An enjoyable remake of a truly classic RPG.
The world is plummeting into chaos, monsters are terrorizing the lands and the guardian forces of the world are nowhere to be found. Something must be done to bring the world back into balance. Adol Christin, an adventurous swordsman, heeds the call and embarks on a (2 game) journey to find the missing guardians and save the world.
This general story is told through 2 separate games. Ys I is like the background/intro and Ys II is the meat of the story.
This is a remake of Ys I & II, so the story is fairly cliche by today's standards. It's a good story that requires a bit of patience, loads of NPC dialogue to read and a bit of personal analysis to fully understand. Not all of the events of Ys I will make sense until the player has finished playing Ys II, so it's fortunate that Falcom (developers) decided to bundle these two games together.
The graphics are a modernization of the classic 2D visuals of the oldschool NES/SNES era of games.
It looks quite nice. The visuals are simple in nature, but Falcom put attention into the details. For example, clouds float across the screen in outdoor areas, puddles of water remain after a canal was drained, village buildings bear various scratch marks (indicating a recent struggle with monsters) and lava erupts at various intervals in a cave with it's own beautiful lighting effects. There is even some gruesome detail in battles. Various monster parts explode into pieces as Adol lands the killing blow wig his sword.
There are some anime style character portraits for certain dialogue moments. These portraits look nice, but the transition between facial effects (neutral expression to a crying expression) are very rough and pixelated. The changes literally happen pixel by pixel for some characters...
The gameplay is very..."unique"...since this is a remake of a game released in the late 80's. The particular gameplay mechanic is called the "Bump" system. There is no "attack" button for sword attacks. The player just rams the enemy with Adol's character to deal damage, though there is a particular trick to "attacking." Adol must "aim" himself slightly off center of the enemy (for straight attacks) or Adol must attack in a diagonal manner, in regards to the enemy. Basically, going in for a head first attack won't work, angles do work.
This system is all about constantly moving to evade, positioning for attack and then attacking. It may sound complex, but it's fairly simple. It takes a bit of getting used to, b/c ramming people at random will actually cause damage to Adol. There is some magic, but it's really just one fire attack that's reminiscent of shooting bullets in a top down shooter (think Galaga).
Overall, this system works, but it's not very fun or enjoyable to play. There's no real sense of interaction in the game. This game is kinda like playing the oldschool Pac-man games...just without walls and 8 direction movement instead. Personally, I didn't particularly like the gameplay (boring) and I can't see too many non-hardcore gamers enjoying this experience either. The system is too plain.
The music is top-notch, which is to be expected from Falcom's Sound Team. There are three options for music played during the game. The original 80's Mario/Megaman style music, a "complete" remix version of that music (which mostly sounds the same) and a "chronicles" version that has actual instruments like electric guitar, violin and bass. The chronicles version is clearly the best IMO. Certain stages actually have ethnic feels thanks to the real instrunmentation. A track, Solomon's Shrine, actually has a new Spanish Guitar feel in the chronicles version, which is amazingly good.
The sound effects are good, but Adol's footsteps can become quite irritating after awhile, especially in the Subterranean Canal level...
Score: 9.5/10 (based on listening to the Chronicles music selections)
Both games are a one-playthrough only. The unlockables are a time-attack mode and a harder difficulty oprion for both, respectively.
The main draw here is the Chronicles music and learning about Adol Christin and Dogi's beginnings (for all those people who played the previous 2 Xseed published Ys games). The story is interesting if the player puts the effort into reading everything.
Each game varies in length (~4 hours for Ys I and ~6 hours for Ys II). I don't believe I noticed any sidequests, but there is plenty of backtracking between titles, respectively.
Final Score: 7/10
This game shows it's age in it's dated gameplay and story. The "Chronicles" updated version of the game's music is amazing and highly warrants a look. I only recommend this game to hardcore Ys/Falcom fans or people who grew up playing/enjoying the oldschool video games of the 80's and early 90's.