Review: Legacy of Ys Books I & II (Nintendo DS)

Legacy of Ys Books 1 & 2
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Falcom
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: 02/25/2009

I’ve always been a big fan of the Ys (pronounced YEE-s) series. However I’ve had to import nearly all the games due to the lack of them coming stateside. In fact, last August Diehard GameFAN staffers like myself and Chris Bowen were positively ecstatic that the original Turbo-Duo compilation of YS 1 & 2 hit the virtual console. Between that and Samurai Shodown II, we damn near declared it the best Virtual Console release date of 2008.

However, that’s the original Ys. That game sported, at the time, the best graphics and music in the history of gaming. Anyone, even RPG haters were blown away by the presentation. The gameplay was a bit devise however as it was an actual RPG that required strategy rather than just hack and slash title. Over the years, the gameplay has changed into a button mashing mesh, where the only strategy needed to play (and beat) the games is grinding up your levels and then killing things. After a decade plus long drought we finally got Ys VI released stateside, and I had a bit of a chance to vent on the game series in general and how it had actually devolved over the years until it was a series that was high in price and short in time. They were still fun, but nowhere up to the level of quality and jaw dropping beauty the original two books were known for.

So here we are with Legacy of Ys, which is honestly the ninth or tenth remake for the first two games (each). So of you might be wondering, “Why would I pay thirty dollars for a DS remake when I can get the originals for eight dollars on the Virtual Console?” Well, so was I actually. Due to my love of Ys and my general trust in Atlus USA, I decided to take the review duties on for this game.

So how is it? Are gamers finally getting a true taste of the glory that is Ys, or is this another bad remake ala River City Ransom Advance published by Atlus USA?

Let’s Review

1. Story

In truth, the stories of YS 1 and 2 are the same. By this I mean it is one big game. Originally they were conceived of as one game but it was just too big for its era, so it was split into two games until the Turbo Duo era.

The game’s story revolves around one Adolf Christin, who has an odd habit of falling off of boats at sea and awakening on strange islands. So it is with the first game, and so it was always the up to Ys VI. In this first set of games, Adolf is 16, and is trying to find the “cursed” island of Esteria. A storm hits his vessel, Adolf falls overboard and through the miracle of miracles, he awakens on the island. From there, Adolf is set upon a question to find a series of mystical tomes known as the Books of Ys. Ys is an ancient civilization that was supposedly the golden age of the world, but it was mysteriously destroyed. On Adolf’s journey he will meet several characters, including two women, Feena and Reah, who look an awful lot alike, many villagers on Esteria who has subquests for you to carry out, and a lot of books to find before journeying into the Dham Tower.

That’s pretty much the plot to be honest. There’s not a lot of story here, and the game goes by very quickly for an RPG. Ninety minutes in you should have defeated several bosses, and be around level twenty. Most of the game revolves around fetch quests and dungeon crawling with a lot of hack and slash.

You can’t really hold this against the remake, as it’s keeping in tone with the amount of story there was in the original versions of Ys, which was a lot for the late 1980’s. Graded against other games from that era, Ys is pretty deep. The remake however, which promises “the most substantial versions f the famous story to date” is both misleading and an exaggeration. A few lines more of dialogue, and nowhere as well as translated as the original Turbo Duo version doth not a “definitive story” make. Long time fans of the series will probably enjoy bits of the game and the nostalgia it brings out in you, but newcomers will most likely be sitting there going, “This is it? THIS IS IT? Where’s the freakin’ plot.” Honestly, if I was new to Ys, I’d be saying the same bloody thing.

There’s not a lot of substance here, but at least NPC villagers have two or three different pieces of dialogue rather than the standard one line when you talk to them. Some of them even have quests!

Story Rating: Mediocre

2. Graphics

It’s funny. The manual gives you screen shot comparisons of the 1990 Turbo Duo game and the 2009 DS version. The fact of the matter is that the 1990 versions are far more impressive for their age than this DS remake. Honestly, I’ll never understand how a series that was renowned for its graphics in 1990 is now known as doing the bare minimum to get by nearly two decades later. What was mind blowingly beyond any other game that came before it in terms of art and cut scenes is now being compared to honestly, what would be considered mediocre for the DS. Hell, there are better looking Game Boy Advance titles out there. The two Ys remakes are about as generic and bland as you can get, both with level design and monsters. It’s interesting how other old remakes like Chrono Trigger or newer remakes like Disgaea DS can provide higher quality visuals than the game that was the standard bearer for graphics in the 16 bit era.

One of the things that really disappointed me was the quality of the top screen map. For areas like the plains, there was almost no detail whatsoever. It was just drab yellow-brown colouration and occasionally some lines to show topography. As such it was easy to get lost, even for gamers like myself who have played multiple remakes of Ys I. Although some of the maps actually work as they should, for the most part the top screen can be ignored as it is badly implemented.

The animated cut scenes, although rare, are decent, but again, when compared to the quality of the 1990 version of this game, the quality is just not there.

