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The Turbo CD version of Ys Book I & II--or rather, the Wii Virtual Console re-release of it--was the very first game I reviewed for Bright Hub back in September 2008. Despite the fact that the game first came out in 1989, I found it to be an incredible experience at a great price, even going to far as to say "anyone who claims to be an RPG fan owes it to him or herself to check this one out, if only to experience the unique, fast-paced combat, the exceptional music and one of the finest examples of voice acting ever to grace a video game." Now, a little over half a year since that title's virtual console release, Atlus has brought out a new Nintendo DS compilation featuring enhanced versions of both original Ys titles.
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Legacy of Ys: Books I & II featured basically the same core plot as earlier versions of the game, including the Turbo CD one: a red-haired swordsman named Adol Christin journeys to the land of Esteria and winds up investigating a series of silver thefts and, ultimately, the fate of a mysterious vanishing continent. This time, however, the storyline is much more fleshed out than in previous versions, with much more text and dialogue than before. Oddly, rather than presenting them as a single, unified storyline as in Ys Book I & II, the game allows you to choose to start with either game and even switch between the two at will. It's odd to say the least, but it won't annoy most longtime fans of the series as much as some of the name changes (Dahm Tower instead of Darm Tower?). If this is your first experience with the game and that won't bother you, add a point to the score.
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The gameplay in the Ys games has always been top notch, and this is no exception. As in other games in the series, this is an old-school style action RPG which required you to battle enemies, explore dungeons, hunt for secret treasures, level up, purchase more powerful equipment, and so forth. Unlike other games in the series, however, you have a choice of control schemes. You can opt to play with the directional pad and press a button to perform a sword-slashing attack, like with most games, or you can use the stylus to move Adol around and run into enemies just like in Ys Book I & II. For the most part, the pad-and-button gameplay feels more natural, but there are times where switching to the stylus controls can help you out in a tough boss fight. Furthermore, there are four different difficulty levels ranging from Very Easy to Nightmare, an on-screen mini-map to help with navigation, additional levels not found in previous English-language console versions of these games, and even a multiplayer mode in Ys II.
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Graphics and Sound
Gone are the bare-bones, 16-bit style visuals from the Turbo CD version. In fact, visually, Legacy of Ys looks much more like Ys: The Ark of Napishtim for the PS2 than it does its source material, which means it is quite impressive for a DS title. The music, too, is top-notch. The soundtrack has been more or less lifted directly from Ys Book I & II but considering that game has one of the all time great scores, that's definitely not a problem. Sadly, there is no voice acting in the game. Considering the quality of the Turbo CD version's spoken dialogue, that's a big blow.
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Overall, I have to say I enjoyed Legacy of Ys: Books I & II, but it didn't blow me away like I thought it would. In fact, I have to confess that I really didn't enjoy playing through Atlus's DS remakes as I did the much older Turbo CD versions. There's no good reason for that, as Legacy of Ys boasts much better visuals, the same quality music, an expanded story, new gameplay levels and even multiplayer options. Yet it seemed to be lacking something. In much the same way the original versions of the movies 3:10 to Yuma and The Day the Earth Stood Still were superior to their bigger-budget, flashier, fancier remakes, I found the simpler, stripped down Ys Book I & II more fun to play. That's not to say that Legacy of Ys is a bad game, because nothing could be further from the truth. It's an excellent action/RPG that should keep fans of the genre hooked from start to finish. It just isn't the definitive version of these games.