not get much of an impression, which makes it a bit more interesting. The standard fetch quest isn’t really here either. It’s been altered enough that you won’t be moaning as you go out and help people. Honestly, some of the MMOs could really learn a thin\g or two from this game, and it originally came out in the tail end of the 80s.

Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable

Graphics

One of the interesting things about the game are the graphics. While they’ve gotten a slight overhaul to work with the widescreen on the PSP, and I’m sure have gotten a nice update in the process, they can look a bit dated but for the most part look really good on the PSP’s screen. One of the neat things they’ve included with this version is the ability to play in two separate versions, one from 2001 and another from 2009. What this gives you is access to two different styles of artwork for when you’re dialoguing with select main characters in each game. One is from the 2001 release and the other is the 2009 release. They really aren’t that different from one another as they depict the same scene. However, one feels more like a current anime or manga while the other looks a bit more like a painting done off an anime or manga image. Anyway you slice it, the game is visually interesting and really well done in this area.

Graphics Rating: Great

Sound

While there aren’t any voice-overs for the game itself, and the basic combat sounds do their job and aren’t all that memorable as they sound like every other RPG from that era, one thing instantly stands out as you play, the incredible music. While I have the digital version which is cheaper, there is a soundtrack CD with the disc release which I would love to get my hands on. If you’re not satisfied with a full orchestra and a revamped soundtrack, you do have the option to take things retro and play the game with the original midi style of music to accompany you, but I think you’ll be missing out on a fantastic portion of the game’s update.

Sound Rating: Classic

Control and Gameplay

Controls in the game are very responsive and I didn’t have any issues moving Adol around at all. You move using the d-pad or analog stick and your action button is one of the symbols. There is no attack button. Yeah, that’s right, you simply run into an enemy to attack them. To avoid getting slaughtered it’s better to angle your attack so you’re hitting them from the side or the rear, but like most enemies in an action RPG, the little buggers don’t sit still. You do get health back as you move about, so if you’re getting creamed, you can just run to an empty area and wait a bit to regain health and go back at it, but that strategy might not work so well in a bigger fight.

There are also hidden areas you have to use certain gear to find and sometimes you’re not always alone when you put that gear on and look behind you. The equipment system is pretty simple to tie into the simple combat system, but at the same time you have to be careful how you go about fighting. Hell, if you don’t feel like putting up a fight, just whiz past the bad guys or maneuver around them, taunting them as you go. The second method might get you funny looks from the people around you if you do that bit out loud. After all the complex titles I’ve been playing, it was nice to go back to something a bit simpler, but still retaining the challenge I like in my games.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good

Replayability

While you can play this with different audio options and with the different dialogue graphics, this set of games isn’t really one with a ton of choices. You’re not going to have that option of changing someone’s mind, or wooing them to the dark side, or entirely different endings. That’s not what these titles are about. What you are getting is a decent story with some good exploration options built in, but not a whole lot of choice as far as how you go about things. There are other difficulty settings, but that will mainly play up to your skills as a player and not provide anything new. This is one of those games where if the story and combat don’t interest you there’s no reason to pick it up again. Unless, of course, you’re looking to see some extra cutscenes at the end.

Replayability Rating: Mediocre

Balance

While the game is pretty basic, some of the boss fights can get pretty intense. You also don’t get a hand to hold while you’re milling about which I like as opposed to the constant straight line we’ve gotten with a few recent RPGs. I’m looking at you Final Fantasy XIII. On the other hand, you’re not so lost as to put the game down in frustration or anger as just talking around the town will get you an idea of what you need to do or where to go. This is an action RPG, and the somewhat weird mechanic of just ramming into an enemy over and over again to kill them was odd at first for me, but then trying to avoid the head on confrontation got interesting, and even more so in the second title where diagonal hits really helped out. I’d have to say I like this over the DS title from what I’ve seen, not just visually, but with the audio as well. It’s not just a straight port and offers up something for the person wanting it a bit more like the modern RPG looks wise, or letting you turn back the dial so you get a more 8 or 16 bit feel with your experience. My expectations here were far exceeded (har har pun).