It’s a pity. You can still be amazed at the original TD version if you have it for the VC, as it pushed the envelope in every way possible. Legacy of Ys however, is yet another remake of the classics, with virtually no attempt to capture the original magic.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

3. Sound

This is easily the best part of the collection. If you purchased the game, you received a seventy minute long audio CD featuring THIRTY tracks from the two games. Although remixed, the score is as timeless and classic as ever. I do have to admit the CD quality is superior to what’s actually in the DS cartridge, but that’s due to the DS’s audio capabilities.

Sound effects are pretty blasé. It’s the same noise when you are hit by any monster and you make the same noise when you attack regardless of sword choice. It’s not until Ys II where you get any new effects, and that’s because of the implementation of magic.

There is no voice acting to speak of, which is fine, but this again shows Falcom (and Atlus’) unwillingness to do more than the bare minimum with the Ys franchise. Legacy of Ys is just here to make a buck of the ignorant and nostalgic. Amazing soundtrack though. I’m half tempted to tell you all to buy the game for the CD, and then turn around and sell the game back to whatever gaming store you purchased it from

Sound Rating: Great

4. Control and Gameplay

The only real complaint people have about the original first two books of Ys is that the combat was so different from any other action RPG that it was hard to understand. You had to hit your enemies, but you couldn’t attack them directly head on or you would get hurt. Thus you had to bump into them from an angle or behind. The bumping technique frustrated many a gamer and it remains so to this day. As such later Ys games became more a hack and slash type situation.

So it’s a bit odd that the remake would devise a system that is EVEN WORSE.

With Legacy of Y’s you have to attack using the Y button. If you try the old school bumping, regardless of the angle you use, you will get hurt. So now you have to bump and hit Y repeatedly while walking forward. This is how you do damage. Just keeping walking and pressing Y, and any non-boss creature is going to die quickly and painfully. However, and this is a big however, if you mess this up in the slightest, you will take damage. As well, you can still do the format perfectly, but if the computer gets its strike in first, you will take damage repeatedly. It’s a bit of a convoluted system and it leaves you wishing the original gameplay style was left in as it was far less insipid.

As well, there are several other issues with the game. The first of which is the Dash ability. You can press B to run, or you can use the right trigger to toggle you speed so that dash becomes your default. I STRONGLY recommend you do this as there is a boss before you collect the first book of Ys where you need to run constantly. Oddly enough, the game will at times, decide to change your running default on its own. After an attack, during the important boss battle where speed is what keeps you alive, or just at strange random times. I tried this out on two DS’ and a DS lite to see if it was just one of my handhelds, but this strange occurrence happened on all three systems, leaving me to call this an extremely awful bug that I can’t believe made it past quality control.

Finally, there’s the god awful save system. If you hit the select button, you’ll bring up a screen that says “End Game” or “Return to Game.” HERE is where the ability to save or load your game should be. It would be a lot saner. Instead, you have to press start, which brings up your menu screen. Then you have to use the shoulder buttons to go through your equipment screen, your equipped item screen and then you get to the save/load options, each of which are on different subscreens, but which look EXACTLY ALIKE. I can see gamers mixing these up pretty easily to which again I have to ask, “Why would someone design a system like this?” It’s a cumbersome process that makes saving your game time consuming and annoying.

Truthfully, there’s nothing about the new gameplay system that I can stand, and I’m usually VERY forgiving with both action RPG’s and Ys games in general. Legacy of YS is just a crappy remake, pure and simple. A straight up Ys collection of original games would have been superior a better hook for gamers. This is easily the worst remake of these two titles yet.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Bad

5. Replayability

Legacy of YS does offer a Time Attack mode and a rather boring multiplayer orb collecting mini game you can play with two to four of your friends IF they have a Legacy of Ys card. There are also four difficulty settings, so if you REALLY want to replay these very linear crappy remakes of a classic pair of games, you can. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to, but the options are there.

Alas, there’s just not a lot here in Legacy of Ys. It’s more linear than an Adventure game, and the poorly thought out changes make it barely worth playing through once, much less multiple times.

Replayability Rating: Bad

6. Balance

A big problem with Legacy of Ys is the same big problem recent Ys games have had. You basically have to grind to get anywhere. If you go to a place at too low a level, you will be taking 24-50 points of damage a hit. Two levels later, you’ll only be taking about 8. This is a HUGE drop in damage, and as such, you can see that just a single level gain is wildly unbalanced in your favour. As well, because it’s so easy to gain a level, there should rarely be a time in this game where anyone but a boss is doing more than a single point of damage to you while you are one to two hit KO’ing your enemies and stealing their gold. Ys used to be a very hard game. Now it’s one of the easiest action RPG’s I’ve ever played. Yet another bad decision associated with this remake.

It’s funny. HARD in Legacy of Ys is actually the same as EASY in the original Turbo Duo collection. That should tell you how drastically this remake was wussed out. There’s even a VERY EASY version in this remake for people to “just enjoy the story.” I can’t even begin to tell you what a cakewalk that was. I could give the DS to one of my rabbits and they could beat that setting. It really is that easy.

