This game screams: Epic. Retro. Action RPG. While we're at it, Ys Chronicles+ kicks Major ♥♥♥ (this is an E rated review)! The game mechanics are so simple and so addictive that you can literally spend hours grinding monsters, just because! And then you look at the clock and think, “Holy Pants! It's tomorrow! ...But maybe just a little longer...” and then you turn into a zombie. Yea, this is a hyperbole, but it's not as much of an overstatement as you might think.
And did I mention that this is a package of two games? Quick history lesson. When Falcom was developing Ys, limitations forced them to split the epic into two, resulting in two games, Ys I and II, collectively called (in this case) The Ys Chronicles (Ys Complete, Ys Eternal, Ys Epic Remake VII, these two games have seen a plethora of remakes, and Ys Chronicles+ is the latest and arguably greatest).
- Impossibly good soundtrack
- Addictively simple (or simply addictive) gameplay
- Epic, just epic
- Two games in one
- Too many subtle little things to list
- Some bosses (Ys I only) can be frustrating
- A few very minor things
- Review doesn't do it justice (but hopefully comes close)
Ys soundtracks are... you know what, there is no word that can properly describe how phenomenally awesome the music in Ys games are. In fact, Ys soundtracks should have their own special term. No really. I'm going to make one up right now: Ystoundingtrack. ...Maybe a work in progress. If you think the music doesn't somehow contribute to the addictiveness of this game, think again. The gameplay is addictive on its own. Now throw in the energizing rock music from the Ystoundingtrack and suddenly you have such an unstoppable locomotive of energy that you just want to cheer every time an enemy explodes into the aether (what a mouthful). The track that stands out the most in this respect is the Ys I overworld music. It's perfect. The rest of the Ystoundingtrack in both games are kick-♥♥♥ (darn E rating), but it's that overworld theme that's going to awesome the hours away.
Speaking of gameplay, Ys Chronicles has one of the most unbelievably simple yet inhumanly addictive gameplay ideas to every grace the world of video games. You ready for this? You sure? Well here it is: you bump into enemies, and they die. That's basically it. The game is presented in the standard top down perspective of retro RPG fame, and all you have to do is bump into enemies off centre to damage them, and then they die (if you run into them dead centre from the front or they run into you, you take damage... it's a little hard to explain with words alone). Now you might be thinking, “but how can something so mind-numbingly simple be so mind-numbingly addictive?” This gameplay element has been described by it's creators as the game equivalent of popping bubble wrap - they're not wrong. The gameplay results in very tight, fast paced action, and that only helps contribute to the energy of the game.
Other than the basic gameplay element, this is also an RPG. In Ys I, the RPG element is very downplayed, and by the time you reach the big mid-boss of the game, you basically have to be at max level (level 10) in order to face him. In Ys II, the RPG element is more developed and balanced. You also get the additional gameplay mechanic of magic in Ys II through the use of magical rods (bologna! they're magic wands - for those who don't know, bologna is pronounced: boloney). Ys II has a lot added features compared to Ys I (I'll get into some of these as I go along). In Ys I, the only thing enemies do is run around at varying speeds. It gets repetitive. Fortunately, Ys I is a short game, and it makes up for it's repetitive nature with creative and interesting locations (extra points for the enemies looking cool). In Ys II, however, every enemy has its own unique attack in addition to the regular means of damaging you.
The bosses are where Ys I becomes fiendishly hard. Don't believe me? The big bad mid-boss is a monster! A superboss!! Add to the fact that you can only properly fight him with... well I won't give it away, but if you've talked to everybody, you should have an idea of what you need to fight this boss. And that's not even the hardest boss in the game. That trophy goes to Ys I final boss. Every other boss can be defeated on skill alone, once you know what to do. The final boss, however, has such a luck factor involved that it's... awesome! Unbelievably, they somehow managed to make a luck based boss that's, in addition to frustrating, so frakin fun to fight that it's awesome. Don't ask me how, I honestly don't know. The bosses in Ys II aren't as challenging. In fact, that's the one thing I though was a downgrade from Ys I. The challenging bosses in Ys I is one of the things that I found made the game so enjoyable and memorable. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of enjoyable and memorable to be had in Ys II. And the bosses are challenging and fun, just not as challenging as I would have liked. Also, most of the bosses can only be killed with fire magic. It would have been nice to have some of the other magic come into play, but... oh well.
Ys II makes up for this by being a huge game compared to Ys I with a much grander story to go with it. The story in Ys I is more basic with fewer characters, and because it has fewer characters, it feels like they had more time to focus on and develope them. In Ys II, while the many characters do get time for developement, it's hard to focus on any one character because there's just so many of them. Heck, there's also a present system in Ys II, and if you give people presents they'll say something different than before. Heck+, with the right spell, you can TALK TO EVERY ENEMY IN THE GAME! Did I mention you can BURN VILLAGERS?! (They don't die, they just say something funny). Everyone and everything has something unique to say, and often more than one solitary thing. The most memorable characters of both games leave a lasting impression for one reason or another (in one case, literally because of a hole in the wall). The plot of both games is basically the same, and it's RPG generic, but the story weaves its way around the plot in such an interesting way that it transforms the simplicity of the plot into a foundational strength. That takes serious skill. While not what I would call a perfect story, the characters, the locations, the events, it all works together to make for a truly fun and enjoyable experience.
As a retro RPG, these games do have some minor annoyances. In Ys I, there is one point where you have to talk to a character about something pointless before being able to proceed to the final dungeon of the game. All the other stuff you have to do makes sense, but this short conversation... doesn't. Why was it necessary (maybe it's a bug)? Ys II doesn't have this problem. Instead, it has the hide important gameplay elements issue. There is a very minor gameplay element that is critical for dealing with one boss (you can technically fight the boss without it, but that's nearing the realm of impossible). So, what do they do with the explanation of this gameplay element? As far as I know, one of the characters tells you about it, but only if you give them enough presents, and there are a huge number of characters in this game. Personally, I don't think stumbling onto gameplay elements is good game design. It's always fun to have some puzzles in a game, but these puzzles should be a unique application of the gameplay elements you already know, not somehow stumbling onto the fact that if you press a certain control a certain way for a certain magic, something different will happen (as an Easter egg it would be OK though).
Ys Chronicles+ are two phenomenal games filled with great energy and fast paced fun. Recommended. Period.