Review: Legacy of Ys: Book I & II

After finishing Ys: Memories of Celceta on my Vita a few months back and loving every second of it, I went on a hunt for all the Ys games I could find. It got a little crazy, but among my $50 in purchases was Legacy of Ys: Book I & II for the Nintendo DS.

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As of this writing, I have finished the first Book and am starting the second. Since both of these games use the same engine, I think a fair criticism of the core mechanics can be written. Overall, this was a fun little segway into the earlier days of the series. I was informed that I should start my backtracking of the Ys series with these two games, before moving onto Ys: Origins, so here we are, half-way completed with that goal.

The shift from Memories of Celceta to these games wasn’t seamless. You can attack enemies manually, but can also run into the sides of them to hurt them. If this sounds weird, it’s because it is. You can easily get destroyed in a split second by an unexpectedly strong enemy, and timing is key. Once you figure this out, the gameplay gets a lot more fun and stays satisfying throughout.

That being said, this game still drove me crazy, and plays a little big like a gigantic mess. But the story is simple enough, and as much proof that there is a kind and gentle God that we can ever expect, it’s short. Thank the heavens, it’s short.

When you’re playing older games in a series, it’s important to take off your “modern lenses” and really try to forget about the gaming luxuries of today. For example, knowing when you’re doing something wrong is tough to figure out at first. There are certain items required to do any sort of actual damage to the bosses, and if you’re impatient like me and tend to rush through games, you’ll find that the nuke-sized hints that the NPCs drop are easily to overlook.

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You run into the first boss about 15 minutes in, and I swear, I burned about 45 minutes getting demolished. Turns out, I needed to go back to town, buy a better sword, and level up a few times.

Keep in mind that this is a remake of a game that came out in the freakin’ 1980s, and it definitely shows. But alas, Books I & II are the originals in the Ys series, and if you want to play the whole series, ya gotta know where it starts. The Ys series is one of the grand-daddies of RPGs, and respect is due. However, so is my opinion on the matter.

Let’s jump into some complaints I had. These issues are all hilariously bad at times, and while I did hang my head in frustration on more than one occasion, generally they were very silly occurrences that only happened a couple times.

  1. Two enemies can sandwich you, or pin you against walls, utterly destroying you in about 2 seconds.
  2. Enemies respawn immediately. I mean, as soonas you move slightly off-screen and go backwards, yep, there they are walking around again.
  3. The bosses are totally insane and will wreck your day if you don’t have the best possible available gear and level. Even when you do though, if you mess up once, you’re screwed, especially in the early game.
  4. If you face a boss withthe right gear, you can usually kill it in about 15 seconds by spamming Attack.

Of course, there are a few pros here:

  1. Once you figure out the combat and stay away from the “run into the bad guys” system, it’s actually pretty satisfying murdering anything that comes near you.
  2. The game hints are plentiful, but also subtle and can easily be missed. This is a pro because most games of yesteryear tell you nothing, and modern games tell you everything. This falls right in the middle.
  3. There are times when level grinding is necessary, but it doesn’t take long. The con of “enemies respawn immediately” actually makes leveling up very simple if you need to boost yourself a bit.
  4. The various pieces of equipment and rings you collect really make you powerful, and it’s satisfying to see your work of slaying endlessly respawning trash mobs pay off. By the end of the game you’re an absolute beast.

One other thing that kind of bummed me out was the bleak environment coupled with depressing soundtrack. Ys: Memories of Celceta blew my mind with just how energetic the music was. It got me pumped, I’d run into hoards of enemies with my murder stick, destroying everything with little regard to my own safety to that soundtrack. This one was just bleak and sad. The world is small and only a few colors. I know, I know – chalk that up to the time period in which it was released, but this is a review for a reason.

Not much else can be said for these games. Necessary if you want to get into Ys from its humble beginnings, but one you can probably pass over if you want to get into the improved games of the series.

Personally, if you’ve never played a Ys game, I recommend reading a brief synopsis of Books I & II and starting at Ys: Origins, or just saying “to hell with the damn story” and grabbing Ys: Memories of Celceta on the Vita, like I did.

As of this writing, it’s 9PM and tomorrow is my first day back at work in two weeks, but I’ve got a cup of coffee, a Book II speedrun video open, and I’m going to try to burn through this game as fast as humanly possible to cross it off my list. Wish me the best of luck.

2 thoughts on “Review: Legacy of Ys: Book I & II

  1. I played these games two years ago and absolutely adored them. The fighting system is a pure gem, and the speed is an absolute blessing. I used the sword-swinging control scheme, and it was so darn addictive that I literally had to force myself to stop level-grinding and get back to the game. As a fellow collector, I can only commend you for having acquired a physical copy of these gems before they become prohibitively expensive. Well done!

    If you own a PSP, I wholeheartedly recommend the PSP version of this pair of games, which is just as excellent as the DS one when it comes to gameplay and ten times better when it comes to graphics and overall atmosphere. I played both versions back-to-back two years ago and it was an absolute blast.

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    1. You know, I found your review of Books I & II a few weeks back before this article was scheduled to post, and I remember thinking “I don’t know if he’s gonna hate this”. Ha! Upon re-reading my own article I realized it sounded like I was railing this game, but it’s all in good fun. I really did enjoy it.

      Other reviews seemed to love the art style but I did find it kind of drab, maybe coming from Xenoblade and Pokemon and other bright and exciting games (especially Memories of Celceta) meant I mis-timed this one!

      I’ve got three more Ys games to play through currently – this is such a great series. The speed is so refreshing.

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