When it comes to 80’s RPG’s, only two prominent games come to mind: Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Not hard, seeing as those two are continuing franchises, and are landmarks in video game and RPG history. Another RPG from the time period that ones can name would be Phantasy Star, for the few people who owned a Master System outside of Europe and Brazil. An often overlooked and forgotten game from this era (or hell, a forgotten franchise) is the Ys series.
Originally released in 1987 on the NEC PC-8801, and, like its contemporaries, was ported to a million different consoles, with the first home console release being on the Sega Master System. This version was also the first version to be released outside of Japan, where it was well received. Also like its contemporaries, it was also remade several times, with most future releases also being available outside of Japan. The Master System version was also the last time the game was ever a standalone release, much like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy almost always being packaged with its sequel. The particular version we are going to look at today will be the remake on the PSP, as part of the YS I & II Chronicles. Maybe in the future we will look at a review of the Master System, NES, and Turbo versions, but we’ll stick with the PSP version for now.
You play as an adventurer name Adol Christin who has stumbled into the town of Minea and meets a fortune teller named Sara. Sara informs Adol that there is a great evil in the land and to stop this, he must collect the six books of Ys. After proving his worth to her, she instructs him to meet with her aunt in the village of Zepik. She has the key to one of the books, and thus your quest begins.
Typical of other RPG’s from the time period, the plot is really thin and mostly exists to give you a purpose from point A to B, or why you have to go and collect a set number of MacGuffins to achieve a goal. This is before the days of story driven RPG’s, so it’s a bit harsh to criticize the lack of a story when this type of story was the norm. Final Fantasy IV was quite a ways away.
What sets Ys apart from many RPG’s is the battle system. Instead of using a turn-based battle system, or a Zelda style action system, Ys uses a strange “bump” system. You attack your enemies by running into them. It’s a bit weird, and takes a tad bit of getting used to, since bumping into enemies usually gets you hurt in other games. You can and will receive damage when you run head-on into enemies. The key to surviving is to either bump into them off-center, or from the side or back. You can recover health by just standing still outside of a dungeon.
This battle system is fine and simple, but it gets really boring. Regular enemies take no strategy, as you just… run into them. Bosses, if you’re the correct level, can be a bit challenging, but it really just involves you running around the boss, then bumping into the boss. Once you learn the boss’s movements, it gets really easy.
The biggest annoyance is the beginning of the game and the final dungeon. The beginning is sort of typical of most 80’s RPG’s where you have to grind before you can really start. With other games, it’s sort of implied when you start dying when you stray a bit too far away from the starter town, in Ys, it’s in the story. Before Sara tells you what you really need to do, she pulls a Mido from Ocarina of Time and says you need armor, a sword, and a shield. Well you only have enough money for two of those items, so you have to collect 700 gold to buy a shield, and you only get two gold per enemy. You see where this is going.
The final dungeon is a test of your patience. It’s over 20 floors long, and there’s enemies galore and some even have puzzles. It’s kind of interesting at first, but after your 5th or so floor, you just want to get it done with. Sure final dungeons are supposed to be a test of your skills, but when you have a 20+ floor tower, it’s just ridiculous.
For a 2D PSP game, the visuals look good enough. There isn’t really much to say about it, it looks good.
The music is pretty good. Some of the tunes like for the overworld and town music is really memorable. A feature in the PSP remake is that you have the option of which soundtrack you want to listen to. The original PC-8801 soundtrack, the 2001 Windows arrangement, or the version for the PSP.
The game is a classic, but the bump system takes a bit of getting used to. Typical of RPG’s from this era, it would really only grasp the attention of someone who really loves their RPG’s. The lack of depth to the story and the game being a giant fetch quest would make this hard to recommend to newcomers to the series or RPG genre. It’s still quite fun for anyone looking to play a retro classic.
Visuals (Or Graphics): 7/10.