Review: Ys Book I & II (TG-16)

Ys Book I & II chronicles the first adventures of Adol Christin, a young, red-haired swordsman on a quest to unlock the secrets of an ancient kingdom.

Even the most hardened TG16 fan will admit that the machine wasn’t exactly a massive success when it was released in the States. It struggled against the Genesis and SNES despite having some great games, meaning that sadly many of the best titles to be produced for the PC Engine hardware (the Japanese version of the TG16) never saw the light of day in the US.

Thankfully, some gems did make it through, and Y’s Book 1&2 is one of them. One of the few TG16 RPGs to be localized for the American market (bringing these games to the West was expensive thanks to the reams of dialogue, both written and spoken), Ys regularly wins the ‘best game ever’ award whenever any NEC fan lists their top TG16 games.

Falcom’s Ys series had been very popular in Japan previous to the release of this compilation, but it struggled to attain any degree of recognition in the West (although the Master System installment is well worth checking out). Thanks to the introduction of CD technology (and the fact that it was a ‘pack-in’ title with the shiny new TurboDuo console) this TG16 update of the first two Ys games captured the hearts and minds of American gamers weaned on RPGs such as Zelda and Phantasy Star.

The seemingly limitless storage space of the medium resulted in crystal-clear music, high quality speech and lush anime-style cut scenes. The actual in-game visuals were nothing special, but it was the entire package that counted. Ys was epic from the moment you inserted the CD.

Charting the adventures of flame-hair warrior Adol Christin, the two games included in this package see this brave fellow take on evil forces that threaten the peaceful land of Esteria. To do this he must first locate the six Books of Ys. Once this is done Ys Part 1 comes to a close and the story is continued in the second game, where Adol finds himself transported to the magical floating land of Ys where he discovers even more evil-type monsters to tackle. He ultimately takes on the malevolent (but stupidly named) Dark Fact in order to bring peace to the kingdom.

In terms of gameplay, Ys is actually not that advanced. Combat is simply a case of walking into enemies (there’s no button pressing required) so while it’s technically an ‘action RPG’ due to the lack of turn-based battles, it doesn’t quite have the same degree of control as something like Zelda or Story of Thor. When attacking an enemy, damage is calculated on how powerful your character is and the resilience of the foe. Attacking an enemy straight on will result in Adol taking the most punishment, but approaching from various angles lessens the damage. While it’s certainly not the most advanced system you’ll find in an RPG from this era (and it’s sadly one of the reasons that many people dismiss the Ys games), it does possess some tactical depth. The second game introduces magical attacks that further boost the offensive options available to the player.

Conclusion

Ys is a difficult game to rate, because when it’s judged in parts – such as graphics, combat, depth and so on – it’s comfortably bettered by practically every RPG released since. However, when everything is pulled together Ys becomes an epic proposition that will have a profound impact on anyone who gives it the time of day. Everything clicks together perfectly and it’s a testament to quality of the game that it remains appealing even today.

TG16 fanatics will know this all too well, of course. It’s heartening to think that the Virtual Console is giving this wonderful piece of software a new lease of life. Download this now, I beseech you!

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