LEGACY OF YS: BOOKS I AND II / Falcom / Nintendo DS

Falcom took the odd tack of releasing separate ports of Ys I and II on both the PSP and DS in the same year; the odd thing about it is that they're completely different ports made from the ground up. Falcom handled the PSP port themselves, and they farmed out Legacy of Ys to one of those no-name developers that does pretty much nothing but ports.

Hey, guess which one turned out better? Legacy of Ys for the DS caught my interest when I heard that the primitive "bump combat" was replaced by actually swinging your sword at the enemies. Don't expect a whole Zelda-style overhaul, however ... it's pretty much a grade-up version of the original game, but with this new stiff little sword swing (kinda reminiscent of something like Dragon Slayer or Tower of Druaga) cobbled in.

Before you get to all that, though, you'll notice that this does not have the detailed sprites of either the remake for Japanese PCs from the late 90s, or the PSP remake of 2009. Instead, they opted to go for an odd 3D engine with 2D sprites for the game world, which looked bad for the time and is not at all aging well. Also, instead of using digital audio as the PSP version did, the internal DS sound chip is used for the soundtrack. Ys II sounds markedly better than Ys I for some reason.

Then there's the gameplay. So, if you happen to be unfamiliar with the original games, you had to literally run into the enemies to kill them. The trick was to hit them from the back or sides to do damage; run into them face-first and they would usually rock your ass instead. Thus the "bump combat" moniker. It stemmed from technological limitations of the PC-8801 computers of the 80s that the original games came out on, but it's become weirdly beloved by the fanbase and stuck through later remakes (and even resurfaced in Ys 4). That's kinda still the deal here, though having to press the button to swing while running into the enemy changes the dynamics a bit. For one, you can stand still and swing and let the enemies come to you. Attacking head-on is also now possible, simply doing less damage but still usually pushing the enemy back.

The new sword swing doesn't really make the game easier or harder by itself, but there has also been a big difficulty rebalance of the first game. There are four settings, with the default "normal" being the second-highest. "Normal" difficulty is far too easy, however. You're absolutely plied with gold and EXP, which would be enough to wreck the curve by itself; but powerful late-game equipment has also been distributed throughout the earlier dungeons. For example, you get the best shield in the game in the first dungeon! Anyone with any experience at all with the series should probably just jump straight to "Nightmare", which is a modest difficulty increase that also puts the equipment back where it belongs. Strangely, Ys II didn't seem to get this same nerfing; the difficulty and need to grind hews pretty close to the original release.

A small new area has also been tacked in to Ys I (taking place between the initial temple dungeon and the mine). It's short and there's nothing much remarkable about it, but it does add one new boss to the game.

The new sword swing thing was kinda ineptly handled and is definitely not a good trade-off for the lower-quality graphics and music (as compared to several other remakes of these games). It works OK enough for the game to be playable, but doesn't add anything. This might actually be a good choice for younger gamers who are new to the series as an introductory title, though, since it requires less level-grinding to get started and the little auto-map on the second screen is pretty helpful in some areas.

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