IGN Review of Legacy of Y's Books 1 & 2
Publisher Atlus is always good for a quirky RPG to fill our DS system year-round. Whether it's something like the upcoming Knights of the Nightmare (developed by Sting, the makers of Riviera), the soon-to-be cult classic Dark Spire, or a remade RPG like the recently released Legacy of Ys: Books I & II, there's always something to check out. I've been really impressed with the amount of variety and quality of titles from Atlus over the last couple years, and while not every game is great for every type of player, the publisher knows its audience. Legacy of Ys is one of those games where not everyone (even the devoted Atlus consumers) are going to get into it, though there's certainly a small subsector of fans, and the publisher has you covered.
For those that don't know the series, Legacy of Ys is one of the older RPG franchises in gaming history, hitting systems like the TG-CD and PC during the dawn of the genre. That also means it has a lot of traditional elements, and though very well designed, it's a dated game. What DS owners are getting with Legacy of Ys: Books I & II on Nintendo's platform is a package of two DS games already released separately in Japan, but put into one package for the US. It's a great deal if you're someone that wants a chance to check out the games, is interested in seeing a re-make, or loves the fanservice that comes with Atlus's latest DS offerings. The games are available on Virtual Console as well, but Atlus is positioning this one as the definitive version of the game, and while some hardcore Ys fans will tell you it isn't the best port/remake out there, the average DS user doesn't even know the series, much less have time to play fan translations or dream about other versions that'll never see the light of day in the US. With a game this old, it's already a victory to even see it in the US, and the DS version is a great chance to check out titles you'd otherwise never happen upon.
There are some inherent issues with the package though, and it'll make the difference between loving and hating the game in the end. For starters, Ys has new music, some beautiful hand-drawn animation, and as a re-make, grabs specific art and tile layouts from the previous games to make a package that's 3D, but feels like the classic games. I fully admit that this version of Ys is my first, but after looking back at older footage, researching the series, and pitting that against what's offered in the DS version, Legacy of Ys is the real deal. As part of that, however, comes some odd gameplay. You won't know what items do before you buy them, for instance, so you've got no idea (outside of just knowing a "wood shield" is worse than a "gold shield" or the like) what item is better, or what exactly everything does. I got the same feeling playing this as I did something like Adventures of Link for NES. You'll get items, arrive in a town, or be asked to do a task, and you may have no idea where to go, or even how to begin. It's just that kind of a game; love it or hate it.
At the same time, there's an awesome feeling of quick, rewarding gameplay as well, with Ys keeping up the outrageous pace of the original game. Since the game carries itself in the same style as a top-view Zelda, Beyond Oasis for Genesis, or Secret of Mana, you'll have plenty of exploration and real-time enemy bashing in this hybrid RPG/Action design. It's alarming how fast the whole game moves though, with attacks taking almost no time to pull off, and battles lasting as little as a fraction of a second. Enemies also have specific spawn points in the world, so if you find one that yields a lot of XP, you can always exploit the classic "megatile" spawn trick. Run up to a baddie, kill them, run far enough away where that area is off-screen and far enough out that it's no longer "active" as far as code is concerned, and run right on back, spawning the same enemy for another quick kill. Repeat that a few times, and you can level up in the earlier areas of the game in no time.
There's also some oddity that comes with an older pair of games; some of which players either will or won't forgive, and as such, will or won't enjoy. Many of the bosses, for example, have some odd patterns or require specific levels (just like any other RPG) for players to stand a reasonable chance at beating. You might get your butt completely kicked, go level up for a few minutes, and then have no problem beating them. The script is pretty well done, and the new music is nice, but visually the game doesn't stand up to other remakes on DS, and even though the team was going for a very specific style, that doesn't change the fact that it's a pretty basic conversion. Some animations have very little sprite movement, attacks are quick and pretty unimpressive, and the effects animation isn't much more than what you'd see in an average TG-CD game. The entire nature of the games revolve around exploration and lots of maze-like dungeons and levels, but it's also – do I dare say it and insult the RPG gods? – a bit primitive and amateurish in areas. Walking through huge green flatlands? Check. Portal-warping mazes? Check. Lock and key mechanics… fetch quests... "meet person X at location Y" missions? Check, check, and check. You may not have played Legacy of Ys, but chances are you've done it all elsewhere.
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