Developer – Nihon Falcom Corporation
Publisher – XSEED Games, Konami
Platforms – PSP, PC
After having finished Ys: The Oath in Felghana (review here) I felt compelled to find out more about the Ys series, so over the past few weeks I’ve been working my way through all of its other installments. The games focus on the adventures of Adol Christin as he washes up on the various beaches of the world and proceeds to eliminate whatever threatens the local populace. Whether it be monsters or brigands, Adol valiantly defends those in need, completely oblivious to each and every love interest he comes across.
While there is a chronological order to the games (Origin, I, II, Celcetta, Felghana, V, Napishtim, Seven), I’ve found that following it really isn’t necessary. Beyond the few returning characters and references you won’t miss out on much. From what I’ve gathered, Felghana is probably the best introduction to the series despite coming fifth chronologically. Unfortunately, in my experience, if you do start there then the other games just won’t live up to your expectations. Still, I couldn’t say that they’re not worth playing, so I’ve decided to compile a series of miniature reviews of the ones I’ve played to help you decide whether it’s worth picking the others up.
Ys I & II Chronicles (PC)
Ys I & II Chronicles is the 2009 remake of the original 1987 and 1988 Ys games. As in many of Adol’s other adventures the lands involved have suddenly been set upon by monsters and it’s up to Adol to take care of their source. While the dark will behind the events taking place in both Esteria (Ys I) and the floating province of Ys (Ys II) have been dealt with previously in the distant past, they must now be faced without the power of the realm’s Goddesses. Can Adol match the feats of the divine beings that saved Esteria and Ys once before? Well…yeah. He’s Adol Christin. While minimal and not particularly imaginative the story is well told as it is in every Ys game I’ve played to date. However, if you’re after an epic tale that will draw you in and forge connections between you and the characters involved, this is most certainly not the place to find it.
The first combat style presented by the Ys series is known as the Bump System. In short, you fight by repeatedly ramming yourself into enemies from various angles. What this means is that fighting enemies takes the same form as running around normally, which is something that I didn’t find particularly entertaining. Though Ys II adds in some magic I found it to be of more value as a puzzle-solving mechanism than as a combat tool. On the subject of puzzles, both of these games feature what I like to call “Old-Style JRPG Progression”, where many of the actions you have to perform in order to proceed aren’t immediately obvious. In fact, they’re so obscure that you would have to talk to every NPC and scour every wall in every area to discover them normally. It’s not nearly as pronounced at it is in other games but it is there and it is not a good thing.
Ys I & II Chronicles is a remake of a very old game and it shows in its gameplay and story. The art, while pleasant in a nostalgic sort of way, is not enough to make up for other deficits. If you love old games, or the Ys series in general, then by all means grab it during a steam sale. If you don’t love either of those things, then don’t bother.
Score: 5/10 – Average
Ys: The Ark of Napishtim (PSP)
Washing up on yet another beach, Adol finds himself stranded on the Canaan Islands, located inside the weather vortex that threw him from his ship. A guest of the Rehda tribe, a people with furry ears and tails and a grudge against outsiders like himself, he discovers strange powers at work with links to the Islands’ history. If he can settle things between the Rehda and the other castaways that had washed up before him, Adol may just be able to save the Islands, and the world, from destruction at the hands of the Ark of Napishtim.
I think Awesomecurry said it best when he told me that The Ark Of Napishtim is a lesser version of The Oath In Felghana. It uses the same combat system with fewer features, for one, and also lacks the voice acting I enjoyed so much. Beyond that, however, it also suffers from some pretty major lag issues, unintuitive boss mechanics and a bad case of “make the player run back and forth repeatedly for no real reason” syndrome. Though the plot as a whole is probably on the more interesting side for the Ys series and matches the storytelling quality I’ve come to expect, it still isn’t something that will draw you in and get you wanting more.
The story may have been enjoyable, and the gameplay may have been tolerable, but overall The Ark of Napishtim simply wasn’t that entertaining. If you want more Adol Christin then play it. If you want to see what this Ys series is all about, play The Oath in Felghana instead.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable