I never played Ys when it was first released on the Master System in 1987. Hell, I didn’t hear about it until it was re-released on Steam as Ys I & II Chronicles Plus. I pretty much instantly threw it on my wishlist (surprising because I’m not the biggest JRPG fan) but didn’t actually pick it up until a friend tried it out. He wove an interesting tale about a unique combat mechanic, a system whereby you just walk into things and automatically trade attacks. You can, however, go at an angle or slightly off center and not take damage and that’s where the skill and timing come in. It was an interesting enough premise that I picked it up on the next Steam sale and promptly threw it into my backlog never to be seen again.
Then the #backlog_slog challenge came along. I started going through my Steam backlog from #-Z and didn’t even get to A before I reversed the sort order for no apparent reason and found Ys I Chronicles Plus staring me in the face. Alright, I said, let’s give this little RPG a go and see how it treats us. Yes, I talk about myself in the third person, but only to myself so it’s not weird or anything.
In 1987 the beginning of Ys may have been more unique, I really can’t say. Now days it’s one of the most cliche Japanese RPG openings around. You awaken in a bed with a motherly figure looking over you. That bed is located in a small, peaceful village that happens to be surrounded by horrible nightmare monsters and guess whose going to solve that?
this guy, that’s who.
That said, I actually felt lost and frustrated in Ys at first. I went all over that starting town and talked to everyone I could find. I never found any armor or weapons or anyone asking me to leave the village. Finally I decided to brave the wild wilderness with nothing but my pants and my fists. My first attempt was to kill everything on the way and see if I got any loot but that just led to many retreats back to the village to lick my wounds. So of course I just ran past the enemies and finally made my way to the first major city to buy myself a sword. Finally, the slaughter I left in my wake would be filled with less of my blood and giblets.
Once I got into the swing of things though I really enjoyed the game. With the barest hint of a story that also means you aren’t stuck talking to hundreds of NPCs, Ys is a hack and slash action RPG at its finest. It doesn’t have the longevity that Diablo’s random equipment drops gives, but Ys doesn’t demand the same amount of dedication. I played through the entire game in 6 hours and I enjoyed almost every moment of it.
If I had one complaint though it would be that the final area, the Darm Tower, felt like a total slog. At first I wasn’t aware that each level had exactly two doors and that one went down and one went up. It took me longer than I’d care to admit to figure that out actually. The tower also had two different teleporting mazes that really drug on, and when I finally got to the top I had to go back down several floors to talk to an NPC who could only help me after I had gotten past him and done something else.
This guy is the worst. That’s a Dark Fact.
OK, so there is another complaint I have with the game. The final boss is entirely bullshit. He flies around the map shooting fireballs at you and those fireballs then stop where you were and explode into a bunch of tiny fireballs. On top of this, every time you hit the boss the floor underneath him disappears and you lose even more maneuverability. Ideally I’d like to consider my options and figure out when and where I should hit the boss so that I have enough floor to stand on up until the end, but if you try that you’ll die to the fireballs. You have to hit the boss pretty much anytime you can, and after fifteen tries I finally won. It felt random and like it had nothing to do with anything I’d learned throughout the game. Yay. Oh and his name is Dark Fact, so clearly they put a lot of thought into that…