So let’s get this straight: the first two Ys games have been chopped up, ported, remade (or re-remade, in this case) more times than I’d care to count over its twenty-four years of existence. What has Chronicles going for it, then? Absolutely nothing, to be blunt. Chronicles won’t impress the uninitiated, quell the fears of people who’ve dabbled with and hated the series, nor give hardened vets anything substantial to chew on. Taken at face value, however, it is a wonderful package: a well-done re-issue of one of the first and greatest action-RPGs.
The plot remains the same: strapping young lad Adol Christin ventures forth in the land of Esteria to discover the books of Ys, containing the history of a vanished kingdom called Ys, which (spoilers!) he actually gets to explore in the second game. What makes Ys special is its brisk, simplistic, yet elegant combat model. Run into enemies, rinse and repeat: the “bump system” doesn’t get any simpler than that.
Another thing that defines Ys is its wonderful soundtrack, composed by industry legend Yuzo Koshiro. As expected, Chronicles’ OST is nothing short of incredible. Falcom has thoughtfully included the option to play through the game with either the original PC-88 chiptunes, fully-redone tracks from the (original) 2001 Windows version this game is based off, or wonderfully-arranged tracks first found on Chronicles’ PSP release (which, um, was a remake of an older PC version of the same remake. Confused yet?).
The spritework in Ys is crisp, colorful, and—most importantly—faithful to the source material. I’m really impressed by the spritework—everyone from tiny NPCs down to the humungous bosses is detailed intricately, and everything scales up pretty well even blown up full-screen on my 24″ monitor. The hand-painted backdrops look marvelous as well, and for once the faint polygonal and particle effects enhance rather than detract from the experience (see: Ducktales Remastered, which I’ll have a review on later this week).
Again, I realize this series isn’t for everyone, and anyone who remotely enjoys Ys has already played one of the billion I&II ports out there. But hell, anything Ys-related is worth a look (or two) in my book, and this new Steam version seems to be the easiest entry point for anyone interested in looking into the long-running series.