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Ys I & II Chronicles
Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: XSEED Games
Developer: Falcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Remakes and re-releases are always tricky business. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, though some games are better left as memories. Ys I & II Chronicles is, as the name implies, a collection featuring redone versions of the first two Ys games. Over the last 20 years, the series has maintained a loyal following, and although newer games have helped to expand that following, the remake may not appeal to newer fans the way it will for older ones.

To give credit where credit it due, Chronicles offers a number of presentation options. Both games are playable in Chronicles and Complete versions. Chronicles offers a kicked-up presentation, while Complete offers a more "retro" look. Either works - it's just a matter of taste. Either way, Chronicles looks great. The sprites are bold and really stand out against the backgrounds. There's a "sameness" about certain areas, which has some impact on gameplay, though the issue isn't entirely because of visuals.

Music has always been one of the series' hallmarks. Though not as well known as other games, Ys' soundtrack always seems to deliver one or two memorable tunes. Each game features three soundtrack options. There's the original 80's score, the remastered version released in the "Complete" version a decade ago and a brand new version. All three sound great, though I tended to stick with the newest version.

There's usually little connective tissue between Ys releases beyond its red-headed hero, Adol, though the two games contained in Ys I & II Chronicles combine to form a much larger story. You aren't required to play the two in order, but it doesn't hurt.

Ys I begins with Adol washing ashore in Esteria. A thick, dark cloud surrounds the island and monsters are everywhere. The town is in dire straights, spurring Adol into action. Ys II continues his adventures, though giving you the setup will spoil the first game. Just know, you're still playing as Adol and, true to form, you'll start the game in a clinic.

True to most RPGs, a majority of Chronicles' gameplay is spent completing quests for villagers and exploring the island. Here the game's age really shows; you aren't given the luxury of quest logs or even a map. I can't tell you how much time I lost wandering around Esteria. There are plenty of NPCs to talk to, though few are helpful. They'll offer clues about what to do, but they're usually incredibly vague.

Dungeons aren't any better. Even if you took the initiative to make your own maps, they're filled with so many twists and turns you'll give up by the second dungeon. Worse, you're often left to ferret out keys and other items left in seemingly random corners of each dungeon.

In a way, I sort of liked the lost frustration that came with the directionless play, but only for the nostalgia. Once that wore off, I found it harder and harder to come back for more. As much as I respect the idea of sticking to roots, Chronicles gets a bit ridiculous.

Again, this is something for the fans. Newcomers who jumped onboard with previous Ys PSP releases might go for the nostalgia, but be warned, Chronicles is a completely different experience.

I hate to harp on the issue, but I can't emphasis it enough -- Ys I & II Chronicles is a hard game. I usually dissuade the use of walkthroughs, but you're going to need to find one if you want to make it through to the end. This is especially true for Ys I. Even if you decide to soldier it out, you'll get stuck on numerous occasions and likely break down and look up how to solve certain tasks. You can usually gather clues from NPCs, but once again, you really have to read between the lines to figure out what they're trying to tell you.

Ys II is a better, more directed experience, though it still lacks a map feature, which would have helped given most areas are big mazes.

Although combat amounts to little more than Adol running into enemies, there's a fair bit of math going on with each bump. If you're having trouble with a particular boss or group of enemies, your only solution is to grind for a few levels and buy new gear. Enemies are visible on the field, so you can always run around them, but you're only setting yourself up for failure.

As a last resort, you can always drop the difficulty to Easy, though it's mindlessly simple. Playing on anything higher than Normal is at your own peril.

Game Mechanics:
The key to a successful game re-release is the mechanics. Do they still hold up years after the original release, or were they something that worked for that specific moment?

Both games in Ys I & II Chronicles are built around a unique, and somewhat noteworthy battle mechanic. There's no battle screen, or complicated action-based combat system. Instead, combat is based around running into enemies. The trick to the system is in your approach. If you run headfirst into an enemy, you'll take damage. If you hit them from the sides, behind or just a little off-center, you'll hurt them without losing health yourself.

As you might imagine, most of the game is spent running in circles trying to outflank enemies. It takes some getting used to, and even then it's something that won't engage many players. Still, in an odd way, it works. The major downside, and the reason it won't work for some players, is there's not much to it. If there's a major plus to the system, it's speed. Adol zips around the world and battles are usually over after a few bumps.

As fast as the system is, it's not very rewarding or deep. There are no attack patterns to learn, so even if the fast pace is enough to hook you in, there's a good chance it won't hold you through two games. Ys II at least attempts to add some variety with ranged attacks. Additionally, angles aren't as locked in, so you have a little more freedom when going after enemies.

Ys I & II Chronicles is clearly meant for series fans or anyone interested in a bit of RPG history. Of XSEED's recent Ys releases, it's the weakest of the bunch, though only in the sense the older play mechanics may not mesh with modern expectations. If you're looking for a Ys experience, but not interested in the nostalgia trip, you'll likely want to go with either Ys: The Oath in Felghana or Ys Seven over Ys I & II Chronicles.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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