Ys on the Sega Master System was released in 1987. Yes, believe it or not, the series has been around for twenty two years. An entire human generation and four full console generations have passed since the series started. If you were born on the game’s release day, you’d be old enough to smoke, drink, and graduate from school.
My old, dry eyes have seen many game releases. This marks the fourth time I’ve seen the “original” Ys released: SMS, Genesis, Turbo Grafix 16 (CD), and the Nintendo DS. There may be others I’ve missed, and the series has had several sequels, so suffice it to say I’ve had some experience with the series. My review of Legacy of Ys will therefore have an eye on the past – I cannot simply rate this game without regard to my experience with the series thus far.
The Legacy of Y’s Books I and II is a reimagining of the classic, most closely aligning itself with the Turbo CD version of the game. While it compares favorably to that version, it also adds a few features that make sense given the passing of time. The addition of 3D graphics seems almost mandatory, and adding something simple like “press a button to swing your weapon” doesn’t seem too out of place.
In the Legacy of Ys, you play a strange young man washed up onto the shore of a small fishing village. You’re nursed back to heath by the local doctor, and despite his (and his nurse’s) protests, you begin your adventure. If you head north, you’ll encounter a more familiar walled town – Minea. Although this is a suitable introduction to the game, it can make things a bit more difficult in the beginning, because you have no sword or shield for the first few minutes of the game (when you’re most vulnerable).
This introduction is different than the Turbo CD version (where you come into town from a ship), and the SMS version (you simply start in the first town). The departures from the original games continue, as each of the game worlds are rendered in 3D. They are drawn from the traditional overhead angle, and remind me of the maps in Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The 3D rendering doesn’t get in the way, it looks good, but by and large is just “there”. There are no advantages imparted by the use of 3D, save for the fact that it’s a tiny bit easier to see where you should be striking your (still 2D) foe.
Combat in Legacy of Ys is, if this can be believed, even easier than previous iterations of the game. Because you now swing your weapon, rather than bumping an enemy, you’re more likely to control your swing, and hit the enemy in the right place. You’ll have no trouble leveling up to the point of ridiculous strength, if you’re willing to grind the same three or so enemies for a bit. Personally, Ys has always been about exploration, so I didn’t mind the change in the combat mechanics one bit.
Many familiar elements of the two adventures (Books I and II are separate games) are here in Legacy of Ys. From dungeon (temple) rescues to the music, the Legacy of Ys will tug at all of your nostalgic memories. The pre-rendered intro movie is something to see, one of my friends noted that the intro alone was worth the price of admission. The attention paid to the “legacy” of Ys is, by far, is the game’s highlight – Falcom and Atlus have done an incredible job bringing back the feel of Ys. While Ys I and II are different from their predecessors, yet they have the same charm and style.
But all is not sunshine and roses with the Legacy of Ys. While you’ll have some of the same feelings playing this title as playing on the Turbo CD, there is no doubt which version of the game is the superior.
The music in the game, while adequate, is nowhere near the quality of the Turbo CD version (sorry Falcom!). It is worthy of the DS’s capabilities, but has a certain synthesized edge to it that comes off a bit cheesy in spots. It’s unfortunate that one of the most stirring aspects of the game is also one of its letdowns. On its own, the cart’s music is good, but when compared to other versions (or remixes available on fan sites), it falls down hard.
The animation in the Legacy of Ys is laughable. There are perhaps ten frames of animation on each character, and it’s frankly a bit jarring when you first pick up the game. Regardless, as the adventure picks up a bit, this (obvious) flaw is pretty easy to overlook.
Still, the story of Ys, the sense of large-scale adventure, the nostalgia, and the length of both games make this a worthy addition to your collection. This is doubly true if, like me, you have fond memories of the original games.
I had a blast playing this admittedly basic RPG on the DS. I give Legacy of Ys Books I and II an 8/10.