The Joy of Exploding Monsters in Ys Chronicles

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I hadn't heard of Ys until a college friend recommended it to me. It sounded like the same old spiel from a Japanese fantasy, until he mentioned the ramming battle system.

Ys 1 and 2 are extraordinary–they accumulate hardcore fights with bumper car warriors into an amazing adventure like no other.

I started with the series by downloading Ys 1 and 2 Chronicles for the PSP. For anyone who hasn't heard, this is a compilation of the first two Ys games. This isn't an ordinary facelift, though. These graphics spruce up the sprites and backgrounds to look as detailed as characters from a Super Nintendo game. 

Ys Chronicles combines this with intense punk metal music to create one of the most breathtaking revamps of all time. The end result is like a funky cross between Blazblue and Secret of Mana. For a modern re-imagining, this is everything that an old JRPG fan could ask for. 

The battle system took some time to adjust to. Unlike convention fantasy games, the hero, Adol, has to bump into enemies in order to defeat them. The Chronicles version plugs in a welcome addition to make the nudge-fest worth the effort–exploding monsters.

There is something strangely therapeutic about watching a hero ram a monster until it violently blows up. Even the most fearsome Mortal Kombat characters couldn't match the power of the red-haired Adol. Unlike Goro, Adol only needs to bump into a monster a few times to blast their limbs into pieces.

The quick-and-easy ramming system also turns level grinding into a much more comfortable affair. Building up gold and experience is hardly an issue, because every fight is over in only a few seconds. Players can simply ram into 20 monsters to earn everything they need in only a few minutes.

Adol tangos with Gelaldy, a skull boss in Ys 2

The Ys battle style is satisfying and accessible for any newcomer to the JRPG genre. The 16-bit sprite fights may look archaic, but the boss fights are tough to finish in one sitting. It took me nearly 20 tries to defeat Dark Fact, the evil villain of Ys 1. Many of the battles in Ys 2 are literally as challenging as a bullet hell shoot-em-up

The real spotlight of Chronicles is the music. The shredding guitars build the intensity to a high level that even Secret of Mana couldn't match up to. The developer, Nihon Falcom, even provided an option to allow people to play the music from previous versions of the Ys games. Players will definitely appreciate how the newer soundtracks built on the original compositions by adding in killer Red Book audio.

There's a story behind Ys as well, but it almost plays a secondary role to the action in the game. The protagonist, Adol, washes up on the shores of an island in Ys 1. Since a Stormwall is keeping ships from moving out, Adol has no choice but to unravel the mystery on the island about the books of Ys. It's an open-ended plot that doesn't guide players to their destination as it should.

Adol reunites with Lilia in Ys 2

Thankfully, Ys 2 improves on every loose end of the previous game. Many of the sequel's plot twists are heart-wrenching. Adol literally has to muscle onward, in spite of all the terrible events that place. The final battle also brings back many unexpected characters from the past in an epic reunion.

Most people haven't heard of Ys, but they really should pay more attention to it. The series has an intense action style that can instantly please any newcomer to the JRPG genre. The CD-quality music carries the fast-paced vibe of the old Super Nintendo days. Although Ys 1 and 2 Chronicles is more like a throwback to the golden years of action adventures, it packs a greater punch than the old Zelda games could ever handle.

What other old games could use a reboot in the same fashion as Ys 1 and 2? Why haven't other companies tried to update their old games in an impressive package, as Falcom did with Ys Chronicles? Feel free to write about them in the comments.

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