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PSP Review – Ys I & II Chronicles

December 1, 2010Written by Heath Hindman

2010 has seen two PSP-based Ys games drop in North America in the form of Ys Seven, and the Ys III remake titled The Oath in Felghana. Continuing in reverse order, Falcom and XSeed will soon bring Ys I & II Chronicles to North American PSPs. This is a review of the Japanese version.

First of all, putting these two games in one pack made perfect sense as the stories run together and their gameplay is mostly the same. It’s nice to see developers and publishers doing stuff like this that benefits the end user, rather than going right for the financial throat with separate releases of games that could have been bundled together. You’re receiving two-full games for the price of one in this bundle, and that’s always welcomed in today’s times of steadily decreasing game length.

While Ys I & II Chronicles is an action RPG that can still be grouped with its series brethren, some players might be disappointed that sword swings are done automatically. Indeed, these first Ys titles strive more for approach rather than methodical combat; the PSP remake maintains this classic gameplay. When Adol, the protagonist, gets close enough to an enemy, he’ll swing his sword and that’s that. He may or may not be hit with a counter in the process, largely depending on the player being able to get an advantageous angle. The combat system works fine for the game, but in the early going when there are no other skills, meaning the only way to defeat a monster is to run into it for that auto-swing. Most players might be turned off by this unusual style of play, and may find the gameplay too disintegrated, while older fans of the series who played this game in other forms might find nostalgic charm.

Ys I and Ys II actually combine to tell a continuous story, rather than the games having little to do with each other, as is common in many other RPGs. It’s got all the things we’ve come to expect from Ys: a mysterious blue-haired girl, the main character washing up unconscious on a beach, and just enough of a plot-based excuse to keep the player moving from A to B for 10-20 hours a pop. Ys games have always been gameplay first with story in the back seat, and these first two games prove it. It comes down to “Hey, are you an adventurer? Great, because there’s evil showing up all over the world. My crystal ball picks you to get rid of it. Why are you still standing around?” That’s the jist of the entire plot right there.

Visuals in these games won’t thrill, but they’re good enough, especially considering the fact that their original versions are old enough to buy a beer anywhere in North America. Music, on the other hand, is great. The Ys series is known for its wailing guitars and take-no-crap, action-oriented melodies, and the roots of this tradition are as much in your grill as they’ve ever been. Better still, players new and old will surely enjoy the option to change the music style as they please, as sound versions from the PC-88, original, and Chronicles versions are all readily available and can be selected at will. Think the PC-88 version of a certain town’s theme hits home the best? Like the Chronicles version of the fight theme more than others? Switch to any of these three music types with only a couple of button presses.

Ys I & II Chronicles is a moderately enjoyable, and well-presented package for long time series fans and perhaps a few newbies curious about Adol’s first adventure. It’s got a bare-bones story that will leave you wanting more, and a battle system that will be a polarizing factor among mainstream gamers and series latecomers. The music is sharp and presentation is clean, and in the end all qualities balance out to just about an average handheld RPG experience.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Two games in one bundle.

+ Decent presentation and solid soundtrack.

– Classic combat may feel dated, and the story lacks depth.

5 out of 10

+ Two games in one bundle, presented well for an overall great value.

+/- Old-time Ys combat will seem awkward to those new to the franchise.