Balance Rating: Good

Originality

This is a revamp of a re-release of a collection of two games that had been released on other platforms separately before. The gameplay and story is pretty much unchanged, but it has a nice graphical overhaul and the full orchestra is an amazing addition. If you’re getting the disc version you get the soundtrack as well, so there are a few options there, but honestly, if you’re looking for something new and already have this collection or these games elsewhere you’re not getting anything new storywise. This is basically a nice repackaging with some enhanced graphics and a really nice set of lungs. If you want something original, look elsewhere.

Originality Rating: Poor

Addictiveness

While the game itself plays fairly simply and the game doesn’t hold your hand through every little quest, it is addicting as hell, which is why the Ys series has continued on through the years. While not all glitz like one of the newer titles, the game does let you explore, but you’re not so lost that you can’t figure out what to do next, and you have the option of running past a monster you think will probably turn you to mush. Then there’s the amazing music to tune into. There’s a lot going on here to get involved in and both games in the collection really suck you into it. I couldn’t get enough of this title. Move over Charlie Sheen, my current drug is Ys.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

Appeal Factor

There have been several releases of this game over the years and in different combos. Ys I & II have had a release on PC in the form of Ys I & II Complete and the DS has Legacy of Ys: Books I & II. You could also get it on the Wii Virtual Console. While the PC version has voice overs that this release is lacking, one thing this has going for it is the ability to play with different graphic sets as well as the audio settings and a new localization from XSeed, who did a fantastic job on these games. Add that to a reasonable price given the other platforms it’s out there for on top of the fact these two games haven’t graced a Sony system before and, well, there should be some interest indeed. It’s a solid if somewhat short RPG experience, but it’s well polished and fans of the original games should love it.

Appeal Factor Rating: Enjoyable

Miscellaneous

Ys has given me a mixed bag to think about. On one hand I have a love for RPGs, on the other my tastes have gotten a bit more rich and I’m chomping at the bit to get into Dragon Age II. On the other I loved the simple and straightforward feel to these games to let me have some fun without having to put so much thought into it. Ys really seems to lend itself well to the PSP that way as is is very easy to pick up and play wherever you are and even to save pretty much anywhere you’re at and pick it up later. They managed to make this work really well on the PSP and I absolutely loved it. Sure it was a bit bland in a few areas, but if they made sweeping changes to a slight revamp of the title how many people would be crying foul that they’d dumped all over their child hood or ruined a classic? Honestly, you have to have an appreciation for classics to pick this up and play it. If you’re not willing to do a bit of poking around or adjust to the simple fighting mechanic you’re not going to get much out of this game. As for me, I loved playing it and it’s going to be sitting on my PSP for a while.

Miscellaneous Rating: Classic

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Enjoyable
Graphics Rating: Great
Sound Rating: Classic
Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good
Replayability Rating: Mediocre
Balance Rating: Good
Originality Rating: Poor
Addictiveness Rating: Great
Appeal Factor Rating: Enjoyable
Miscellaneous Rating: Classic
FINAL SCORE: GOOD GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize Ys I & II Chronicles is a nice revamp of the first two Ys games onto the PSP. It has a new localization of the dialogue and some great audio and visual options, and if you’re getting the disc version you get the soundtrack as well, which is a nice bonus. The gameplay and story may seem a bit dated to some, but if you’re willing to overlook that and check out the more than affordable price tag with it, you’ll get a solid and simple action RPG that hearkens back to the classic console days in the 80s and gives you that nostalgic feel while having the convenience of being able to turn it off when you have to get off your bus. I highly recommend it to fans of the series, and even if you’re just looking for a decent title to bolster your PSP RPG collection, give it a shot.

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