Despite the Wii Virtual Console’s nearly three years of existence, we have yet to see many classic RPGs available for download. Ys Book I & II (pronounced "ease"), is an RPG most people have never heard of (I’ll admit, I was one of those), but it is one that should not be missed. Ys I and II were originally stand-alone titles that were released on the Sega Master System, but they were later released together as one adventure for Turbografx CD in 1990. This remake includes anime cutscenes (although they look rather dated today), excellent CD quality music, voices, and colorful graphics. The gameplay is easy to pick up, even for those that never played RPGs of the early ’90s. Unlike many RPGs that feature a steep learning curve, Ys is fairly basic–you run into enemies to hurt them. There is more to the gameplay than that, but I’ll get to it in a bit. Even though I didn’t play this game when it was originally released, it is evident that it influenced future RPGs in many ways. Clearly, the Lunar games were inspired by this title–in everything from the voice acting to the music. Even though the Ys series was never popular in the U.S., it is important to recognize the impact this title had on future RPGs.
Okay, so this game had a major influence on future RPGs, but more importantly, is it fun? Despite the seemingly basic gameplay, Ys is an enjoyable experience throughout. I’ve played many action-RPGs, including Secret of Mana, and while the combat is not up to par with that game, it is still solid. Running into enemies is your main method of attack in the first Ys. When ramming them, you have to be careful not to get hit yourself, so it is important to have plenty of space to attack enemies, and you’ll occasionally want to back-pedal to dodge your foes. Despite this simple system, you equip swords, shields, and body armor, which influence your stats such as strength, defense, agility, etc. You gain levels just like most other RPGs, and your HP and strength will improve over time. Fighting enough battles is important to be able to tackle the more difficult foes and bosses in the game. You cannot fight the same enemies forever, otherwise you’ll get a low amount of experience points, so once you gain enough levels and have the proper equipment, it is important to journey out and engage harder enemies.
One other feature unique to Ys is the ring system. You can equip various rings–some give you healing powers, and others decrease the speed of your opponents, so you can evade their attacks with ease. These rings bring variety to the combat, and sometimes it is necessary to equip a certain ring to defeat your foes or traverse a dangerous area.
Ys II features a deeper combat system than its predecessor, as you’d probably expect. In addition to HP, you now have MP and the ability to cast spells. You can hurl fireballs at your foes, transform into other creatures, and warp to tranquil villages. Unlike many RPGs such as early Final Fantasy games, it takes a long time to run out of MP, so you can basically use spells to your heart’s content. If you need to refill your MP, just head for the nearest goddess statue, and your MP will be replenished. Another unique feature to the magic system in Ys II is that your spells can gain levels. It doesn’t explicitly tell you this in the game, but you will notice after many repeated uses of fire magic, you’ll gain larger fireballs and even homing flame projectiles. The magic system of Ys II is a welcome addition, and brings much needed variety to the game.
Whenever you see an Internet discussion about Ys, the music is often the first thing mentioned, and for good reason. I was amazed by the awesome rock-themed soundtrack. The music reminded me of Mystic Quest and the Lunar Complete games, but of course this came first, and the sound quality is better than Mystic Quest thanks to the Turbografx CD. A few of the tracks such as the opening town theme are repetitive, but there are many memorable tunes that I would even enjoy hearing outside of the game. I have one minor complaint about the music though. Some of the dungeons in Ys are mazelike, and as a result, you’ll spend a long time exploring a single area, so some of the music can get repetitive after being looped repeatedly. Still, the music is one of the best parts about Ys, and it is worth playing the game for the music alone.
Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, stories weren’t the most important feature of RPGs, so what you would usually find was basic, and Ys Book I & II is no exception. In the first game, you carry out simple quests for the most part, and your main goal is to gather the books of Ys and reach the top of Darm Tower to defeat Dark Fact who is threatening the populace. After accomplishing this task, the red-haired hero of the story, Adol reaches the floating land of Ys that is being threatened by demons. During your quest, you are tasked with delivering the books of Ys to the six priests and ridding the land of evil.
Most of the game is a pleasant experience, and isn’t too difficult as long as you find the right equipment, but the final boss was a nuisance. I beat him through a combination of luck and skill even though I had the best equipment in the game and had maxed out my HP. Another minor issue I had with Ys, was the occasional random objective that needed to be solved that wasn’t explicitly stated in-game. Occasionally, you have to find a certain person to speak to and there aren’t any helpful clues available. For gamers that experienced RPGs of the early ’90s, this was all too common, so the random moments shouldn’t come as a surprise. Even so, these experiences are rare and do little to tarnish this great game. If you have yet to play a Ys game, and are itching for an Action-RPG with a decent length, make sure not to pass up this title. After all, it is one of the best ways you can spend eight dollars on the Virtual Console.
I hope you enjoyed my nearly one-year-old review, but if you’re still dying to know more about Ys, check out this video review by the appropriately named HappyConsoleGamer on Youtube:[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmQxaKvWJeI 425×344]