Title: Ys I & II Chronicles
Developer: XSEED, Falcom
Game Type: PlayStation Portable
Download: 930 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download
EU Availability: Digital Download, Direct Download
PSTV Support: Yes
There are countless franchises of video games that have been getting new games as well as remakes of old games since the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. A few examples of this are Final Fantasy, Ninja Gaiden, and Super Mario. Some of these games are more well-known than others, and some have found their home on different types of game consoles.
Specifically for the PlayStation Vita, some of those lesser-known franchises have made their homes on handheld systems. An example of this is the series Ys. This series, pronounced “ees”, has been around since 1987 and has recently moved itself onto handheld systems more than anything else. While the next Ys game is coming to both PS Vita and PS4 later this year, the last several Ys games were made for handheld system (and some also came to Steam, but did not release on home consoles).
We have reviewed two of these titles in the past. Ys: Memories of Celceta (our site’s very first review), and the PSP title Ys Seven. Diving even further back into the history of the Ys series, we have begun taking a look at the oldest titles in the series. Having been completely remade for the PSP and fully compatible with both the Vita and PlayStation TV, here is our official review of Ys I & II Chronicles!
Ys I & II Chronicles actually contains two games, so the storyline is divided into two different sections. The two games act as two chapters of the same story, though, so they go well together. Ys II begins at the exact moment where Ys I leaves off, making these the only two games in the series to have direct impacts on one another, as opposed to being able to be standalone games like Seven or Celceta.
In Ys I, you take the role of Adol Christin, a traveler from a faraway land. Upon hearing about trouble happening in the land of Esteria, he sets off to fight off against a supposedly impenetrable storm to enter the land. Upon crash-landing in Esteria, Adol goes on a journey to fight off Demons that have invaded the country as well as uncovering mysteries about the mythical kingdom known as Ys.
This compilation’s story is unique for the series as it is the only game in the series to have a direct impact on Ys, itself. The story is set around the kingdom of Ys and its mysterious disappearance several hundred years before the games take place. While the story isn’t a deep part of the series, as it’s more or less bits and pieces that are uncovered as you play through the games, it does show the history and kingdom that got the series its name.
While the system that these games use is drastically different than the system the newer games, Ys I and II are Action RPGs. You will be spending the majority of both games running through towns and dungeons to fight off enemies to level up, collect key items, solve puzzles, and fight off huge bosses. That main idea of the series has been there since the very first game back in 1987.
As you play through Ys I or Ys II, you will be focusing on exploring dungeons and achieving goals to advance the story. From the beginning of the game, you’ve just gotten up from being hurt and events unfold in the village that pushes you on your journey. You will have a main goal, such as collecting the Book of Ys in the first game, or reaching the Solomon Shrine in the second game, the rest of the story will fall in line as you move forward in that goal.
As you play through the game, the progression and dungeons will be very reminiscent of the Zelda franchise. The key to getting through dungeons as well as opening up new areas is by finding Key Items and using them at certain locations. You may be at a point where you need to use a Demon Bell in a villager’s basement that is found in a hidden room in the last dungeon you were in. It is not hard to miss out on Key Items that are required to push the story forward, so exploration is a huge aspect of the games.
The combat system also makes the game feel more like an action game than an RPG. Ys I and II incorporated a combat system known as the “Bump” system. With this system, there is no attack button (though Ys II does have a button for using spells). You attack enemies by running into them. The moment you make contact with them, you will repeatedly attack them with your sword. Walk into them continuously and you will trap them in an endless sword combo until their HP drops down to 0 and they are defeated.
This is a system that can be good and bad for you. If you are fighting a single enemy, you can effectively pin them against a wall and never receive a point of damage no matter how under-leveled you are. If you fight off a mob of enemies, however, you’re in trouble if you cannot fight off each one very quickly. This is where the RPG element goes into effect. As you fight enemies, you gain EXP and can level up. Each time you do, your attack goes up drastically. Level up twice and the enemies that took a good 10 seconds of wall-pinning to defeat can be taken down in less than half the time.
Another thing that can give you an edge is constantly upgrading equipment and finding new accessories to equip. The villages you encounter throughout the games contain shops for Swords, Shields, and Armor. Buying these, however, is costly. There are times where you will have to pass up a village and fight off enemies in the next dungeon until you have enough Gold to afford your new equipment. There are also accessories to find in dungeons that can give you benefits, like HP regeneration.
This brings up the difficulty. While the Bump system isn’t too hard to get the hang of, Boss Fights are. You can do well against the normal enemies in a dungeon and get trashed by the boss. Each boss has an attack pattern that must be learned to be able to fight them. Some only have small windows of time where you can even damage them. It takes time to learn to dodge and attack bosses or you’ll get completely wrecked in bosses. The bright side is that the games allow you to save virtually everywhere, so you can save your game just before tackling a boss, in case things go south for you.
All in all, Ys I and II are both short games. Each of the games can be cleared in about 8-10 hours, depending on how quickly you catch onto how the puzzles and dungeons work. Together, the compilation should last you a good 20 hours across both games. There is more content if you wish to go through Boss Rush Mode after you clear each game as well as playing through the game with its original music or with the original settings as opposed to the settings from this remake.
The controls for Ys I and II Chronicles are pretty simple. You won’t be using anywhere near all of the buttons on the Vita. Because of this, you won’t need to use the touch screen for anything. Along with this, you also won’t be using any extra buttons when playing on the PlayStation TV. It doesn’t incorporate the R2/L2 or R3/L3 buttons into any specific features.
Controlling Adol is done with both the D-Pad and the Left Analog Stick. This remake, however, makes use of every direct of the Analog Sticks. Despite its 2D nature, I felt more comfortable using the Analog to move Adol than using the D-Pad. It felt more precise, especially when attacking enemies from an angle. These movements also control attacking enemies with the bump system as well as interacting with people and items. Walk up to something that can be interacted with and you’ll automatically interact with it.
The face and trigger buttons are used, though, for items as well as magic (in Ys II). You can set certain items and spells to the L, R, and Triangle buttons. You can also use the Start button to access the menu to change equipment and save your game.
The controls are very easy to get used to as well as how they work. The game doesn’t explain the controls to you, but there are button prompts on the screen for the equipment slots. The Bump system can be a little odd to learn if you haven’t heard or seen it before, but it can be adjusted to with ease.
Visually, Ys I & II Chronicles looks surprisingly good on the PS Vita’s screen. Despite being 2D in nature, the sprites and environments translate very well to both the PlayStation Vita and the PlayStation TV. There is the occasional pixelated corner of a character model, but the visuals look very crisp and fluid. One of the best-looking 2D PSP games I’ve played on the Vita and PSTV alike.
The game also plays very well. While there are some lengthy load times through the Main Menu, the game transitions nearly seamlessly as you go from area to area and fight off monsters. Whether you’re fighting off a huge boss or a mob of 10 enemies, the game plays very well and never show any frame drops. The game was optimized for the PSP very well and it shows on the Vita as well.