“Ys I” – Video Game Review

It’s the summer break between teaching years, and the baby is due in about three weeks. Time to log all the game time I can!

Company Credits

Title: Ys (As a part of Ys I and II Chronicles+)
Developer: Nihon Falcom
System: PC via Steam, originally released in 1987 for a variety of systems
Release Date: June 21, 1987 for the original PC-8801 in Japan. Steam remaster released on Feb. 14, 2013.
Game Type: Adventure RPG (comparable to Crystalis or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, except much, much shorter.)

Premise

Adol washes up on the shore of an island that’s been cut off from the rest of the world. He is the swordsman of legend, destined to save the world from the growing forces of evil that have caused monsters to overrun the world.

High Point

The “Bump Attack” system is a unique blend of action and RPG elements. I don’t play a lot of action games anymore, as bilateral elbow tendinitis has pretty much destroyed my reflexes. This is a good hybrid of action and turn-based mechanics. You have a top down view and can see your opponents on the map at all times, and you attack by colliding with them. Hitting them from behind or at an angle means you damage them without getting hit, but if you take them head-on, you’ll be in trouble.

Low Point

This game is on the short side. I levelled up to the maximum character level (10) relatively early, as you must be on the maximum level with the strongest weapon for the third boss battle or you can’t hurt the guy. I also took the time to kill at least 26 of every random monster you see on the map to fully unlock the bestiary and the corresponding game achievement. The entire game (which, admittedly, I played on “Easy” difficulty, again because of the tendinitis) took 6.4 hours to complete, 2.3 hours (36%) of which were spent in the final dungeon. This was my first time playing the game. Yes, I’ve had similar play times with the original The Legend of Zelda back in the day, but only after I had played it multiple times to know it inside out. If I wasn’t worried about the beastiary achievement, I could probably have shaved two hours off of this.

The Scores

The originality here comes from the gameplay more than the story. The story is pretty typical of the genre (collect magical items to save the world from evil), but the “bump” mechanics do well to set it apart. I suspect that was a matter of necessity from the days when joysticks only had one button and you could equip an item to use, but either way, it’s to the game’s advantage. I give it 4 out of 6.

The story is complete, coherent, and has nice side quests, but it’s very formulaic. I give it 3 out of 6.

The graphics during gameplay in this edition feel more like the 16-bit era than the 8-bit era it was made for, and there are now anime cutscenes at key points in the story that weren’t present in the original version. Things are always clear, and it’s a step up from the original era, but it’s not up to today’s standards. I give it 4 out of 6.

The sound has an enjoyable soundtrack with nice effects, which go right back to the original era. I give it 4 out of 6.

The playability is good. The controls are smooth. It took a bit of time for me to figure out how to access the menu using a wired USB XBox controller to play (I had to depress the right analog joystick, and not push the built-in buttons that would be “start” and “select” on the NES or SNES) but that’s on my use of a non-standard controller in a Steam port more than it is on the game. Once that piece was figured out, it all went very well. If anything, the most frustrating part of the experience was some of the next-level boss fights. For the most part, those boss fights were the only truly challenging sections of the game, at least when played on “Easy” difficulty. I give it 5 out of 6.

The immersion is good enough for a top-down scroller. The “bump” system and play speed does make for a fast-paced game though; it’s always easy to do just “one more thing” and play for a few more minutes. (I sat down yesterday intending to play for about an hour, and logged the first 4.1 hours in that sitting, breaking because dinner had been delivered.) I give it 5 out of 6.

Overall, this is a fun game in the genre, but very short. I strongly suspect the decision to bundle the first two Ys games into a single package was to make up for how short this one is. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total Ys I (aka Ancient Ys Vanished: Omen) receives 29 out of 42.

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