|Release: February 22, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p|
Ys II adds a new dimension to the battle system by giving the player a fire spell, which is frequently the only way to damage bosses. Although fans of button-pressing may welcome the fire spell, I found the boss battles in Ys II to be less interesting because of it. They felt more like the battles in any number of retro action RPGs, where the player simply memorizes patterns and presses a button to cast a spell when there's an opening. I preferred the boss battles in Ys I, in which Adol had to find ways to slam into the bosses without getting hurt. They were fresher and less drawn-out than the battles in Ys II.
Unfortunately, despite the fun battle system, it won't take gamers long to be reminded that Ys I & II Chronicles is a port of two very old games. As the player progresses through Ys I, there will be less direction as to where to go next. At first, it's not too difficult to run around and talk to townspeople in order to get a clue to the next plot step, but later on there are required plot steps that are frustratingly oblique. The whole thing culminates in an incredibly annoying backtracking session right before the final boss. After ascending twenty levels in a massive tower, the player is suddenly stymied in front of a door that will not open. The game provides no clue as to why the door is sealed or how to open it. What the player must do is climb back down the tower for eleven levels to retrieve an amulet from an NPC, then climb back up to the top, where the door will finally open. It's an unavoidable, pointless slog, made worse by the game's complete lack of direction as to where to go.
Ys II provides the player with clearer plot direction, but suffers from its own retro-related problem. Neither game has any mapping system whatsoever, but the dungeons and wilderness areas in Ys II suffer particularly from being "a maze of twisty little passages, all alike." Without a map, it's very easy to get lost in the dungeons, and even veteran gamers who might be willing to whip out the graph paper will find it difficult to map the dungeons' multidimensional twists and turns.
Still, there's fun to be had in the exploration and puzzle-solving segments of Ys I & II Chronicles. Even if the game doesn't give enough direction sometimes, it's nice to have to explore, talk to NPCs, and actually think instead of mindlessly wandering to the next NPC with a freaking yellow exclamation point over its head. Ys II in particular has some neat little touches, such as being able to turn into a cute little demon and talk to the same enemies that Adol would be plowing through in his human form. It's simply too bad that so many of the game's puzzles involve backtracking through the twisty dungeons in order to find the correct items in the correct order needed to proceed.
Unless the player spends large amounts of time wandering around, lost and/or clueless, both games can be completed quickly. Ys I is particularly short, spanning only a few dungeons and between five and eight hours. Ys II is larger and could take between eight and twelve hours. There are multiple difficulty levels and a time attack mode available for players who really love the game, but I suspect that most gamers will complete Ys II, say "OK, that was pretty fun," and never pick it up again. There isn't anything in the way of hidden secrets to inspire multiple playthroughs, and although the battle system is fun, there's only so much that can be done with it. It's the kind of experience that works best in short bursts.
Ys I & II Chronicles is worth a look by action RPG fans for the battle system alone, which is unlike any other and can be a real blast. Patient, retro-oriented gamers will gleefully endure the game's old-school relics, while others may want to play with some maps and a FAQ in hand. Anybody looking for a modern-style action RPG experience would be advised to give Ys I & II Chronicles a pass, and consider checking out the series via Ys 7.
CCC Freelance Writer