Let’s all laugh at the great irony that I can’t actually confidently pronounce my favorite JRPG franchise out loud. I mean, is it SOO-ECK-AH-DIN? SOO-EEK-ADIN? SUE-EE-KO-DEN? I dunno. Luckily enough, I’ve not had to talk about Suikoden too many times in public, and when I do, it’s usually with people who have no idea how it is supposed to be said and probably assume I know what I’m doing since, y’know, I’ve been playing games for all my life. Spoiler: I don’t. And now we can add the Ys franchise to my collection of games I will never be sure of, but I’m going to pronounce it like EASE and move on.
I’ve always been curious about the Ys games, but never enough to take the plunge. Heck, I even have a copy of Ys: The Ark of Napishtim in my collection, which I guess I forgot about immediately after purchasing. Anyways, there was a good deal on Ys I & II on Steam over the holidays, and so I entered my credit card info, clicked purchase, and actually installed and played a game I bought instead of just collecting stuff forever. I know, crazy talk. A little researching shows that Ys I & II are pretty old JRPGs, first releasing back in 1989 and eventually coming to all the following platforms in some form or another: PC, PlayStation 2, Virtual Console, Nintendo DS, and PSP. Ys I & II are actually enhanced remakes of the respective Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished and Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter, meant to be played one after the other. So far, I’ve completed Ys I and started the second half only a wee bit.
In both games, you play as a red-haired swordsman named Adol Christin, who, from what I can tell, is the main protagonist for every Ys game. That dude either really gets around or something else is afoot. For the first adventure, he has to collect the six Books of Ys, which contain the history of the ancient, vanished land of Ys and will give Adol the vital knowledge he needs to defeat the caped evilness sweeping the land of Esteria. This means you go from town to town and dungeon to dungeon, talking with villagers and fighting enemies, respectively, gaining clues as to where to find the next book. The last chunk of the game takes place in the astronomically tall and somewhat tedious Darm Tower, which has you ascending floor after floor of bad guys and mazes to eventually fight…um, I think people in Minea called him Dark Cape and complete the first fifty percent of Ys I & II.
If that sounds like your typical JRPG adventure, you’re right. The story and its characters are nothing to write home about, and that’s because the real charm of the Ys franchise is in its combat system. It’s called bumping, and basically, when out in the field, Adol can run into enemies to deal damage directly to them. There’s no attack button. You bump, they take damage, they explode, you gain XP. Rinse, lather, repeat until you hit the level cap and have enough gold to buy all the best armor/weapons. And yet, there’s still strategy to this, as you don’t ever want to attack anything head-on, so you must come at enemies at an angle or from behind, making you feel very ninja-like. It was definitely one of the more unique combat systems I’ve come across lately, and it, along with regenerating health, made for speedy grinding, something I always appreciate.
Despite the gloriously joyful and smile-creating combat, I still ran into some problems. Like, there’s a specific boss that transforms into a swarm of bats and then back to human form for a split second, and you have even less time than that to hit him, which made for a very frustrating boss battle. Later on, there’s a room in Darm Tower filled with poison-like music that drains Adol’s health fast, and the only way to clear out the room is by exiting, finding a specific pillar outside, and hitting it with a hammer you found a few levels down; the game does not really make this clear, and I had to look up the solution online. And speaking of not making a lot clear, I wasn’t sure what a lot of the items in my inventory did, so I mostly refrained from ever equipping any of them.
Glancing at the Steam Achievements for Ys II, I get the impression that the second part of this series is…a little weirder. Also, looks like there’s magic spells to be cast. I’m down with that, as well as some more bumping. Maybe I should change my blog’s name is Bumping Down? Maybe.