Ys Chronicles I & II ReviewLouis Bedigian
During the late '90s, hundreds of thousands of gamers were turned into RPG enthusiasts. This was quickly evidenced by the enormous sales figures for the original Parasite Eve, among other RPGs that followed the release of Final Fantasy VII. At the time, classic games like Breath of Fire and Lunar: The Silver Star were given new life as players searched for greatness within the genre.
Still, there was one franchise that stayed in the shadows: Ys. Known to many as "that RPG with an unusual title," the Ys franchise hasn't received the acclaim or the attention of the big players of the industry. That might come as a surprise to those who have played the series considering the success that equally obscure games (ex: Alundra, Wild Arms, Brave Fencer Musashi) had on the PSone.
But if you've been curious all these years as to what made the Ys series tick, or if you've wanted to know why its name continues to appear in the gaming press despite a lack of mainstream success, now is your chance. The simply titled Ys I & I Chronicles takes players back to the game's unusual roots and allows us to embark on a journey unlike any other.
If that sounds like a colossal amount of hype for a couple of old games, make no mistake: there aren't any other action/RPGs available that are quite like the Ys series. Its battle system is quite bold; instead of attacking with a designated button (as you do in every other action/RPG on the planet), players must line their character up with each enemy and charge into them.
Is this crazy? Yes. Repetitive? At times, yes. Unique and innovative? Absolutely.
The problem is that, beyond this one gameplay feature, Ys does not offer much to write home about or much for a review, for that matter. When combined, the two games make for a long and challenging quest that will devour your time. The music is robust, rewarding, and occasionally unforgettable. But as far as the genre is concerned, Ys leaves a lot to be desired. It's a genuinely shallow collection, and while the developers cannot be blamed entirely for that conclusion (Ys I and II are not young games), they shouldn't expect this PSP port to have any hope of penetrating the core RPG market.
What it will do is intrigue a small number of players who are wise enough to investigate the series based on its originality alone. Those who do so will be rewarded with an amusing top-down adventure. The story isn't great by any means, but the battles are fairly entertaining. The graphics are perfectly retro (like a 16-bit Genesis game), and the level design is on par with most 2D-era action/RPGs. But aside from the attack system, nothing will stun or amaze those who play this game.
With so many variables involved (and the likely chance for disappointment), you might wonder: is this game right for you? To answer that question, you need to ask yourself the following:
Do you crave unique RPGs?
Have you enjoyed playing a game that has only one impressive feature?
Do you appreciate the artistic value of retro RPGs?
If you answered "yes" to all three questions, then Ys I & II Chronicles should definitely be added to your collection. If you answered "no" to any of them, you might want to look elsewhere for action/RPG satisfaction.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.