Ys 1 Review: Pronounced with Speed

Going back to play an old game can be an exercise in patience. More often than not, the outdated gameplay mechanics coupled with crappy graphics (by today’s standards) can be off-putting. This is especially the case when it comes to old school Japanese RPG’s. Sitting through 10 minutes of scrolling dialog boxes will probably mean I’ll be looking at Twitter for a majority of that time and not being engaged in the game. Not being fully involved into the story means I’ll have an easier time putting the game down if something else comes along.

This is why I was initially so hesitant to play Ys Book 1. Even though Ys Chronicles (Ys Book 1 & 2) was one of the first games I bought on Steam after building my new PC, I had only spent 20 minutes in the game. Those 20 minutes were extremely frustrating because as with any old game like that, you have no direction. You kind of just have to figure things out as you go. So I let the game sit in my Steam library for months, until last Saturday when I was browsing through all the games I have and thought I would give Ys another shot. And I’m glad I did.

Familiar Territory

You start out as a young man named Adol Christin who washes ashore in a land where monsters have overtaken the countryside. Sounds really familiar, but this game was originally released in 1987 where story didn’t play a huge role into RPG’s just quite yet. Adol meets with Sara, a fortune teller, who sets him on his journey of retrieving the six books of Ys. Not an overly interesting story, but what really grabbed me was the speed at which this game moved.

Enemies explode beautifully when defeated

Enemies explode beautifully when defeated

Like I mentioned above, old school RPG’s tend to be these long, drawn out tales with plodding gameplay. Ys is the exact opposite. Adol moves through the game with a type of speed usually only reserved when Sprint Shoes are equipped. In fact, unlike most RPG’s, you have to hold a button to slow down. The way Adol moves plays into the combat mechanics quite nicely.

Speed Kills

Don’t expect long drawn out turn-based battles on a second “battle” screen. In Ys, you just walk into your enemy to attack and yes the enemies appear on the screen. While it might sound silly, the “bump” mechanic of combat is one built for extreme speed. There are no random battles in Ys. If you want to fight, you fight. If you don’t, you just avoid the monsters. That simplicity carries through to the actual combat itself. Walk head first into the enemy and the enemy has a chance to damage you as you damage it. Come in from the side or back and you’ll rarely get hit. If that doesn’t make any sense, think of it like this: you are Mario with Super Star invincibility. You don’t need to jump on enemies to kill them, you just run straight into them. I love this type of combat. While a little strange to get used to at first, the quick combat made backtracking less of a hassle than in other games. And believe me, you will have to backtrack in Ys, but it doesn’t detract from the experience.

As Adol levels up and gets stronger, he basically one hit kills most of the enemies in the game except for the bosses and the last Tower.  There is a level cap at 10 and it turns out that it is really easy to get to that point without any grinding. If you choose to grind, the enemies respawn as soon as you leave the area so you don’t have to go on a long hunt to find an enemy.

This area's music sounded like the opening music to Game of Thrones.

This area’s music sounded like the opening music to Game of Thrones.

All told I spent about 7 hours with Ys, with a majority of it coming through 2 sittings. How many RPGs can you say that about? I love RPGs, but anymore it is very rare that I finish one or even play one for long stretches at a time. Unless I’m completely engrossed, I lose focus and my attention is usually pulled in another direction. That was not the case with Ys. I know that it’s not something a ton of people are going to play in 2013 but if you are in the mood for some old school RPG action and don’t have a lot of time to spend getting into a sprawling epic type of game, check out Ys 1 and the Ys Chronicles package.

Ys I & II Chronicles+ was released on Steam on Feb 14, 2013. Previous versions are available on multiple other consoles.


Giant Bomb (images)