Review by Chocobahn
A typical hero saves the world plot mixed with atypical battle system
Legacy of Ys has a very long history in gaming, first started out on the PC and worked its way through the different gaming consoles and ended up on the DS in its latest outing in the form of a two games in one package for the North American market.
For a game to have made its way on so many consoles, this game must be doing something right. While I have not played the original games or any of the remakes before the DS version, I am quite satisfied with the experience.
In the first instalment, you play as Adol, a lone traveller / worrier / master swordsman found unconscious in the land of Esteria. As fate would have it, a local fortune teller entrusted you with the task of finding six books of Ys that are scattered across the world and put a stop to a mad man's plot to plunge the world into darkness.
In Book Two, Adol once again found himself unconscious, this time in the land of Ys. His task this time round is to return the six books found in Book One back to its original owner, and yes, evil strikes yet again, and yes, Adol is once again entrusted to rid of the evil spirit.
The story is as cliche as it will get. Back in the days when the game was originally released, it is all hip and cool to have a hero save the world from total destruction by some evil force. But in the 21st century, this kind of plot is seen as outdated. However, in the midst of other much more convoluted story (such as that seen in Final Fantasy XII), it is refreshing to encounter a plot so simple and straight forward.
There are not many characters involved, and those that you do interact with are all NPC. You are on your own to confront the greatest threat to the world. It is probably a good thing, too, because while Legacy of Ys has some RPG elements to it (such as levelling up and simple equipment selection), the game play is very real time.
Indeed, Legacy of Ys has a quite unique fighting mechanism. It is all real time and extremely simple. In the original game some decades ago, you do not actually need to do anything other than running into the enemies. The game will manage Adol's sword swinging. This mechanism carries over to the DS version with the use of a stylus. Players just need to drag on the touch screen and Adol will follow the path. When Adol encounters a monster, he will automatically swing his sword. While it is serviceable, it is not a very practical way to control Adol. Sometime there is a time lag, and it could mean life and death in some situations.
The better way (and the way I preferred) is to use the D-pad and face buttons. D-pad to move Adol and the face button to swing his weapon. Adol's sword range is very small. Indeed, you pretty much have to be standing right next to the foe in order to make contact with it.
Magic is not introduced until Ys II, so for the first half of your adventure at least, the sword is your one and only life saving weapon. Luckily, you can visit towns to buy better equipments. Talking about life saving, the sure fire way to get killed early in the game is to run into the enemy head on. I cannot remember how many times I have to restart the game just because I was poked by the sinister looking walking tree (the very first enemy that I encountered).
Learning from my mistake, the best way to attack an enemy is to hit it on the side, or slightly off centre if you must go against it head on. I cannot stress that enough, as going head on is just suicidal, especially in the first hours or so of game play. The monsters will drop gold or item when they die. You will also gain EXP and level up just like a RPG.
It is actually quite easy to gain levels through the grinding process. Monsters spawn in the same place just as you step in and out of view. I maxed out my level in Ys I in less than 90 minutes, and after that, I am virtually invincible against the normal enemies. The down side of all this is, of course, the subsequent battles will provide no challenges whatsoever. Even the toughest of boss fights last for all of three minutes.
Under normal circumstances, Adol recovers HP automatically. While some players will be more than happy to have that feature, some might find it unacceptable. Luckily for those looking for a challenge, you can set the difficulty level, and after you have beaten the game once, a Nightmare difficulty awaits you.
Depending on which control scheme you choose (which can be done on the fly), the screen will alter between the top and bottom. If you choose the D-pad option, the main playing area will be displayed on the top screen, while the bottom screen is used for the world map, item menu, etc. Vice versa if you use the touch screen / stylus option.
As a stand along (since I have not played the original and it would be unfair to get on the net to find a random image of the original to compare), it is primitive. However, it does have a persuado 3D feel to the environment.
Colour used is appropriate for the environment, and characters are distinguishable. If you can remember how a 16-bit RPG looks like on your SNES or GBA, then you are not very far off. Background is simple, yet not too barren.
The opening is done in typical anime style and adds to the overall experience. However, do not expect to the see the same in game. There is no FMV or animation. There are dialogues between characters, but they are all text based.
Great soundtrack accompanies the game. It fits with the situation nicely and the tunes are catchy. You can hear the calmness of township, or the urgency in finishing the bosses. However, there is not much in the way of sound effects. You can hear Adol's sword skills, but there is not much else. With a great soundtrack, you can overlook the lack of sound effects.
There is no voice acting. Everything is done via the text interface.
Finishing Book One takes way less time than Book Two. In many ways, you can forgive Book One as a stage setup for Book Two. Regardless, both games are great to play. As mentioned in the game play section, for those looking for a challenge can choose the most difficult setting where you will not recover HP.
There are a limited number of side quests, just don't expect the proportion and variety found in the likes of Final Fantasy.
You will find, after completing either title, a time attack mode. Also available is local four player multiplayer mode.
To have survived all these years and still getting released on multiple gaming consoles one after the other, this game must have a great fan base. For many, this could predate their experience with other RPG like Phantasy Star or Final Fantasy.
Its simple game play is both its strength and its weakness. It is very easy for casual gamers to get into the game, if they can overcome the initial frustration of the first hour. However, it may lack the sophistication that expert players look for in a RPG. That said, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Book Two last much longer than Book One, and the decision to combine both games into one cartridge is a very wise move. The accompany CD is certainly a bonus, especially when the score is such a joy to listen to.
Do not overlook this game just because you have 'seen it all' in other ports / remakes. Legacy of Ys I & II might not be a total overhaul, but what is released on the DS is definitely a legacy worth continuing.
* Simple game play
* Simple story, easy to follow
* Easy to grind. Great for casual gamer
* Fast pace
* Cliche plot
* Sound effect (or lack thereof)
* Too easy after grinding
Score (out of 10)
Game play: 6
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Legacy of Ys: Books I & II (US, 02/24/09)
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