I recently discovered this game series and purchased the remake of Ys I & II on steam. This review features the first game Ys I.
I must admit that I’ve never heard of this game series before. After reading the Wikipedia article on the Ys series I feel somehow enlightened about the it but it’s still confusing. So please bear in mind that I have no idea of the whole chronological order of this series. I also can’t really compare the remake with their old version or give you any deep insight about what’s so special in this particular version.
I always liked action role playing games and grew up with games like Secret of Mana and Terranigma. So when I saw this game on the last Steam sale I simply had to pick it up!
Is my lack of knowledge a boon or bane for this review? Let’s find out!
Alright the first thing you’ll notice in Ys I is that it has this typical japanese anime / manga theme. It starts off with a short anime video and some dialogs look like this:
Which is totally fine for me. I like the art style. It really did remind me of the old SNES times and it didn’t take long until the nostalgia hit me. Take a look at the video on top to get a better impression about the whole style of the game!
The game also doesn’t hold your hand at all. You’ll need to spend some time running around and talking to every NPC while having no idea what you’re supposed to do next. Once again, that’s fine for me but maybe you feel different about it.
The beginning was the most confusing part for me. You start off in a town, talk to every NPC and after that you have no idea what to do next. So you leave the town and then the game actually explains you how the combat mechanics work…. You run into enemies! There is no attack button! All you need to do is run into enemies! “Hah, thats easy!” I said to myself and happily ran into the first enemy. Only to bite the dust one second later and start all over again because I had no idea how to save. After rewatching the whole intro and starting off again I tried pressing start and behold there was a whole new menu with multiple options including saving and loading games. Doh!
In the end I eventually found my way in the game and realized that the combat is surprisingly fun! If you hit enemies frontal you’ll get hit by them but when you approach them from the side or even only slightly frontal you are able to hit them without taking any damage! So the combat is all about positioning and since your run speed is so fast it’s really engaging and a lot of fun to constantly run into enemies.
The music of the game is phenomenal and easily one of the best game soundtracks I’ve ever heard. But you decide for yourself since that kind of music is not everyone’s taste:
I thought that the story was ok. Nothing really spectacular but good enough for me. I read somewhere beforehand that the games’ story is one of the best out there but I’d disagree. I’m not going to spoil you anything here. Maybe my expectations were too high but in the end all I can say that it was not the story which kept me playing but the awesome music and challenging battles.
I mention it in almost every review: I’m an achievement whore. I usually take a look at a games’ achievements before even playing it so I can get as much achievements as possible while playing it for the first time. One of the achievements was to complete the game on “nightmare” difficulty. Naturally I decided that it would totally be a good idea to start playing this game on nightmare. I mean it’s a RPG after all right? In the end I could just grind some more levels and the game is easy again. Wroooooooooooooooong. This strategy works until you reach level 10. After that you simply stop leveling and even the normal enemies can become a real frustrating challenge. But the bosses are even worse. There was one particular boss which seemed so impossible hard to me that I assumed that I must be doing something wrong. Nope. Everyone struggles with that boss. His moves and attacks are way too random and often unavoidable. Winning or losing is simply a matter of pure luck and boy you need a lot of luck to beat him on nightmare. It took me more than two hours to finally beat him in the end. The others bosses are hard as well but beatable after you figure out their patterns… but this one single boss almost made me stop playing the whole game.
So if you are interested in playing this game I suggest you don’t play it on nightmare. Seriously. Don’t.
To wrap this whole thing up: Ys I is a great polished oldschool game but it has its flaws. There is a lot of joy to be found but also frustration… In the end you it boils down to one big question: do you enjoy getting stuck and figuring out how continue in a game because you have no idea what to do next; even if that could take you an hour? If your answer is yes then by all means go pick this up!