The improved graphics and controls boost both games to new heights.
Many are familiar with Ys Books I & II due to their recent release on the Wii's Virtual Console. The two games were, at the time, remade and combined into one disc for the TurboGrafx CD. In a similar fashion, both games have been remade for the DS and, for North America (but not Japan), combined into one card.
The story of Ys follows the young adventurer Adol, who is first discovered unconscious in Minea, a small town within the land of Esteria. Here Adol is called upon by the local fortuneteller Sarah and asked to find the six scattered books of Ys and stop the evil man in the black cape. Ys II picks up where Ys I leaves off: Adol once again is discovered unconscious, though this time he is discovered in the mythical land of Ys. Here Adol must return the six books to their rightful owners and unravel the mystery behind Ys in order to rid it, and Esteria, of evil.
Although this title has had numerous remakes, the story found in Legacy of Ys is still very light. In fact, most information about Adol's quest is discovered through conversations with in-game NPCs. Throughout the majority of both games there is little guidance via the story, and more often than not, players must hope they talk to the right person at the right time.
Though the story remains unmodified, the graphics, sound, and style of play have all been overhauled to meet current standards. The world is displayed from a top-down view, though it is rendered entirely in 3D. This is a significant upgrade over the sprite-based graphics featured in the TurboGrafx CD version. The game looks crisp and colorful, and the models are detailed enough to be recognizable and unique. The hand-drawn anime profiles used during discussions with important characters are a nice touch, and give the player a recognizable face to associate with each character.
The game's soundtrack is also top-of-the-line. Nearly every tune in the game is catchy, and the accompanying sound track CD makes for a nice bonus that has already gotten play in my iPod. Fans of the original will notice that the soundtrack has been completely overhauled, with every track having been remixed for the re-release. Though sound effects are fairly sparse, the excellent music offers enough variety to keep players' attention.
Those who are familiar with the original Ys games will recall that Adol once attacked by simply walking into enemies. Now players have the option of combating with enemies by choosing the Normal controls in the options menu. With the touch control scheme players still attack with the old method, though I would caution against using it: the slower and imprecise nature make it tougher to be successful. Because Adol must be dragged across the screen, and he slightly lags behind your every movement, the stylus control creates an odd disconnect. It is much easier to use the manual sword slash ability while exploring both worlds. At first players may be surprised at how small the slash range of the sword is, but they will adjust after no time at all.
Both titles feature gameplay reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda with added RPG emphasis (i.e. level-ups for strength and health). In order to complete the game, players must acquire better equipment from the town store or in chests scattered throughout the land. Whether exploring a dungeon, cave, or the overworld, Legacy of Ys is a blast to play. Part of this is due to the game's fast pace. There are no FMV or lengthy dialogs to slow down the experience, which can make for a very lean experience. Players are also treated to a more advanced second game upon completing the first. Magic is now available, and the game is significantly heftier, taking over three times as long as the first to complete.
The games are not without fault, though. The player will often have no idea what to do next. There were a couple of parts where, without a guide, I would have never figured out that I needed to walk in and out of a town three times, talking to the same person every time, in order to progress. The other sore point lies in how the game determines damage when the player is hit by an enemy. Because there is no period of invincibility after being hurt and no auto-attack when using Normal controls, the player can easily get stuck on an enemy and be hit repeatedly until dead. I came across this situation twice, and both times it drained my health bar within two seconds. It is also worth mentioning that it is extremely easy to die in the beginning of both games, forcing players to save frequently to avoid needlessly replaying large sections.
Legacy of Ys: Books I & II is truly an old-style game with a modern coat of paint. Though some aspects of the gameplay are primitive, there is no denying how genuinely fun both games are. While a guide may need to be kept handy for effective completion of obscure game sections, it doesn't dampen the experience much. Any players who are fans of adventure games such as the original Legend of Zelda would do well to pick up this title.