Ys I & II Chronicles (2009)

Ys I & II Chronicles (2009), published and developed by Nihon Falcom Corp.

Despite Ys-series has been around from the 1980's, I've never played it before, mostly because they were originally released on consoles and JRPG's aren't really my thing besides Final Fantasy series. And, really, what comes the JPRG series, there's a tonne of them, many of them looking pretty similar in all style and content. And that's how I went to Ys, thinking it looked pretty generic for the genre it presented. And In all honesty, that's how I also left it.

To get this out of the way, Ys I & II Chronicles is an enhanced remake of  Ys I II Complete (2001), which in turn was a remake of  Ys: Book I and II (1989), which in turn was a remade release of the original Ys I (1987) and Ys II (1988). While the originals were two separate games, and they still are on these remasters, the remasters were never sold separately, so I guess it's just fair to talk of them in one go, especially because Ys II picks up directly from where Ys I ended. So here we go then.

It all begins, like many other tales, with you, the hero, in a hospital bed. Adol Christin is your name, and swordplay is your game. After a small tour in the little fishing village of Port Barbado, Adol soon head out to see what's going on in the monster infested land he has ended up in. Some travelling, and gearing up, later the story finally reveals itself: some ancient books of Ys have been lost and need to be recovered and a dark master living in a tall, dark Darm tower needs to be defeated. And that's pretty much it for the story of the first entry of the Ys saga.

Running around in Ys I

Ys II begins after Adol wakes up from a bed, again whisked away to an another adventure. At the end of Ys I, mysterious beings transported him to an another continent, from where he wakes up, in a village of Lance. The books he got in the previous game need to be taken to the shrines of the gods, after which his mission grows clearer: he needs to end the ongoing march of the demons. Again, another simple story, with very little story telling in between battles.

The style of gameplay that describes Ys I & II the best is action RPG. The combat happens on the game map, where you can very freely steer away from the combat if you so want. The combat itself is easy as bumping against the enemy which will then get hit and if it isn't killed immediately, it can try to wound you as well. There's not really a strategy here other than avoiding being surrounded by multiple enemies. Other than that it's simple, straightforward and fast. Ys II also adds in some magic.
As the game does require you to level up to the max, the enemies spawn pretty quickly, almost instantly when you move a bit away from where you killed the enemy, so you'll always have sword fodder. But, as the enemies start to gradually lower the amount of XP they give, you'll have to move to a new location pretty soon. While you technically could spam the enemies at the easier locations, getting those thousands of XP points the higher levels need would be a monumentally boring ordeal.

Both games also have boss battles, which, like you'd assume, are the real challenges of the game and require you to really level up and get the best gear you can. On Ys II the boss battles require you to use spells where as in Ys I, your weapons will do and in some cases, the enemies even require a specific weapons class so you can wound them to the max.

Neither game is very long, especially for an RPG. You can, even without really trying, play both through in 6 or 7 hours, depending on your navigational skills, as the final maps of each game is a maze. And as you need to navigate without any map that is a bit of an annoyance. And really, the kind of a level structure each game has, made me feel like the otherwise short game length was padded with mazes, even more so with Ys II.

Then again, neither of the games really is about the epicness of storytelling more than they are about fast paced action with a generic story. So if that's what you're looking for, then maybe Ys I & II are the way to go. Personally, I think they're games that you can play through once if you don't have anything better to do, but that's pretty much all they're good for unless you get into trying to beat them with the nightmare level difficulty. If nothing else that would provide some challenge.

I don't know where Ys-series scales in the grand scheme of JRPG's. They're not like Final Fantasy games, as far gameplay goes. I know very little of the genre really, but I do know, these weren't something I'd play in an abundance.

Ys II, the ending for the both games is near

If you feel like giving the adventures of a red headed sword man Adol a go, you can get the games on GOG and Steam. And if you liked them, the series goes up to 8 at least. Judging from the user reviews from those places, a lot of people like the series more than me, so maybe you'll do the same.