Game Review: Ys I & II Chronicles (PSP)

Ys (pronounced ‘ease’) is a popular series of hack and slash action video games in Japan that have been around for more than 20 years. But many gamers in the US aren’t familiar with the Ys series. Now you can play remakes of the games that started it all with Ys I & II Chronicles on PSP.

Play as the Ys titular red-haired hero Adol as he ventures to a cursed land. In Ys 1 he’ll discover that an ancient civilization once dwelled here, but now only evil remains. In Ys II, swordsman and adventurer Adol is whisked back in time to find out how the Ys civilization vanished in the first place.

In both games, Adol gathers clues and items in towns, then ventures forth to monster-filled fields, caves, and ruins to battle creatures and bosses. The action is fast and tough, even on the easiest difficulty setting. Luckily, Adol will learn a few handy magic spells in Ys II. The remade 2-D graphics are crisp and clear. Plus, the soundtrack (done by video game composer great Yuzo Koshiro), is driving and catchy, and even includes one of my all-time favorite pieces of game music ever (“To Make an End of Battle” in case you’re wondering).

Unfortunately, due to the age of these games, there are some problems here and there that are a little off-putting. Like many other old games, sometimes the goals and objectives are a little unclear, and navigating the dungeon mazes can be a bit obtuse sometimes.

Another problem has to do with the controls. Out of necessity at the time, the first two Ys games didn’t have an attack button. To defeat enemies, you just run into them and ‘bump’ them. Approach them head on, and you’ll take damage, but attack from the side or at an angle and you can attack unscathed. While Ys purists wouldn’t have it any other way, some gamers may find this control scheme needlessly difficult. It couldn’t have been too hard to add an option to use a button for attacking if players so wished.

But other than that, the first two Ys games still hold up well after all these years. Fans of the Ys series and old school action games in general will want to pick this one up anyway. If you are new to the Ys series, I would recommend trying Ys Seven first, though. It was actually one of the best games I played last year!

Kid Factor:

Ys I & II Chronicles is rated T for Teen with ESRB descriptors of Alcohol Reference, Blood, Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Partial Nudity. The alcohol references and language are just in the text only, and you can go into pubs. When you defeat enemies, they do scatter into pixellated bits and pieces (kind of a Ys tradition), but the 2-D graphics keep things from looking very realistic. In the animated intros, you can tell the Ys goddesses aren’t wearing any clothes, but they don’t show anything. Even so, I’d be OK with kids younger than teens playing this. But because of the difficulty and reading skill required, it’s best for older kid gamers only.

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