Hudson Entertainment--the purveyor of some truly beloved, classic video game properties, such as Bomberman and Adventure Island--has taken a risk by porting the first chapter of Ys, its role-playing game series, to mobile, in conjunction with developer Flying Tiger. The Ys series is very much alive, and the earlier games still have a devoted cult following on both sides of the Pacific. If you're one of these fans, or if you're an experienced RPG player who's looking for a challenge, you're sure to appreciate Ys Book 1's authenticity and solid action-adventure gameplay. On the other hand, less advanced mobile gamers may be discouraged by the game's unforgiving difficulty level.
In general, Ys Book 1 for mobile is a very impressive simulacrum of the original game. The developer managed to fit everything that counts into the LG VX7000 version. Indeed, the game's graphics appear essentially identical to those you may have seen back in the 1980s, including the same bright environments and anime-style non-player-character portraiture, which you can admire while chatting up various characters about the missing books of Ys. The sound's there, too, although Hudson had to split the music and the sound effects into two separate entities to accommodate the limitations of the handset. You can listen to the sweeping, medievalist MIDI tunes or the clinks and clanks of battle, but not both at once. It's likely that you will end up playing with the effects enabled, after tiring of the looping MIDIs.
Ys aficionados will be pleased to see that the story arc on mobile is basically intact. You're still playing as the virtuous youth Adol, a rather generic hero who's trying to resurrect the ancient glory of the long-lost kingdom of Ys by finding six magical tomes. Adol starts out in the town of Minea, which functions as your home base. At the beginning of the adventure, you are advised to purchase some basic equipment before you set out on your quest, and then you are sent on an errand to a nearby village.
This is the point at which Ys Book 1 may lose a lot of casual players. The game's locales, which range from verdant meadows, to mountain passes, to mines and dungeons, are filled to the brim with monsters. Some of these guys are more aggressive than others; the baddies at the beginning won't come after you very quickly, but a few short hours into the game, you'll be dealing with deadly, seek-and-destroy enemies that will turn you into a pulp in one shot. Unfortunately, even the easy ones in the game's early stages will present a lot of players with a tough challenge. Ys Book 1's combat system is straightforward--you only have to run into enemies to fight them--but that doesn't mean it's simple at all. For one thing, there are many different ways you can make contact with your opponent, and a lot of them will prove dangerous to your health. In fact, if you run into these introductory monsters head-on, they'll kill you more or less instantly; you need to learn how to hit them obliquely or from behind to have much success. This is tougher than it sounds, because Adol moves like a juiced-up tweaker, and even experienced mobile gamers will have trouble controlling his extremely rapid movements at first. We died 10 times in quick succession on the very first battlefield before learning how to survive a confrontation. It seems likely that this level of inaccessibility will frustrate a lot of players, even though you can save your game at any time.
If you persist for a half hour or so, you'll probably get comfortable enough with this system to continue further into the game--but you'll soon encounter more sticking points. Even though the game is basically very linear, it doesn't do a great job of indicating where you should go next or what you need to do once you get there. For instance, you'll encounter your first boss an hour or two into the game. If you're not at a certain level, you'll be unable to damage him at all, but a lot of players may not realize this immediately. Do you need a special item you haven't found yet? Or perhaps you have to talk to someone back in town first? Who knows! The game also suffers from a dearth of guidance when it comes to items. You might buy something called a "wing" in town, but the only way to figure out what it does is to try it (it teleports you back to home base, incidentally).
Overall, Ys Book 1 is a very well-built, rewarding RPG that you're ultimately very likely to enjoy--but only if you have the patience to suffer through the first hour or two of play, which is overly confusing and difficult. This is a great download, provided that you relish a challenge and understand what you're getting into. If you're looking for a simpler RPG experience, though, this is categorically not your game--try Fantasy Warrior 2 instead.