Legacy of Ys: Books I & II Hands-On

The legendary story of Ys returns after almost 20 years.


Once upon a time there was a system called the TurboGrafx-CD, which gave you the ability to play Ys: Books I & II, a well-respected series of action role-playing games from the developer Falcom. If you are old enough to remember Ys, then here's your chance to relive some of those fond memories with an updated version. However, if you weren't born when the original games came out, here's your opportunity to take a step back in time and play an RPG before the days of flashy cutscenes and lengthy dialogue, with a few perks thrown in. Ys was an important piece of action RPG history that many of us missed out on, and if you haven't played last year's release on the Virtual Console, Atlus has brought over Books I & II with a brand new script.

Run or slash through enemies to level.
Run or slash through enemies to level.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II was remade in Japan in early 2008 and now comes to the Nintendo DS in one cartridge with updated graphics, new localization, touch-screen controls, and multiplayer. The story of Books I & II follows Adol Christin, a young man who has a tendency to get himself knocked out and then wake up in some strange new place. In Book I, he is in search of the legendary land of Ys, once a powerful country with incredible wealth, knowledge, and prosperity. Ys was lost to history, and no one alive knows what happened to this nation. So, Adol decides to set out and see the world and find out what he can about the magical land. His adventure flows into Book II, so it's like one big game split into two digestible pieces.

Similar to action-based games like Zelda (except you gain experience points per kill), Legacy of Ys was originally even simpler than mashing a button to swing your sword. You would run into enemies to hurt them, and as long as you didn't run into them head-on, you'd be fine. This version allows you to equip weapons and actually use them, if you find charging recklessly into enemies a bit unorthodox. There are also different difficulty settings, which will determine how much health the enemies have. Your health also regenerates as you stand still; however, that doesn't always work in dungeons, so you need to watch your health closely because it's incredibly easy to get that game-over screen if you're not paying attention. There are no obnoxious sounds to let you know you're about two hit points away from starting over. The story unfolds as you talk to the locals, and the way everything is presented, as well as the music, brings back excellent memories of gaming in the early '90s.

Stylus controls are available, but you can only use one or the other. Both D pad and stylus options work well depending on what you're used to and can be changed at any time. There is a time attack mode as well as a multiplayer feature that lets you play with three of your friends.

Talk to the locals for information on what to do next.
Talk to the locals for information on what to do next.

The visuals may be on the simple side, especially when it comes to the grassy overworld and similar-looking cities. But there is an incredible amount of detail in some of the backgrounds as well as the character portraits when you engage in conversation. The soundtrack stands out the most, and considering how old this game is, the original music holds up very well with the newly arranged material. Lively tunes and enchanting melodies help keep you focused as you explore mazelike dungeons and visit neighboring towns.

Legacy of Ys: Books I & II is essentially two games in one, and Atlus has also announced that it will be bundling a bonus soundtrack CD if you preorder at participating retailers. Ys is surprisingly easy to get into, and since you can save at any time, you never have to worry about putting it down before a save point. Delve into the history of Ys when the game is released on February 10, 2009.

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