Following Ys Seven and The Oath in Felghana, Ys I & II Chronicles is the third PSP Ys title to be released in the North American region since August. Much like The Oath, I & II Chronicles is a remake of the first two titles in the series. Playing as the series’ hero Adol Christin you set out to discover the Books of Ys, which in turn help unravel the mysteries behind the titular land. Unlike the other games of the series, I & II Chronicles actually takes place in and around the Land of Ys (pronounced as Geese minus the G) and is the starting point of Adol’s adventures.
Despite being a remake the games stay true to their roots, to somewhat of a detriment. The gameplay in the titles has remained very consistent between versions and this is no exemption. Most of the combat in the games is done using the “Bump System”, a heavy contrast to other top-down titles of the genre. Where those would advise against touching enemies, Ys I & II embraces this as the only way to damage enemies in Ys I and one of the only ways for Ys II is to run into enemies. Quite literally, bump into them. There’s a strategy to this as running into them head-on will damage Adol so attacking from sides or behind is the way to go. Ys II introduces offensive magic for long-range fighting to supplement Adol’s bumping attacks. This part of the game translates well as the combat is fast-paced and intense.
What doesn’t translate as well is the rest of the gameplay. Like RPGs of old, the games are vague on what your next goal is. Subtle hints are given here and there but for the bulk of the games you’re left backtracking around constantly to get new items, activate plot progression points and just try to get ahead in the game. In fact, XSEED even bundled a walkthrough for Ys I into the instruction manual because of how vague and confusing Ys I is!
The pacing also feels odd in contrast to earlier versions. In the TurboDuo port on the Wii’s Virtual Console, there was a constant flow to gaining levels. But here in this version my level was maxed before I reached the halfway point in the first game.
While the gameplay might not be received as well by newcomers of the series compared to long-time fans, the rest of the game’s assets shine and are appealing to all. When starting a new file on either Ys I or II, you’re given the option to choose from two sets of portraits and cutscenes: PSP release or the 2001 PC release. At any time during the game the player can switch between the PSP’s soundtrack, the PC version or even the PC-88 original.
With an incredible trio of soundtracks supplementing gorgeous and sharp visuals, Ys I & II Chronicles stands out as a title that looks and sounds great but might take some getting used to when playing it.