Legacy of Ys: Books I & II Review
Legacy of Ys: Books I & II box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Nihon Falcom 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Atlus 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Feb. 24, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-4 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Back to the Grind
by Jonathan Marx

Atlus has done a great job of supporting our seemingly insatiable appetite for rare, import titles. Their latest offering, Legacy of Ys: Books I & II brings the first two chapters in the Ys series to U.S. shores in one compiled cartridge.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II screenshot

Fans of the franchise, which first released in 1987, will tell you that the first two books were always supposed to be released together, but for publishing and marketing constraints were launched as separate entries. As such, Atlus bringing both of these classics together for a North American release made a lot of sense. After blazing through these titles in under a week, I am happy to say that these reworked games still have a lot of charm even though they are decidedly dated.

Legacy of Ys (rhymes with geese) is one of the first action-RPGs ever made. Initially released for the NEC PC-8801, it stood apart from other contemporary text-based RPGs for its fast-paced, action gameplay. Along those lines, modern gamers - used to lengthy turn-based and strategy-RPGs - may or may not appreciate just how quickly conflicts are resolved in this game. Players simply run up to enemies and whack them - end of fight. Sometimes enemies require more than one hit, but fights never take more than two seconds. This makes progressing through the game and its entertaining story a breeze. Of course, the overly-simplistic controls will likely turn off many gamers looking for a more complex ride. That said, the game is still remarkably playable despite its dated nature. Going through the dungeons, collecting experience, gold, and loot, and advancing the plot is a nice bit of fun.

Still, this incredibly simple mechanic makes combat dull after just a short while. Thankfully, the frequent pattern-based, find-the-weakness boss battles will give players a bit of a diversion from the utter simplicity found in the rest of the game. The problem with these showdowns is that it quickly becomes apparent what needs to be done to defeat them. Nevertheless, these fights are often artificially drawn out by Adol's inability to exact large chunks of damage. The metered out damage approach against bosses can be cumbersome and silly.

One can play through both included titles in a little over 10 hours of game time. This is probably too short for modern gamers - especially JRPG fans - but I found it refreshing to rip through the games like a soft-cover novel. If you're someone who feels stifled by more complex RPGs, or you simply want to try out a classic entry from the genre's infancy, Legacy of Ys: Books I & II may be perfect for you. I know I had a lot of fun.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II screenshot

Despite how much enjoyment I derived from the titles, they do suffer from some archaic foibles. For starters, level balancing is quite poor. Defeating enemies was either too difficult or too easy. When going through the dungeons, if you found Adol - the main character - hitting for only one point, you'd have to XP grind awhile on the previous floor until you leveled up. After doing so it's incredibly easy to hack your way through the rest of the baddies. This holds true until you reach the level cap of 24. At level 24 you're a bad-ass capable of dealing out the hurt to everything that gets in your way. Unfortunately, I reached level 24 just before recovering the third book of the priests of Ys. That's about half way through the game, as there are only six books to find in all. What's more, even items are poorly doled out. For instance, I found the next-to-best shield in just the second dungeon. All in all, I tended to find the best gear long before even mundane items became available in the shop.

Graciously, the story is compelling enough to make poorly contrived power leveling and loot accumulation not much of an issue. The narrative centers on a young man named Adol - a fire-haired youth from a distant land in search of the fabled Ys. At the outset of his journey, Adol runs into trouble from a massive storm at sea that seems to have blocked his advance to the Island of Esteria. This curtain is known by the islanders as The Veil of Storms. This freak weather along with the resurgence of monsters has isolated the island from the rest of the world. It becomes Adol's task to get to the bottom of the island's woes and find out why all the silver has been disappearing and what the source of the monsters is. Along the way, Adol meets two mysterious women from a former age that prove to be vital in Book II. In spite of its predictability, the story is quite enjoyable, unfolds in rapid succession, and will have engaged gamers playing for long stints just to get to the bottom of it all.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II screenshot

The second book is very similar to the first except for the addition of magic to the mix. Along the way, players will gain access to six different kinds of magic, which serve both combat and the story. Still, there's little difference between using magic rods and using swords. Players won't derive anymore fun from the title because magic has been included, but it does help to add some flavor to the story. As such, it's a welcome addition. Other than that, dungeons in Book II tend to be more complex, enemies are slightly more difficult to defeat, and the story becomes a bit more convoluted.

Screenshots / Images
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