Ys Book I & II
PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 (Hudson Soft 1989)
The big G-S-G-S-G
General opinion: Primitive, yet rather cool and addictive oldschool RPG
Story: Very cliched, but entertaining enough
Graphics: Mostly fairly primitive, but do their job
Sound: Excellent for a game of it's age
Gameplay: Very simple, yet very entertaining
Ys is an action RPG series that's in high regard among many oldschool RPG fans. Ys Book I & II is a port of the first two games of the series, originally developed for various Japanese home computers, to the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16 in America), and is the only version of these games (at the time) to be translated into English. I had my doubts about it for a long time, thinking it to be rather primitive, but when I finally decided to try it, I was soon hooked.
The first few minutes don't hold much promise. The hero, Adol, arrives in a typical fantasy RPG town. The graphics are decent for the late 80's, but nothing special. The music doesn't impress. The story appears cliched, if not downright banal. The moment Adol steps into town, a local fortune teller comes up to him, stating, in a nutshell, that the world is in peril and you've got to find six magical books to prevent destruction. Adol, naturally, complies without question. Well, it'd be a short game if he didn't.
But first impressions can be deceptive. Yes, the story is cliched and fairly simple throughout. But the game isn't very long and it keeps you interested enough. One of the things you soon notice as you get into the game is that the background music in that first town is not representative of the whole game. This is a CD game, after all, probably one of the first console RPG's to be released on CD, and most of the music is played directly from CD. The overall quality of music is very good, definitely among the best RPG music from the 80's. Many of the more important dialogue scenes are even voice acted, and quite decently at that. These scenes aren't subtitled though, so you must make sure that your volume is turned up high enough if you don't want to miss anything.
Gameplay is incredibly simple. You attack enemies simply by running into them. Depending on your angle of attack the enemies may be less or more likely to counterattack. You'll gain experience and gold from defeating enemies, of course, and you'll have to acquire better equipment, and other items, as you go along. Pretty standard RPG stuff. In Ys II you can also use magic to attack enemies from afar. Ys I changes seamlessly into Ys II, so you must play them in order. It's practically one game, despite originally being divided in two.
Due to its simplicity, Ys is quite easy to get into, and quite addictive. Being reasonably short is of benefit, in the long run it could get a little tedious. It's not a particularly tough game, at least if you spend a little time levelling up and obtaining the best equipment. The bosses in Ys I are mostly a piece of cake, if you're at a sufficient level, although some of the bosses in Ys II require a bit of strategy. Most of the difficulties I had were with puzzles. Finding the right item in the maze-like dungeons can be a little tricky occasionally, and I did succumb to consulting a walkthrough on a few occasions.
All in all, Ys Book I & II is, in all it's simplicity and primitiveness, a whole lot of fun to play and quite endearing. And it is in many ways quite impressive for its time. Oldschool RPG fans should enjoy it well.
Ben B. Bainton, 16 September 2009