Review: Legacy of Ys: Books I & II

Atlus really knows how to keep their audiences happy. Whether it’s by releasing quirky RPGs, innovative titles with engaging stories, or simply by providing extras with game releases, they have got us pegged. Sometimes, this includes publishing relics that deserve a second chance at reaching audiences. Though some games truly merit re-releases over the years, there always seem to be a few that can’t quite hack the transition from late eighties to the present day. Unfortunately, Legacy of Ys: Books I & II falls into this category. Having been unveiled to the public nearly two decades ago, Ys was in fact a tour-de-force for its time. However, the years have been unkind to what was an entrancing adventure all those years ago. This is the case with many classics, and the basis for so many unfounded “X is overrated” arguments. In the right mindset, Legacy of Ys: Books I & II can net you some quality entertainment, but only if you’re ready to invest a lot of time and patience.

The “Books I & II” subtitle is just what you’d assume – there are two titles here. Both games were released independent of each other in Japan, and now lucky Americans are receiving the package with both games included. It’s important to keep in mind that this is an extremely traditional RPG in both gameplay and mechanics, and with that potential buyers may be divided on whether or not it will be right for them.

Prounced “Ees”, the story follows Adol, a sprightly young adventurer. One fateful day, he is washed ashore on an isolated island. Though he has no prior knowledge of the island or its inhabitants, he takes on the task of helping out the inhabitants of the island. It seems that monsters have taken a liking to the island and the surrounding seas. On Adol’s journey he will meet thieves, royalty, and goddesses, in most peculiar ways. The story is a bit peculiar for your standard RPG fare, but based on story merits alone, it will hold your attention. I’ve seen far worse – have you ever paid attention to a Kirby game’s plot?

Ys plays out much like the Zelda games, with a top-down perspective. Most of your time will be spent either exploring towns and getting information about your next task to complete. he top screen displays the main view of the world, and the bottom screen deals with inventories, maps, and options. Exploring towns is a bit cumbersome, since you have nothing more than a small map with scant details on the bottom screen – it can get tough to see where you should be going when you have no landmarks to guide you. In fact, the gameplay is very similar. Often, you will be given a mission, or a particular item. The game does not hold your hand through things such as this, and that is ultimately one of its low points. If you don’t have a walkthrough or haven’t played the Ys games before, you will find yourself at a standstill quite often. This is unfortunate, as the game could move at a much faster pace if you had any semblance of what to do or where to go.

Battles are decidedly peculiar, in that walking up and slashing away at enemies is the extent of combat. Because of this, battles that you would assume that would take more than a few minutes take only a few seconds. This makes the pace a bit more lively, but also a bit confusing for newcomers to the series. Adding to the confusion is the fact that often you will not know how to utilize certain items. Often, you won’t know which shield is better to equip, or what some items are to be used for. This is very much a game only for the hardcore, as it requires a ton of guesswork – most gamers these days are content to let tutorials and guides do all the work.

Leveling requires little work, and can drastically reduce the game’s difficulty. Simply by exploiting a respawn trick, you’ll be able to utilize the same baddies over and over in order to reach a level suitable enough to take down a boss. You’ll soon find that you can do things like this over and over that will inevitably make the game as easy as pie, if you can figure out exactly where to go. Again, that provides most of the challenge in this game.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II has been remade, but what has been presented is not quite up to par with other similar DS remakes. While the graphics have clearly been updated from the days of their first incarnations, the 3D landscapes are definitely a bit lacking. Textures are unexciting, and some sprites have little or no animation. More attention should definitely have been paid, seeing as this is a remake and all. As for the music, new tracks have been added and remade. They sound simply gorgeous, and with the soundtrack Atlus so graciously includes in the packaging, you’ll find yourself taking it out over and over to listen to key moments again.

While this is the definitive release of Legacy of Ys: Books I & II, it was also meant for a very niche audience. If you’re a fan of a simple story with lots of grinding and wondering where to go next, then this will be right up your alley. It will seem a bit bizarre, as it is a throwback to the very roots of RPGs, but after a few hours spent you’ll definitely warm to it. All in all, this isn’t the most exemplary RPG you can enjoy on your DS, but it absolutely isn’t the worst – you just need to be in the right mood and a hardcore RPG gamer to enjoy it. Casuals and those with short attention spans would do well to steer clear of this one. If you don’t fit either of those groups, then have a blast! In the meantime, I’m anxiously awaiting more delicious RPGs hand-picked by Atlus.

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