I’m not really sure what Falcom and Atlus were going for with this collection. It’s far too easy for fans of the original Ys I and II. It’s also going to confuse newcomers to the series as to why at level one, they were being slaughtered by the most basic of enemies, but at level two, they were killing them without batting an eye. The combat balance is so off, it’s laughable. Again, I can’t see anything in Legacy of Ys that doesn’t scream, “Falcom needed money.” This is a game lacking quality in nearly every way. Hell, it’s barely achieving even mediocrity.

Balance Rating: Bad

7. Originality

Let’s play a slightly bitchy game as we count all the Ys remakes over the year.

1. Ys I – 1987
2. Ys I – 1987 (Four months later!!!)
3. Ys I – 1987 (Two months later!!!. That’s three remakes in one YEAR)
4. Ys II – 1988
5. Ys II – 1988 (Three months later)
6. Ys II – 1988 (One WEEK after the last re-release)
7. Ys I – 1988 (Now with new level designs!)
8. Ys I – 1988 (Six weeks later)
9. Y’s I & II – 1989 (The version we all know and love)
10. Y’s II – 1990
11. Ys – 1997
12. Ys Eternal – 1998
13. Ys II Eternal -2000
14. Ys I & II Complete – 2001
15. Ys I Eternal & Ys II Eternal – 2001
16. Ys I & II Eternal Story – 2003
17. Ys I DS – 2008
18. Ys II DS – 2008
19. Legacy of Ys Books I & II – 2009

Falcom – you cheap money grubbing whores. Stop remaking these bloody games!

Originality Rating: Worthless

8. Addictiveness

As I’ve said before, I love the original Ys I and 2 package. Legacy of Ys however? Three hours in, I was so bored I just wanted to take the cart out of my DS and move on to something actually fun. At first i wanted to say it was simply Ys burnout after playing most of the remakes and even beating the Turbo Duo version again after all these years when it hit the Virtual Console. Alas, it’s just that this remake fails to capture any of the magic of the previous remakes. There are better looking remakes, better sounding, Ys remakes with better engines and gameplay. Legacy of Ys is, quite simply, the worst version of these two games I have ever played and that included the remake labeled “Alternate Dimension Ys” because it was so poorly received.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

9. Appeal Factor

Okay, the Ys franchise is a forgotten and niche franchise at BEST in North America these days, so one has to wonder why Atlus would bring this over, especially since the best version of these games is on the Virtual Console for eight dollars. Legacy of Ys has already earned itself a reputation with long time YS fans as an awful game, and you’re lucky I’m the Ys fan on staff reviewing this as I’m the one least likely to go into a profanity filled tirade on how bad this game is and how much it drags the Ys name through the mud. This game is so bad, it’s already alienated the core audience that would buy this – longtime Ys fans looking for a bit of nostalgia. That leaves only two other possible audiences: people who heard of the game but never got the chance to play it, or new gamers wondering what all the fuss is about regarding the Turbo Duo version.

In both those latter cases, look for a lot of disappointed gamers who will be wondering how these gamers were ever popular in the first place. To those who purchased this expecting a decent game – I apologize. This is an insult to the series.

So who would like this? Blind Atlus fanboys or people who honestly, have never played a Ys game before and like the fact that there is a difficulty setting so low, that anyone ever born can beat this.

Appeal Factor: Dreadful

10. Miscellaneous

Legacy of Ys is hands down the worst remake of the first two Ys games ever. At an INSANE thirty-five dollars, this is three times the cost of the vastly superior original set easily available on the Virtual Console. As the 19th remake of these games, Legacy of Ys is the most blantant and shallow attempt to cash in on what remains of the franchise’s good name. Both Atlus and Falcom should be ashamed for bringing this broken and buggy mess stateside as the first real taste of Ys I and II this country has had in two decades.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores
Story/Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Great
Control and Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Bad
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Dreadful
Miscellaneous: Worthless

Short Attention Span Summary

Legacy of Ys Books I & II is a hideous insult to the entire Ys franchise. Everything that made the series stand out has been gutted and replaced by a generic badly implemented combat system. Compounding this is a lack of any real challenge and the fact that a set of games was touted as the best presentation in a video game for its time has been replaced with something that barely equates to mediocrity and you have the combination for epic failure. Legacy of Ys Books I & 2 is easily the worst remake this series has ever seen, and considering that there have been a dozen and a half version of these games before, that’s all the more shameful. Save yourself a lot of cash and just get the Turbo Duo versions from the Virtual Console.



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3 responses to “Review: Legacy of Ys Books I & II (Nintendo DS)”

  1. […] wait, that one sucks once you get into it… hey! They took Falcom’s mantle for Ys! Ah, to hell with […]

  2. […] wait, that one sucks once you get into it… hey! They took Falcom’s mantle for Ys! Ah, to hell with […]

  3. […] time fan of Adol Christin, I pounced on the chance to review the game and sadly found it to be a fairly mediocre experience. Flash forward four years later to 2009 when Atlus brought over Legacy of Ys: Books 1 & 2. I […]

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